Kickoff between the U.S. and England at the World Cup is about four hours away. Yes! Finally. [ad#as3]
England will come to a complete standstill, so much so that you wouldn’t be surprised if they run out of lager. Pizza and Indian takeaways will be hot commodities, too. The soccer diehards in the U.S. will be guzzling beer at bars also, while even non-soccer fans are sure to take notice of the beautiful game, if only once.
Ahead of the big game, here are some key players to look out for.
Just for the record, I predict 3-1 England. I’m being conservative.
Oguchi Onyewu, D: Will he or won’t be start? That’s the key question. Onyewu only played one game for A.C. Milan last season because of a knee injury he sustained on international duty and isn’t match fit. He looked rusty in pre-tournament friendlies. If he does get the nod, he’ll have to get the better of Emile Heskey and win the aerial battles. If he doesn’t start, expect Jay DeMerit to partner either Clarence Goodson or Carlos Bocanegra in the middle.
Jonathan Spector, D: Spector didn’t have a great season at West Ham, and if he starts at left back, look for England’s right-sided midfielder, probably either Aaron Lennon or Joe Cole, to go at him one-on-one. It be a long day for him.
Michael Bradley, M: An action man in midfield, Bradley loves going forward. But in this game, he won’t be allowed to eschew his defensive duties lining up against Frank Lampard and company.
Clint Dempsey, M: Everyone knows Dempsey loves playing in big games, and he’s not averse to shooting from distance. England will be fully aware of his danger, since he has become one of the Premier League’s top midfield scorers – at least outside the Big Four. England will also know plenty about Landon Donovan, given his great spell at Everton.
Jozy Altidore, F: Altidore didn’t score many goals at Hull, but he’s a battering ram. His job will be to win balls in the air so Dempsey and Donovan can pick up the scraps. When he’s on his game, he’s a handful for anyone.
David James, G: It’s always risky business picking James, even though he remains one of the world’s best shot-stoppers and very athletic. It seems like an accident is always waiting to happen. Personally, I’d go with Joe Hart. But who am I to question Don Fabio?
Ledley King, D: King had a great season at Tottenham and is thrust into the starting lineup in Rio Ferdinand’s absence. He looked shaky against Mexico in a recent friendly, despite scoring, and must cope with Altidore and company. The good news for England is that it’s the first game. Who knows if Mr. Fragile will be ready for game two.
Steven Gerrard, M: It’s time for Captain Gerrard, and Lampard, for that matter, to shine in a big game at international level. He’ll be stuck on the left, not his best position, but look for him to cut into the middle, where he’s most effective. England must be aware of counter-attacking possibilities when the Liverpool man (for how much longer?) vacates his spot.
Wayne Rooney, F: Rooney is one of the best strikers in the world, to put it simply. If he’s on his game and in the mood, the U.S. will have no chance. The U.S. might bait him, however, hoping for Rooney to lose his temper and see red.
Emile Heskey, F: Fabio Capello went against his word when he picked Heskey. (He said he’d only pick players in form.) But Heskey partners Rooney well, and like Altidore, will look to win the aerial battles. He better do that, since he can’t hit a barn door and took out Ferdinand.
Enjoy the game everyone!