Sunday, July 30, 2006

FIFA World Ranking : World Cup 2006 Preview - USA

The USA have a lot to live up to after reaching the quarter finals four years ago but being placed in the “Group of Death” could see their campaign in Germany fall much shorter.

As usual, the USA had a relatively easy group, with only Mexico providing any real competition. This the fifth consecutive finals the US are participating in, despite being much-maligned as a capable international football team.

In 16 qualifying matches Bruce Arena’s side lost just twice, away at both Mexico and Costa Rica and secured their place in Germany with matches to spare and topped their group ahead of Mexico due to a better head-to-head record.

The USA may be rated eighth in the world according to the FIFA rankings, but similar to Mexico, the sheer number of games they play against sub-standard opposition means they are perhaps artificially high. Arena could afford to field a reserve team for the final two matches and still win the group. The bookies are under no illusions and rate them as 100/1 (Bet365) outsiders to win the tournament outright, top 10 in the world or not.

Like Italy, the USA may also suffer from a lack of stability. While Claudio Reyna is the first-choice captain, no less than seven players wore the armband during qualifying.

However, if they can get past this then Arena can rely on a vastly experienced team to try and negotiate their way into the second round. While 164-cap Cobi Jones has finally retired, the US have another centurion in Reyna while Kasey Keller, Brian McBride and Eddie Pope are all veterans of previous World Cup campaigns. Even striker Landon Donovan, at 23-years-old, boasts over 70 caps.

Despite struggling to make the grade in Europe, Donovan remains the USA’s most potent threat. Now playing as a midfield playmaker and back in his homeland with Los Angeles Galaxy, he racked up six goals in qualifying and created as many for others.

There may not, however, be a place for 16-year-old sensation Freddy Adu. The DC United striker could be representing Ghana in this year’s finals but pledged his international future to the USA.

Recommended Bet:

This is an exceptionally tough group for the USA to negotiate, especially since they do not play top class European opposition very often. This could well be the type of group where everyone takes points from everyone else, but Bruce Arena’s side best chance of success comes in their final group game against Ghana. At odds-against, the USA look a sound bet but even victory here may not be enough to make it to the last 16.

USA to beat Ghana @ 6/5

David Walker runs a free World Cup bets website and written World Cup previews. A free 45-page World Cup guide is available from the website and features a "free World Cup football shirt" offer.

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