PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA - JUNE 09: Landon Donovan captain of US national soccer team and head coach Bob Bradley during a news conference at Irene Farm on June 9, 2010 in Irene near Pretoria, South Africa. US opens their 2010 World Cup against England on June 12 in Rustenberg. (Photo by Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images)
I follow football casually, but not well enough to be able to extensively preview what will be a crucial game for the US side in kicking off Group C for the World Cup.
I do know that the Yanks are favored to advance out of Group since, apart from England, our competition are the lesser powers of Algeria and Slovenia. But upsets happen in WC competition all the time, and a determined underdog who slips in an early score can shift to strong D for the rest of any game and make it much harder for a supposed "favorite" to advance.
For this reason, today's match against our former colonizers can be seen as a bellwether for the USA's chances. If they can come out of it with a draw, they're in the driver's seat. If they actually manage to beat the Three Lions, they would have to implode spectacularly to not make the second round. But if they lose today, they would likely need to beat both Algeria and Slovenia to advance, and while that shouldn't be a problem, you just never know. The US team has been inconsistent in recent years, playing up for big games, but looking listless in less crucial matches. Critical to their chances today will be stopping English striker Wayne Rooney (or enraging him to the point he gets a red card).
The revenge factor may motivate the US: in the 2002 World Cup, they made the quarterfinals and dominated Germany for much of their quarterfinal match before succumbing 1-0. Hopes were high for the program after that victory ("US soccer has arrived!"), but the US had a very disappointing cup in 2006, going winless in the first round and failing to advance. Assuming the US gets out of Group this year, there is a decent chance they would face Germany in the 2nd round.
England are 3-1 favorites in the Vegas odds.
Since England hosted and won the FIFA World Cup in 1996, they are yet to stamp their authority on the game gain as its rightful inventors. A part from that first and only world cup triumph, they best they’ve managed since then was a semi-final berth in 1990. With a history of always crashing out at the quarterfinals stage at the hands of team that play a more skillful and beautiful football, the English team will be hoping to make an easy win of the US which has a similar style of play to their own.
Or, if that doesn't grab you, you can just read about Footie Booty (sex and the World Cup).
UPDATE: How remiss of me. SBNation, of course, has lots of stuff on this game. View it here.