(Friday, December 4, 2009) -- The United States men were drawn into Group C for next summer's World Cup in South Africa and will open with a match against England, followed by encounters with Algeria and Slovenia.
Today's draw from Cape Town, South Africa, was about as favorable as the U.S. could possibly have hoped for with two of the opponents, Algeria and Slovenia, only qualifying after difficult playoff victories. The opening match against England June 12 will be viewed as one of the marquee matches of all group play and will present the Americans with a very difficult start.
"This is a group that gives us a real fair chance of moving on," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said from Cape Town.
The strongest of the eight groups, often referred to as the "Group of Death," will be Group G, with Brazil, North Korea, Ivory Coast and Portugal. Three in the group are among the strongest in the tournament with North Korea figuring to be badly beaten in every match.
Group D -- Germany, Australia, Serbia and Ghana -- also appears to be particularly difficult.
Not only does the U.S. look to have better-then-even chances against the others in its group, but Group C could not possibly have been better for the Americans from a geographical standpoint. The U.S. will base and train just outside Pretoria and the three Group C venues are Rustenburg, just to the west of Pretoria, Johannesburg, just to the south, and Tshwane, essentially a Pretoria suburb.
In last summerís Confederation Cup the U.S. beat Egypt 3-0 at Rustenburg and recorded a huge win over Italy 3-1 at Tshwane.
The Americans could have been drawn into a group playing in Durbin or Cape Town, which would have involved overnight plane trips. Instead all their group matches will be a short bus ride away from their headquarters
The U.S. schedule (all times Eastern):
June 12 - England in Rustenburg, 2:30 p.m.
June 18 -- Slovenia in Johannesburg 10:30 a.m.
June 23 -- Algeria 23 in Tshwane, 10 a.m.
A bit about the other Group C teams:
England: The manager, the autocratic Italian Fabio Capello, has promised this England squad will not fold under pressure. The top scoring nation in European qualifying, England had little trouble progressing to the World Cup.
Capello has publicly stated he thinks his team can reach the final despite losing in frendlies to France, Brazil and Spain. He said after the draw he believes it is all important to get off to a fast start in the first match. England defeated the U.S. 2-0 in a May 2008 friendly at Wembley Stadium.
Slovenia: Was the upset winner in a playoff with Russia, coached by Gus Hiddink, thanks to an tiebreaking away goal. It is a hard-working, defensive-minded team, in the World Cup for the second time. Slovenia us a difficult to beat if it gets a lead.
Algeria: Got to the World Cup with what ended up being a bitter three-match playoff with Egypt for Africa's last spot in the tournament. The Desert Foxes drew its two-match playoff series with Egypt with a last-second goal in Cairo. This resulted in a third, unscheduled, neutral-field playoff in Sudan, which Algeria won. It is back in the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and is Northern Africa's only representative. What it lacks in skill, it more then makes up for in tenacity.