Zidane: “US is stronger than England right now”

Wouldn’t want to deprive you of this beauty, would we?

“Algeria was really weak in the first game against Slovenia and it is a shame since they did not play very well against England. I think they were the better team and they only lacked a score. I do believe they have chances to qualify since England is not playing well at all.

In fact, I find the United States are a strong team, stronger than England right now. However, if Algeria can play against the US as they did against England, I’m pretty sure they can win that game.”

On the surface, Zizou doesn’t appear to be telling us anything that isn’t already self evident. England looks listless, and the US just put in an inspired three-goal half of play to stay very much alive. I think the sentiment embodied in his comment mainly encased in expectation, since a 2-2 draw against Slovenia – regardless of how it got to that point – isn’t a result to be cherished, either. It was salvaged, nabbed from the jaws of death, but let’s not forget how nervy those final moments were.

England… well, the promising attack corps never got that close against Algeria, which likely prompts the comment. If England had showed… anything… I doubt Group C be in this spot, looking like the weakest of all. Pretty surprising, that. I sat in on a few English soccer radio shows after the scoreless draw with the Algerians, and London is indeed burning. With haste, at that.

Zidane’s quote hits at the heart of the far-reaching consequences of Wednesday’s round of games. Where do we expect the US to finish? What is acceptable? What does Bob Bradley need to do to keep his job through to next year? Is that already assured? Will getting out of the group be enough? Should it be?

All these questions are for Sunil Gulati to answer properly, but from an American’s perspective, anything less than knockout rounds through this WC is a failure verging on total. There was talk that not only is this the USA’s best ever team, but this is easily their weakest group draw in history. For a team that’s made six consecutive WC’s and been at or near the bottom of most of them, that’s not peanuts.

Algeria is a watershed for Bob Bradley, for Landon Donovan, for Clint Dempsey, for all the development coaches in the US soccer system. If the system is working, Algeria is of little consequence, slow starts be damned. Tangible proof? Here’s your chance, Yanks. You need to grab this one by the horns. In lieu of proper X’s and O’s for Wednesday – which I’ll briefly highlight below – rest assured that the intangibles will play a much bigger part. Was 2002 a fluke, or was 2006? One or the other will be proved right Wednesday.

Just a few brief comments on form headed in the game. To start:

  • The middle line. If I’m Bob Bradley, I’ve got a decision to make. If you’ll remember, he switched to a 3-5-2 to exploit the need for goals late in the game, with Edu holding deep with the ability to track forward if needed. He took out Gooch for the move, which should tell you something. Bradley is notoriously fickle with his 4-4-2, so the fact that he pulled a guy he stuck his neck out for to go with something completely “Un-Bradley-esqe” is nothing short of astonishing.Know what else? It worked. I highly, highly doubt we’ll see this formation used off the bat against Algeria, but who knows – maybe the game allows the boys to naturally flow back into it? We’ll have to see. I never thought we’d see that kind of tactical shift from Bradley in the first place, so I guess he may have more tricks than I thought.
  • Bradley hitched his wagon to Gooch, and neither is winning in the partnership. I’ve heard some assessments that place Gooch’s fitness at nearing 100 percent again, him using the first two games to get back into it. I’m not so sure. The unfortunate thing is that the options behind him aren’t any better. Raise your hand if you honestly feel comfortable putting Clarence Goodson next to DeMerit, who himself isn’t exactly coming up roses. Just clench your toes and pray.
  • Anybody thinks Edu starts Wednesday? If it’s not Torres, and it’s not Clark… does this open up Bradley tactically for a 3-5-2, with Holden taking one of the midfield spots, with Dempsey slotting in up top? Just clench your toes and pray.
  • No Robbie Findley means yes to Edson Buddle or Hurculez Gomez. We won’t see both if Dempsey slides into forward as he did against Slovenia. But after last week, honestly, I’m putting my chips down on Gomez. I wish it were Buddle, but I think Bradley’s made Gomez one of “his guys”. We all know what that means, don’t we Jozy?

US v Algeria Betting

The Algerians are priced at 3.35 to hold the US to a draw. Given the nature of the matches at the World Cup so far, it’s the best bet for the game. Place your bets here.

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