The second team to be drawn in Group C, Bob Bradley’s United States squad will have high hopes ahead of this summer’s tournament in South Africa. Having finished comfortably top in CONCACAF qualification following some particularly impressive results against Mexico and Honduras, the USA will be looking to further improve its growing reputation in the game with a strong showing during the World Cup, the country’s sixth consecutive appearance at the finals.

With a relatively young squad peppered with high-calibre footballing talent, Bradley’s team has the ability to worry the world’s best with an abundance of pace, skill and top-level experience. Tending to favour a flexible 4-4-2 formation, Bradley has shown a preference for two holding midfield players – one of which being his hugely talented son, Michael – flanked by two wide players with a greater license to attack, Fulham’s Clint Dempsey and LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan. Up front Houston Dynamo’s Brian Ching and Jozy Altidore of Villarreal partner each other in a 4-4-2, although Donovan has also led the line on occasion or come from deep in a 4-4-1-1.

Although team USA appears to have a well-established group of players going into the World Cup, the squad has suffered its fair share of injuries in recent months. Star striker Charlie Davies, who plies his trade with Sochaux in France, was involved in a car accident last autumn which tragically killed a fellow passenger and caused the player extensive injuries which have ruled him out of this summer’s tournament. On top of that, Stuart Holden, an adaptable midfield player who has proved his worth to the national team over the last twelve months, broke his leg in the 2-1 friendly defeat to the Netherlands in March and is in a race against time to get back to full fitness fitness before June.

However, with two friendlies against Turkey and Australia ahead of the USA’s tournament opener against England, Bradley has plenty of time to refine his team’s personnel and tactics before taking to the field in Rustenburg on June 12th. Indeed, the game against Fabio Capello’s side could well determine just how succesful the campaign will or will not be for the Americans. A win or a draw and the team would be in prime position to spring a surprise and usurp the group favourites at the top of the pool, but a defeat could destabilise the side and, should they qualify as runners-up as many expect them too, would most probably lead to a difficult second round encounter with Germany. It could all stand and fall on that opening game.

Probable starting XI: Howard (Everton); Cherundolo (Hannover 96), Bocanegra (Rennes), Onyewu (AC Milan), Bornstein (Chivas USA); Dempsey (Fulham), Bradley (Borussia Monchengladbach), Clark (Eintracht Frankfurt), Donovan (Los Angeles Galaxy); Ching (Houston Dynamo), Altidore (Villarreal)

The Road to South Africa: 1st place in CONCACAF qualification

World Ranking: 14th

Odds: 80/1

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