U.S. looks to make statement on world stage

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:07 PM ET

JOHANNESBURG – There will never be a bigger forum for the United States to make a statement.

Will it be bold and loud?

Or will it be but a mumble lost in the midst of a massive flop?

Saturday, England and the United States will play their opening game in Group C of the 2010 World Cup.

It's a game that's been much anticipated and much ballyhooed, a matchup between England’s World Cup contender and the United States, a nation many believe might give the top teams some trouble.

This is a good place for the United States to be – nothing to lose and everything to gain.

Meanwhile, England, no matter how talented and how much potential it has, carries all its anxieties into the game.

One needs look no further than the headlines created when striker Wayne Rooney opted to bellow a curse word at a referee during a recent friendly against a South African squad. The act immediately raised concern that Rooney's temperament would get the best of him and get him ejected, the second-greatest phobia the English have behind games going to kicks from the penalty spot.

All that publicity leads to, supposedly, the Brazilian referees assigned to work the game getting a crash course on curse words – in English, of course – just in case someone showed them disrespect.

New England captain Steve Gerrard had to answer questions about the issue at a press conference.

Rooney plays with passion but Gerrard warned his teammates to show the referees respect.

"Discipline is very important," Gerrard said. “I'm not sure if Wayne will be targeted. We'll see. But he is a very experienced player now. We need him on the pitch. Every player has been spoken to about discipline by the management. We've lost major players in the past to red cards.

"You just don't swear at the ref, simple as that. In this day, you have to show the referee respect. It's difficult enough playing 11 (versus) 11, if we go a man down, it's just going to make it even tougher for us."

No one worried about a player being red-carded before a game but such is the anxiety about everything England feels going into this game.

The game is key for England. It will set the tone for the rest of the World Cup.

Play well and the pressure will ease.

Play poorly and the questions will ramp up, especially on the heels of what many people believe was a poor run-up to the World Cup.

The United States would love to get anything from this game. Landon Donovan will have a run at Ashley Cole on the England defence. Clint Dempsey will take on Glen Johnson.

If the two of them can keep the England defence busy defending, it gives the British pair less chance to come forward.

The key for the Americans will be how well defenders Oguchi Onyewu and Jay DeMerit handle Rooney.

England is fragile but that fragility will solidify with a strong effort.

Since the two teams were drawn together in the same group, much has been made of the 1-0 upset by the U.S. over the English in 1950.

Much has been made about English revenge.

But that's ancient history.

For the English it’s more about forgetting the past and fulfilling what they believe is a new destiny.


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