USA are drawn into Group G in this summer’s World Cup together with Germany, Ghana and Portugal. The Americans are far from being favourites for the title, however they have a decent chance of progress from the group of the cost of Portugal or Ghana.
History – USA have made giant strides in world football in recent years and are currently ranked 13th by FIFA. They have appeared in the last six World Cups and hosted the competition in 1994.
Their best performance in World Cup came way back in 1930 when they reached the semi-final. They qualified in 1934 but withdrew four years later and did not make an impact again until 1950. They then stunned England by beating them 1-0 in the group stages. They had to endure a long wait until 1990 for their next appearance at the finals.
Their appearance as hosts in 1994 World Cup ended with a 1-0 defeat to Brazil in the round of sixteen. They had started the tournament with a 1–1 draw against Switzerland before shocking Colombia 2-1. One of the USA’s goals was an unfortunate own-goal from Andrés Escobar who would tragically be murdered when he returned to his own country.
A 1-0 defeat to Romania did not prevent them reaching the knockout phase before they lost to the subsequent champions. Such was the interest generated by the event; the USA has gone on to qualify for every subsequent World Cup.
In 1998 the USA lost all three group matches to Germany, Iran and Yugoslavia. The defeat to Iran was particularly painful and coach Steve Sampson was heavily criticized for his team selection.
They put up their best performance of recent times to reach the quarter-finals in 2002 before losing 1-0 to Germany. A 3-2 win over Portugal in their opening group match and a 1-1 draw against South Korea proved sufficient to take them through despite a 3-1 loss to Poland. They then defeated Mexico 2-0 with goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan. Their defeat to the Germans came after a controversial decision to deny the Americans a penalty after a clear handball from Torsten Frings.
In the 2006 World Cup, they got no further than the group stage after defeats to the Czech Republic and Ghana and a 1-1 draw with Italy. The Italians would go on to win the tournament.
The USA were also improving in other competitions, making the final of the Confederations Cup in 2009. They defeated Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals to set up a clash with Brazil, eventually losing 3-2. The win against Spain was a major shock with the Spanish officially top in the world rankings and on a run of 35 games undefeated.
In 2010, the USA team were drawn with England, Slovenia and Algeria. They held England to a 1-1 draw and followed with another draw against Slovenia. A win over Algeria was achieved through an injury-time goal from Donovan to take them into the last 16. A 2-1 defeat to Ghana ended their campaign.
USA’s Recent form
In July 2011, the great German star Jürgen Klinsmann was named as the new head coach. After a patchy start, his team recorded five consecutive victories and a first ever win over Italy. Last year they defeated Germany 4-3 in a friendly in front of a sell-out crowd in Washington D.C.
They continued their fine form throughout the summer and a 1-0 win over Panama gave them an 11th consecutive victory. They extended this to 12 with a 4-3 victory over Bosnia in a friendly match in Sarajevo with Jozy Altidore scoring a hat trick. In so doing, Altidore became the first American player to score in five consecutive matches.
In September last year they lost to Costa Rica 3–1 but victory over Mexico sealed their place in the 2014 World Cup. Further victories followed over Jamaica and Panama.
Jozy Altidore of English Premier League side Sunderland has been outstanding for USA in qualifying. He scored eight times for his country in 2013 including his hat-trick and record-breaking five match consecutive streak.
Altidore has now scored 21 goals in 66 games for the USA. He managed only one goal in 28 games during a loan spell from Villareal to Hull in 2009/10 but proved to be a big success in Holland. He was a prolific goal scorer for AZ Alkmaar with 31 goals last season, attracting the interest of Sunderland. The Black Cats were then managed by Paolo Di Canio who would later be sacked after some poor results.