09 June 2010

know your foe - england

The United States faces off against England in group stage action of the World Cup final Saturday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg South Africa. Recently in friendly tune up matches, the English beat Mexico 3-1, and needed two own goals by Japan to beat them 2-1. The US enters Saturday's match having beaten Australia 3-1 with two goals from Buddle and an injury time score from Pachuca stand out and Barrack Obama look-a-like Herculez Gomez and a come from behind defeat of Turkey 2-1. The match will mark only the tenth time the two teams have played each other, and for me will be a cause for a riot regardless of the result.

The Football Association, governing body of all English Football competitions, was founded in 1863. Prior to it's formation clubs from different regions of the country all played by different sets of rules. Ebenezer Cobb Morley who is regarded as the father of modern day association football, was the FA's first secretary and author of the original 'laws of the game' which continue to govern the play of soccer. The current president of the FA is none other than Aston Villa fan and future King of England, Prince William of Wales ...pretty tough gig. Since the inception of the World Cup in 1930, the English have appeared in 13 of the 16 tournaments, winning their only title in 1966. Acting as hosts for the 1966 tournament, the final played on July 30th at the old Wembley Stadium was a re-match of World War II. The Brits ultimately defeated the West Germans 4-2, with striker Geoff Hurst scoring a 'technically perfect' (that is a goal with both left and right foot plus one headed) hat trick. Hurst would go on to play for the Seattle Sounders of the NASL in 1976. After failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup played in the United States, the British reached the round of 16 in '98, and the quarterfinals in both '02 and '06. Their loss to Portugal in 2006 saw both an injured David Beckham leave in the 53rd minute and a wound up Wayne 'Wazza' Rooney get sent off in the 62nd minuted for stomping on the genitals of Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho. After 120 minutes of scoreless action, Portuguese goal keeper Ricardo saved penalties by Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Jamie Carragher en route to a 3-1 victory. Aside from their victory in 1966, they added a fourth place finish in 1990, as well as two Olympic gold medals in 1908 and 1912. Their strongest showing in Europe being third place in 1968.

Head to Head Record
Despite going undefeated (1-0-1) in armed conflicts (great result in the Revolutionary War and I'll call the war of 1812 a draw) against the British, the US has not fared as well on the pitch. The US and England have faced each other a total of 9 times through out the years with the Brits claiming 7 of the 9 wins. The most famous victory for the Americans, of course, being the 'miracle on grass' one - nil defeat of the Brits in the group stages of the 1950 World Cup featuring Mighty Joe Gaetjens scoring for the Yanks in the 38th minute. All time, the Brits have outscored the Americans by a tally of 35 to 8. The last time the two sides played was in a friendly match at Wembley Stadium - May 28th 2008, the English won easily led by goals from John Terry and Steven Gerrard. The only American on the roster to have scored against England is none other than Clint Dempsey who scored the US's only goal in a 2-1 defeat at Chicago's Soldier Field in May of 2005. You have to go all the way back to 1993 for the last Yank win in the series when Thomas Dooley and Ginger bastard Alexi Lalas scored, with both goals being set up by Tab Ramos, in a 2-0 friendly defeat of the red coats at Foxborough Stadium.

Flag & National Anthem
The St. George's Cross, is the official flag of England when not competing as the United Kingdom. The more widely known Union Jack flag represents the United Kingdom, however, in International football the UK competes as four separate entities: Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, and England. St. George became the patron saint of England in the twelfth century following a legend of St. George slaying a dragon which originated in the twelfth century. God Save the Queen is the national anthem of the United Kingdom. In one of the earliest available examples of sampling and covering, American Samuel Francis Smith re-wrote the lyrics, leaving out the silly idea of a constitutional monarchy, called it My Country, 'Tis of Thee and it went quadruple platinum.

After, then English manager, Steve McClaren's side lost to Croatia in the final qualifying match to lowly Croatia 3-2 in front of a packed house at Wembley Stadium in 2007 it was clear the Brits needed a coaching change. The loss meant that the English failed to qualify for Euro 2008, the first time they had failed to qualify for the European Championship in 24 years. McClaren was sacked the following day after having been at the helm for only 16 matches. The natural choice to right the ship was clearly, the special one, but after José Mourinho with drew his name from consideration Fabio Capello, despite his tenuous grasp on the English Language, was named manager on December 14, 2007. The retired midfielder notched a modest 45 goals in over 300 starts with Roma, Juventus, and AC Milan; winning Serie A three times, as well as two Coppa Italias as a player. Capello has managed some of the biggest football clubs in the world, two stints with AC Milan and Real Madrid as well as spells with Roma and Juventus. As a manager he had won seven Serie A titles, before having to vacate two amidst the Italian match fixing scandal of 2006 which saw Juventus relegated to Serie B and stripped of all honours. Under Capello's management the Brits have posted an impressive 75% win percentage over 24 matches; winning 18, losing only 2, and drawing 4 during his tenure. All of this clearly couldn't be less important as it was recently brought to my attention that no world cup champion has ever been managed by a foreign born coach.

The saga of the English Captain's arm band reads like a damn soap opera. After the English shit the bed in the quarterfinals of the 2006 World Cup (losing to Portugal on penalties 3-1), David Beckham announced that he would no longer captain the English team. McClaren appointed Chelsea defender John Terry the new captain who held the position until reports of him knocking up English team mate Wayne Bridge's special lady friend surfaced. Ultimately he did the classy thing, and by that - I mean he paid the tab on her abortion, Bridge declined to be included in the English 23 man roster forcing Capello to name Manchester United central defender Rio Ferdinand the squad's captain. During the team's first training session in South Africa Ferdinand suffered a torn knee ligament after a tackle with Aston Villa striker Emile Heskey ruling him out of the tournament and leaving Capello with the task of naming a new captain. Enter widely known Phil Collins fan and scouse bastard...lil' Steven Gerrard. Gerrard, who also captains Liverpool, has notched 16 goals in 80 caps for the Brits.

The English are the only team in the World Cup fielding a squad of players that all appear in their home league, with each of Capello's 23 men playing in the Barclay's Premiership. Absent due to injury David Golden Balls Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, and the biggest shocker - Micheal Owen (who never gets hurt). Perhaps the shakiest position for the three Lions is at Goal Keeper. Most likely getting the start will be 39 year old Portsmouth keeper David 'Calamity' James. At 6' 4 1/2" James was at one time a premier keeper, that time being nearly 18 years ago when he made a rocky debut for Liverpool. James went on to concede 20 goals in 11 matches before losing his starting spot to South African international Bruce Grobbelar. James would later blame his propensity for playing hours of video games for his poor performances. Anchoring the back line will be the Chelsea duo of John Terry and Ashley Cole fresh off of their league and FA cup double. Also likely to start at defense is good old Jamie Carragher who claimed that he was fine with missing his spot try in the 2006 quarterfinals because 'he'd rather miss for England than Liverpool'...I'm sure I know at least one person who shares that sentiment. With the injury to Rio Ferdinand Capello added Hotspurs defender Michael Dawson who has never even sniffed the bench for the national team before having no first team caps. In the midfield you'll clearly see captain wonderful Steven Gerrard, along side former Chelsea and hammer stand out lil' Joe Cole. Vice Captain and star of your favorite Premier League sex tape Frank Lampard is always a scoring threat from midfield dropping 20 goals in his 78 caps for the senior team. At striker you'll most likely see the boy Rooney paired with Emile 'the captain killer' Heskey. Capello only elected to bring four strikers, with Peter Crouch and Jermaine Defoe most likely available off the bench.

Keeping in mind that the US can, and most definitely should, advance out of group play regardless of the outcome of the fixture with England, I think the US actually have a shot at getting a result. If Bradley has the squad playing for a draw England will definitely dominate the match and it could get ugly. On the flip side if the US takes up the mentality of playing possession football and building through their mid-field, clearly their most talented position, they have a great shot at surprising the Brits. That being said, as much as it hurts me to say this, I think England is just too talented to drop this game to the Yanks. I say 2 : 1 England, goals from Wazza and Lampard for the Brits, and Dempsey with a strike for the Yanks.


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