With one of the greatest spectacles in all of sport – the FIFA World Cup – set to begin just around the corner, there is undoubtedly one question on every soccer fan’s mind: Who will win it all? There are a few obvious favorites, such as the host country Brazil and international powerhouse Spain, but if the history of international competition has taught us all anything it is this: Anything can happen on any given day.
Take, for example, the United States’ victory over favored Colombia in 1994, or their triumph over soccer great England in 1950. In both of these games, the United States entered a significant underdog – their game against England had them at 500:1 odds to win the World Cup while England boasted 3:1 odds – yet when the final whistle sounded our own American team found themselves victorious.
There could be any number of reasons for these outcomes (e.g. influence of weather, particular game strategies that prove particularly useful against certain opponents), but no matter the case the United States’ national team was, needless to say, fortunate. In all reality, they had little reason to be competitive in those games, let alone victorious. That is not to say that they didn’t still earn those wins, but it’s clear that something happened on those days to allow the United States to get that extra edge they needed to propel them to victory.
Looking at this year’s World Cup team, it may be apparent just what this USA team’s X-factor is: Confidence. Coming off a string of three international wins over Azerbaijan, Turkey, and Nigeria, the United States is heading off to Brazil on a high horse they have never ridden before, having never swept their World Cup send-off series before.
“This game gives us confidence, but the whole send-off series should give us confidence,” defender Matt Besler said following the 2-1 victory over Nigeria. “It’s been a grind but at the end of the day we’ve accomplished everything we set out to do, and that’s to get three wins. That’s really all that matters.”
Confidence they’re likely going to need, if they’re going to advance past the Group Stage. Playing against two of the top five seeds in the world, Germany (2) and Portugal (4), and against the team that has eliminated them from the last two World Cups, Ghana (37), this year’s U.S. team certainly has their hands full. But while such a task may seem daunting, the United States players and coaches are doing exactly what they should be when faced with this kind of adversity: staying poised, collected, and continuing to play their game.
In this year’s case, that is going to mean sticking with their guns. Playing against some of the best players in the world, such as Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal and Mesut Ozil of Germany, the United States will be leaning heavily on their stars. This year, with the recent dismissal of long-time star Landon Donovan, that’s going to mean forward Jozy Altidore.
“He’s our horse. It’s no secret,” goalkeeper Tim Howard said of Altidore. “We have to ride him. He has to put us on his back and score some goals for us.”
Though the task seems near impossible, there is still reason to have confidence in the boys wearing the stars and stripes. Between the upsets previously mentioned, Rulon Gardner’s gold medal wrestling performance over Alexander “Siberian Bear” Karelin in the 2000 Summer Olympics, and of course the United States’ men’s hockey victory over the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics, U.S. national teams have taught the world two very valuable lessons: 1) Never count out the men wearing red, white, and blue, and 2) There is no limit to what you can achieve when you are confident in what you are doing.
So say what you will about this year’s United States men’s soccer team, and make your own choices when filling out your World Cup bracket. Just remember that confidence can take you places no one believes you can reach, and this year’s U.S. team has a lot of it.
Associated Press. (2014, June 8). World cup 2014: U.S. heads to Brazil with boosted confidence. CBS News. Retrieved from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/world-cup-2014-u-s-heads-to-brazil-with-boosted-confidence/
Staff. (2010, June 20). Greatest upsets in World Cup history. Fox Sports. Retrieved from http://msn.foxsports.com/foxsoccer/worldcup/lists/Greatest-upsets-ever-in-World-Cup#photo-title=U.S.+over+England%252C+1950&photo=11232455