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In the classic tale of simple yank takes on snotty Europeans, American soccer is stuck
in the second act, just one training montage shy of success.
The story starts in 1620, when, it's claimed, pilgrim settlers saw Native Americans playing
a game called pasuckuakohowog at Plymouth Rock. And, as part of a long tradition, they
decided to steal the game and give it an inferior title. It started well, with them winning
their first proper match against Sweden in 1916. They even reached the first World Cup,
where they made it all the way to the semis. But America grew complacent with success and
the next cup saw them knocked out in the opener by the vicious Italians. All-round baddie
Mussolini got something shiny for his big, fascist palace that year. And so the US moped
about in the soccer doldrums for a decade until, following a pep talk from their trainer,
they scraped through the qualifying group in 1950. Here they faced the best team in
the world, England, in their first ever World Cup. They hadn't bothered with the silly little
tournament up until then. The British press said it would be fair to give America a three
goal start. But to a roaring crescendo, a US team of teachers, dishwashers and Hearse
drivers beat the arrogant English 1-0. It was a story worthy of a Hollywood film, but
it had no sequel. They duly lost their next match and didn't qualify again for the next
40 years, because the only route to the tournament was to beat Mexico and...
Luckily their southern neighbours got themselves disqualified in 1990 and America made it to
the cup only to lose three out of three matches. But then, in 1994, America hosted the cup
themselves and with the help of the dude, Alexi Lalas, they got through the group stages
to the last 16. Here, not only did they lose, their midfielder got his skull fractured by
a flailing Brazilian elbow. In a moving scene, Leonardo later paid him a tearful hospital
visit, just to apologise. In 1998 the rules changed, so America didn't
have to beat Mexico to qualify. In France America faced Iran in the groups and the Iranians
slayed the great Satan 2-1. Then in 2002 America made it past the groups again, beating Portugal's
golden girls and their southern neighbours. They found themselves in a World Cup quarter
final against Germany, where they played really well. But this is real life not Rocky. The
next two World Cups saw America's progress blocked twice by a new nemesis; Ghana. And
guess what, they'll be facing them again this time.
So with former cup winner Jürgen 'the German' Klinsmann in charge, can America overcome
adversity and get the ending they've always dreamt of?
From day one, Ghana have been torn between two lovers; the kind attentive Caf and the
mean, distant Fifa.