Hi soccer fans, and welcome to the very first edition of World Cup Roundup! As the 2014 World Cup looms in the not-so-distant future, this feature will cover a different qualifying country within every post with details and info on their team, players, World Cup history, and other fun tidbits. While I regrettably won’t be able to cover every team (32 is a lot!), I’ll try to aim for a mix of popular and lesser known teams to keep things fresh. So whether you’re new to the sport or a seasoned veteran, hopefully you’ll discover something new and start getting excited for the upcoming games!
Without further adieu, I’ll kick things off (no pun intended) with the obvious, most awesome choice for the first team to be featured.
United States of America
Team Nicknames: Team USA, Stars and Stripes, Yanks. (Come On You Yanks, or COYY in acronym form, is a popular motivator among USMNT fans.)
Team Colors: This one should be a given – red, white, and blue, of course! Although the shades may vary both home and away kits have generally stayed true to our colors. Fun fact – One of the biggest fashion atrocities was committed during the 1994 World Cup, in the form of America’s away jersey. It is affectionately dubbed ‘The Denim Kit’ and you can feast your eyes on it below. I, for one, am glad that is behind us.
Team Crest: In doing my research on this, I’m surprised at how much controversy there is surrounding the USA crest. Mainly, people think it’s pretty horrible and would like a reboot. Something sleeker, more modern, less clunky. You can see a copy of it here and after some thought I really have to agree that it looks like an Adobe Illustrator project for a high school class. There are some great fan-made variations out there, and multiple petitions to update our current crest, but for now that one’s still official.
Manager: Jurgen Klinsmann has been the USMNT’s manager since 2011. He managed the German national team from 2004-2006, as well as the Bundesliga powerhouse Bayern Munich from 2008-2009. Jurgen originally played for the German national team (as well as various club teams) as a striker, scoring 47 goals for Germany and 226 goals in 506 club matches.
FIFA Ranking: As of this writing the USA is ranked 14th. This is great considering that in June of 2013 we were ranked 28th! (Why is this important? A FIFA ranking shows a country’s position among other world teams, e.g. 1 being the best. It’s based on a points system, with points awarded to countries that win games in FIFA-sanctioned matches. Rankings are also used to seed competitions like the World Cup draw, and it’s just a neat benchmark to see how your team matches up against the rest of the world.)
Group: G, along with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana. (Ouch.)
World Cup History: The USA took 3rd place in the inaugural World Cup in 1930. Since then things haven’t been too exciting, until recently. The USA failed to even qualify for the World Cup for about 30 years until 1990, where they didn’t even make it out of the group stages. But persistence pays off and they have qualified for every World Cup since, placing as high as 8th place in 2002, and even hosting the games here in the states in 1994. The USA’s last competition in the 2010 World Cup was notably brighter and more exciting, and who can forget Landon Donovan’s last minute goal against Algeria to advance out of the group stages and win the game 1-0! (You can relive that moment on YouTube. I will admit I cried when this happened.)
Players to Watch: (Quick note: until countries finalize rosters, it’s tough to predict who exactly will make the cut!) The US has a bevy of players that are growing in skill and popularity, most notably the likes of Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, Landon Donovan, and Tim Howard. You know, the more recognized ‘household names’ of soccer. But there’s a lot (seriously, a lot) of youth talent on the rise – almost so much that it’s hard to narrow this down without listing the majority of players and turning this into a novel. So personal favorites of mine that I’ve really taken a liking to in recent qualifiers and friendlies are Geoff Cameron and DeAndre Yedlin (defenders; Yedlin is very young at 20 so may not even make the cut, but is definitely up and coming); Mix Diskerud and Joe Corona (midfielders); Herculez Gomez, Aron Johannsson, and Eddie Johnson (forwards). I purposely didn’t mention Jozy Altidore (forward) because his lack of consistency gives me hives sometimes and I don’t feel I can count on him to be a dependable contributor like I can with other players. I feel the same way about Brek Shea (midfielder); a lot of people like him but I feel he doesn’t always produce at 100% for whatever reason. (Fun fact – Shea actually scored the winning goal against Panama to win the 2013 Gold Cup for USA!)
My Thoughts: The USA has a tough job ahead of them. Not only does this year’s World Cup have a lot of powerful teams, but our group is pretty formidable. The boys will have to play against Germany (who are downright clinical and scary), Portugal (hello Cristiano Ronaldo), and Ghana (who historically seem to have our number). The first match is against Ghana who, if we come out extremely smart and strong, we have the potential to beat. (And pay them back for knocking us out of the cup 4 years ago.) Portugal comes next and if our boys can manage to shut down the prodigy that is Ronaldo, we may have a chance. Germany, though … well, we’ll worry about that one later. It’s a huge priority right now to win our first two games and get those points to jump to the top of our group. The USA has serious potential to advance out of this group and compete further, but they really need to be prepared to show the world that they’re here to play, and play very well.– Sara Jenkins