The inevitable happened in the World Cup draw last week – The Old Empire was set on a collision course with the New; England were drawn to play against America in the group stage of the tournament but fortunately were also drawn with Slovenia and Algeria, two weaker teams so regardless of the result, both teams are expected to progress into the knock-out stages of the tournament.
This isn’t the first time the teams have met in the World Cup. In 1950, America beat England 1-0 in one of the biggest upsets in Football history.
The draw was met with great fanfair and acclaim here – more than you would think actually; and treated with a seriousness that I have never seen given to Football with in the US. That said, the sports news announcer on 1230 ESPN2 The Fan in Atlanta couldn’t resist a dig, announcing that the US would be playing Merry Olde England and her hooligans on June 12th. I composed a well-thought, measured and succinct reply via email which ended with an ultimatum to cease and desist all such untrue xenophobic comments at once lest I come round to the studio and slam a copy of The Collected Works of Shakespeareoff his bonce.
Every US football fan I know is ecstatic and excited about taking on the Motherland and home of Football and finally getting the chance to test their progress and prowess against one of the giants of the world game. Every England fan I know is delighted with the easy draw and the idea that we might be even to rest players before the end of the groups to remain fresh for the second phase.
The US have made great strides as a team in the past few years, as well as qualifying for consecutive World Cups, they made the final of the Confederations Cup last year, beating reigning European Champions, Spain, on the way and losing a 2-0 lead in the final to Brazil. A genuine big fish in their own pond, the US have now surpassed a declining Mexico as the leading football power in the North and Central Americas and will be looking to impose their young physical presence on the world. Sadly, a lack of key personnel and ability in certain positions will let the team down. Star defender Oguchi Onewu, unbelivably of AC Milan, embodies all the grace and finesse of a pantomime horse after a session on the Jack Daniels and attending a World Cup Finals with Jozy Altezode, Hull City reserve, as your main attacking threat is the equivalent of turning up to the OK Corral armed with a spork.
One area the US are catching up with and possibly surpassing the old world is in support. The Guardian reports that the US are going to be the most well-supported team at the tournament, with the exception of the hosts and the ubiquitous Orange dutch with their colonial ties.
Personally, I am looking forward to six months of trash talk, craic and anticipation of 2.30pm EST on Saturday June 12th, 2010 where a corner of some foreign bar that is forever England is rocking to both The Star Spangled Banner and The Great Escape – one side looking for proof that a New World Football Order is in the ascendancy and that a nation that is not used to being second best to anybody at anything, isn’t – and the other looking for the constant comforts of 1945 and 1966, that everything that was, is and forever will be – that England (shorthand for Great Britain) is the Greatest.
We shall meet on the field of battle with no quarter given and none asked save this,
How would you like your asses served sir, flambeed, roasted or rare?