How they qualified
The Americans had an ominous start to their final round of qualifying in the CONCACAF zone, losing out 2-1 on the road in Honduras. The result had many in the US media questioning Jurgen Klinsmann’s approach and tactics. All that suspicion quickly melted away, however, as the German proved totally up to the task, guiding the Stars and Stripes deftly to a first-place finish in the six-team Hexagonal. He experimented with old players in new positions, new players throughout the squad, changed formations freely and generally created a new atmosphere of confidence and competition in the team. They won an astounding seven of their ten games, scoring a Hexagonal-high 15 goals, conceding only eight, losing only once, and finishing four full points above runners-up Costa Rica in the final standings. If the trajectory continues for Klinsmann’s rampaging side, the sky might just be the limit in Brazil.
FIFA World Cup finals history
The first US team to turn up at a FIFA world finals earned the dubious nickname of the ‘shot-putters’ for their muscular and burly nature, but 3-0 wins over Paraguay and Belgium in 1930 was enough for a third-place finish, to this day the best placing for any team outside of Europe or South America. Four years later the Americans went out in the first round, but they caused a grand sensation in Brazil in 1950 when, led by outstanding goalkeeper Frank Borghi, they managed to beat mighty England in Belo Horizante in an upsets for the ages. Another first-round exit came in 1990, but as hosts in 1994 they managed to reach the knockout rounds, a result that paved the way to more consistency. And after a last-place finish at France 1998, they beat Portugal and Mexico in Korea/Japan 2002 and only just missed out on a semi-final place after losing to Germany. In 2006 they went out in the first round again, this time in Germany before reaching the Round of 16 in South Africa in 2010.
Key players Jozy Altidore, of English Premier League outfit Sunderland, emerged as the complete package during the final qualifying competition. Left out of the team due to poor form and attitude in the semi-final round, Klinsmann reconsidered and wasn’t let down by his burly striker, who scored goals for fun and was the perfect partner for Clint Dempseyin attack. Landon Donovan, long-time creative icon of the US national, made a return to football after a self-imposed months-long ‘sabbatical’ and linked up beautifully with the sturdy central midfield presence of Roma’s Michael Bradley. With Tim Howardstill a dominant presence between the sticks, the Americans are loaded with ability wherever you look.