England Said to Discuss Pre-World Cup Soccer Match Against U.S.Tariq Panja
England’s national soccer team may play an exhibition game against the U.S. in America in the weeks before next year’s World Cup in Brazil, three people with knowledge of the matter said.
Discussions about the game are still going on and the final decision may depend on whether the teams qualify for Brazil, two of the people said. They spoke anonymously because negotiations are ongoing.
U.S. Soccer President Sunil Gulati declined to give details of who his federation was in discussions with although he said a match with England would be one to savor. The game could feature English Premier League players including Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney and Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard as well as younger players such as Jack Wilshere of Arsenal.
“That would be an interesting game,” Gulati said in a telephone interview today. “We’re always interested in tough games and England fits into that category.”
England, which won its only World Cup as host in 1966, has been upset by the U.S. in previous meetings. The biggest surprise came at the 1950 World Cup when the U.S. won 1-0 in Brazil. Twenty years ago, England lost 2-0 in Foxborough, Massachusetts, and later that year failed to reach the 1994 World Cup in the U.S.
No decision has yet been made on the English national team’s games beyond 2013, England spokesman Mark Whittle said. The squad travels to Brazil in June for an exhibition against the World Cup host, its first in South America since a 2-0 win there in 1984.
England is currently ranked fourth by ruling body FIFA while the U.S., where soccer has less widespread appeal, is 32nd. The two countries had discussed playing a match this year to mark the 100th anniversary of the U.S. soccer federation and England’s 150th. An agreement couldn’t be reached on a date and the U.S. will instead honor its centenary with a game against Germany in Washington in June.
In 2005, England won 2-1 in Chicago, and beat the U.S. 2-0 in London three years later. In 2010, the teams played out a 1-1 draw in their opening game of the World Cup in South Africa. A match against the U.S. could net England about $1.5 million, one of the people said.
Thirty-one nations from soccer’s six confederations are vying to join host Brazil next year. England is second in its qualifying group after four games, while the U.S. is last of six teams left in the North and Central American qualification contest after losing its opening game to Honduras.
World Cup Qualifying
Thirteen European teams are guaranteed a spot in the finals, while a minimum of three from the U.S.’s qualification pool will play in Brazil.
Even though England has won seven of 10 games between the teams, U.S. soccer fans have fond memories of playing against England. The 1950 win came against a team that included greats such as Billy Wright and Tom Finney. Joe Gaetjens got the goal in Belo Horizonte, the only other time the competition was played in Brazil.
Alexi Lalas and Thomas Dooley scored in the 2-0 exhibition win in Foxborough in 1993 that led to former England manager Graham Taylor being criticized by the U.K. press. A headline in the Sun newspaper read: “Yanks 2 Planks 0”.
“England shouldn’t have lost to the United States,” Taylor said in a telephone interview today. “The fact is any other day we would’ve got five but we didn’t, and you go back to 1950 and England with all those top names lost. These things happen. We still have the same thing with our media that the England team shouldn’t lose to anyone, and when they do the manager gets the blame.”
Taylor said that even though England hasn’t repeated its success of 1966, the country’s soccer history ensures its appeal endures.
“England is given the reputation as the home of football,” he said. “That appeals to many other nations who feel they must play England, and beat England.”