The Three Lions - England
Striker Wayne Rooney is a global star and the face of the England National Team. From ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, "…an adept passer and finisher, with a newfound ability to consistently head the ball into the back of the net, but he's also a pest away from goal." He’s one of those rare players who is gifted with both power and touch. It’s a shame we will never see him at tailback. Speedy Emile Heskey or lanky marksman Peter Crouch will match up next to Rooney as the other striker.
In the midfield, Steven Gerrard could be England’s most talented player. His ball skills and great field vision make him a vital part of the English attack. Many have doubts whether Gerrard can be productive with midfielder and Chelsea star Frank Lampard. Shaun Wright-Phillips or Aaron Lennon will be called upon to provide speed down the sidelines. Pity the defender assigned to cover them. James Milner is an offensive minded midfielder should playing time as well.
England took a big hit with the loss of defender Gareth Barry and invaluable leader Rio Ferdinand. John Terry will have to elevate his game to compensate. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole will provide support in the backfield. England’s kryptonite will be in goal where David James will have a trial by fire to prove he’s championship caliber. If James stumbles, English coach Fabio Capella (Yes, England is led by an Italian) will insert Joe Hart or Robert Green quickly.
Preview of America after the jump...
The United States of America
This is the most talented team America has ever assembled. For the first time the national team is composed of players from a diverse range of international clubs. This cannot be understated as it has given them experience with the world’s elite players. Despite their talent, many believe they will have to play nearly perfect to emerge victorious. There is a big advantage in being the underdog, as forcing a draw would give them a massive confidence boost.
England’s weakness could be America’s biggest strength. All three of England’s goalkeepers—especially Tim Howard—are talented players. If you get Sports Illustrated, read about them in the latest issue. Howard has had another great year at Everton in the English Premier League. The 6’3’’ keeper might not have much help from his defenders. Oguchi Onyemu is returning from injury and Clarence Goodson is inexperienced. Carlos Bocanegra and Jay DaMerit will need to provide leadership to a young backfield.
The United States has an excellent midfield in Clint Dempsey, DaMarcus Beasley, and Michael Bradley. Clint Dempsey, a Texas native, is a rising star. Dempsey plays soccer like an American should: determined, creative, and occasionally brash. Dempsey told ESPN, "You can’t live in fear. You have to go out and take advantage of your opportunities and do something special. I think the guys here have that mentality, and we've got to make sure we show that." Bradley and Beasley are both talented players who must rise to the occasion in the absence of Charlie Davies, who is still recovering from a car crash. There is also much hype about Jose Torres who is crafty despite being young and physically outmatched.
The United States has a world-class striker in Landon Donovan. Donovan carries the burden of being the face of a nation on the world’s biggest stage. Robbie Findley could create havoc for England defenders. Jozy Altidore, only twenty years old, is somewhat of an unknown commodity. He has been shuffled around European teams in the past few years. This is his chance to prove his name deserves mention with the best.