After the senior team's progress to the final of this year's FIFA Confederations Cup, USA has been gripped by football fever like never before. What better time, therefore, for the next generation to go for glory at FIFA's premier junior tournament, the current U-20 World Cup in Egypt.
The USA have qualified for the showcase event no fewer than 12 times, more often than any of their CONCACAF rivals. Should a USA team make a prestige final for the third time in 2009, it would rate as the North Americans' greatest achievement so far in the U-20 age bracket, eclipsing their fourth-place finish at the 1989 edition in Saudi Arabia. "Anything could happen. We'll give it our best shot, and see how far that takes us," midfield string-puller Bryan Arguez told FIFA.com, revealing his very special link to opening game opponents Germany.
The 20-year-old practically rates as a veteran of the tournament, as he was a USA squad member at the previous edition in Canada two years ago, where he and his team-mates crashed to a disappointing 2-1 defeat to Austria after extra-time at the quarter-final stage. Keeper Brian Perk is the other US starlet also set to contest his second U-20 tournament.
Another European nation bars the Americans' way this Saturday, when Germany provide the opposition at the Mubarak Stadium in Suez. "The Germans are genuinely tough, and simply have more quality compared to us. They're totally disciplined and professional. And Germany has a first-class league too."
Arguez again speaks from experience, as he has already had a taste of the said first-class league. He signed for Bundesliga outfit Hertha Berlin in January 2008, but has made just a single appearance for the senior side so far. A strong performance in Egypt would certainly aid the 20-year-old in advancing his case for more regular selection.
However, there is a long way to go before then, as the focus is now firmly on the group stage, and specifically the opening fixture against the European champions. "It'll be a good, but tight game. Both teams are capable of winning. I don't think it'll finish 2-0 or 3-0. I reckon it'll be very close at the end," predicted Arguez, "it's important to win your first match at any tournament."
The US plan to match their European opponents with "plenty of pride and 100 per cent determination for the full 90 minutes," the midfielder added. Despite his insider knowledge of the Germans' strengths and weaknesses, he had felt no need to approach coach Thomas Rongen on the subject: "He's Dutch, so he knows his German football already."
The 52-year-old, who was in charge of the team at the previous FIFA U-20 World Cup in Canada, took this year's squad to Cyprus by way of preparing for the finals in Egypt. Morale is good after two clean sheets in two friendly wins on the island and the young North Americans are buzzing with excitement and ready for action.
All four Group C contenders are quartered in a sumptuous facility near Suez, but the various teams are keeping themselves to themselves, Arguez reported, revealing he had yet to set eyes on any of the German players. The starlet was full of praise for the Egyptian hosts: "Everyone's really nice and friendly. We're feeling great here."
Before Arguez and the rest of the team captained by Kyle Davis trooped off for lunch, the 20-year-old gamely responded to FIFA.com's request for a sentence or two in German. "Ich bin hier mit meinem Kumpels. Danke schön, danke dir," Arguez beamed, "I'm here with my mates. Thanks, thank you!"