A whirlwind display at last year’s Confederations Cup showed the many sides of a mercurial USA team who will be difficult to predict at this summer’s World Cup.
After losses to Italy and Brazil an early trip home seemed inevitable for Bob Bradley’s men. But a rousing 3-0 win over African champions Egypt enabled USA to make a Lazarus-like return and progress ahead of the current World Cup holders.
USA were to provoke more indignation from a European champion by beating Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals, with a relentlessly energetic display that left pass masters Xavi and Cesc Fàbregas without room to breathe.
In the final against Brazil they again played at a frenetic pace and went 2-0 up before half time. That a full-strength Brazil came back to win 3-2 takes nothing away from USA’s achievements in the tournament but it does underline their erratic tendencies.
Qualification for the World Cup was equally arbitrary with an opening round win against Mexico followed by a draw against El Salvador and a defeat of Trinidad and Tobago succeeded with a loss to Costa Rica.
A sequence of four losses in their last five friendlies seems to somewhat undermine their Confederations Cup exploits but these have come away to quality opposition in the shape of Denmark, Slovakia and Holland.
It seems unlikely USA will have enough to topple England but wins over Algeria and Slovenia should see them through as runners up. A second round match with Germany would probably come next, and as USA showed during the World Cup’s warm-up tournament in South Africa last summer, any underestimation by the Europeans will be punished.
Agree that USA could reach the quarters after a big name scalp? Back it here at 5/1.