Tuesday, June 12, 2007

USA to win world cup in 2010....or maybe later

http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2007/writers/jonah_freedman/06/06/usa.summer/index.html

I read this article and had to shake my head.....the opening statement from Mr Freedman:

"The U.S. is going to win the World Cup.There, I got your attention. Of course, I don't know when that's going to happen, and I seriously doubt it will be in South Africa 2010. But even the haters agree: Sooner or later, the Yanks are going to break through"

Hmmmmm, "sooner or later, the Yanks are going to break through" not sure I agree with that statement. Now could the US win a World Cup in 2090 or maybe they will pull off a huge shock in South Africa....or neither might come true. While I am all for yahooism when it comes to sports writing, the American press is a little overboard when it comes to International Football. Playing in the CONCACAF has warped the perception of the quality and value of the US national team. When the third best team in the region is Costa Rica....that does not say much about the quality of the region. Now the quality has absolutely risen in the past decade, no doubt. But so have the other regions - noticeable Asia with the now inclusion of Australia. And especially in Africa, where I think the first non European/South American nation will win the World Cup. But let us not get ahead of ourselves with US soccer.

I do agree that these tournaments will go a long way for the US development. The one advantage the European nations have is that there is no long break between World Cups. With the European Cup being played next year, nations are always competing (France and Italy met one another a month after the WC finals for a Euro qualifier....no drop in intensity). Whether it be to qualify for one of the tournaments or playing in them, their international teams have a regular rhythm, they never need to find ways to "pump" themselves up for the World Cup. However for CONCACAF there is no equivalent, so the Gold Cup will have to make due. So, yes, this tournament is important for the US national team....the real important tournament will be the Copa America (sorry the Confederations Cup, that the US will qualify for if they win the Gold Cup is not an "important" tournament...even though Les Bleus have won two of them....).

The Copa will pit the US against South American nations - Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Paraguay etc. This should be more of a test and developmental ability for the US. Even if the US pulls some great upsets and finds themselves winning the tournament would that make them world cup favorites? NO! Although it would be a good feather for their caps.

Okay, how about the U20 World Cup? Well that is always a nice little tournament. One where you can see the stars of tomorrow - Messi, Figo, Maradona, Adriano, and Henry to name a few. It is a great place to measure the individual talent of certain nations. Is it a leading indicator of a senior sides future success? Yes and no, while Argentina and Brazil have made this their own little trophy award ceremony the true value is in the other teams that qualify and how they fare. Nations such as France, Italy and Germany have not always qualified nor fared well, but seem to do well on the senior level. While nations such as China, Uzbekistan, Benin, Burkina Faso, Syria, Canada, Zambia, Kazakhstan and UAE have been participants, some more regularly than others, yet none from this non - exhaustive list would ever strike fear in any senior squad. Oh and let us not forget that Freddy Adu might "break out" at this tournament....he might....then again even if he does, heading back to Salt Lake might not be the most fertile ground for continued development. At the last tournament the break out player was Messi....who was already entrenched at Barca, slight difference. (I do agree however, that Altidore could be a revelation at this tournament and in my opinion will be more valuable to US soccer than Adu)

So where does this leave us? US a world cup champ in waiting? These three tournaments will help, but fall far short of what is needed to make the US a contender for the WC semi finals, let alone the finals or a trophy. If the US really wants to elevate its game, then the CONCACAF qualifying needs to be scrapped and rolled into the South American qualifying. Force Mexico and the US to compete with Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Argentina and the rest of the South American nations for a World Cup spot. The US and Mexico may miss out on 1 or 2 world cups, but if they are serious about elevating their game this is the only way they can achieve this. If the US wants to defeat nations such as Ghana, Italy, the Czechs or any other soccer nation on the world's biggest stage, then they need to learn how to defeat Brazil in Rio or Argentina at the Bombonero .... playing one time at Azteca Stadium does not do enough.

But that would deprive the American pundits from waxing lyrically on how the US will finally win the World Cup....as if it is just a matter of time. Tell that to the Dutch and the Spanish........never mind the soccer powers emerging in Africa - Cameroon, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, etc......

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