Clint Dempsey is convinced the USA can follow the Fulham route to success at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. The American has enjoyed a stellar season with the Premier League club, who rode the crest of a wave all the way to the UEFA Europa League final.
It was a similar story last summer, when the USA reached the FIFA Confederations Cup final from an equally unpromising position, and the clear similarities Dempsey has identified between the two teams leads the 27-year-old to conclude further heroics can be expected in South Africa.
"No one thought we'd get to the final of the Confederations Cup, but we did," he said. "No one thought Fulham would get to the final of the Europa League either. It doesn't matter what anybody thinks of us, what matters is what people inside the group think of themselves. If you have belief it's contagious. You can't live life in fear. You've got to go out and take advantage of the opportunities you get to do something special."
Dempsey is optimistic that a determined attitude can help his country overturn the odds on Saturday when the United States tackle England in Rustenburg, despite Fabio Capello's men going into the clash as overwhelming favourites. Dempsey can understand that given the huge reputations of the men wearing those Three Lions on their chests. However, England are not without their flaws, one of which Dempsey has identified in the man who will be detailed to mark him.
"Glen Johnson is a good player and very effective going forward," he claimed. "But when he gets forward we have a chance to hit England on the counter and give them something to worry about. There will be holes in the pocket he leaves open. We have to be aware of that. Both their full-backs like to attack. But there is a risk involved in Ashley Cole and Johnson pushing forward which could make them vulnerable."
The USA's strength, as with Fulham, comes through their organisation. Coach Bob Bradley shares with Roy Hodgson a desire for two solid banks of four to protect his goal, and then strike on the break. For the USA, it probably worked to most telling effect in the FIFA Confederations Cup semi-final when they inflicted Spain's only defeat in 47 internationals.
With Fulham, a three-goal triumph over a Manchester United side containing Wayne Rooney was the stand-out performance. "Those results were achieved by staying compact defensively and choosing our moments to get forward," Dempsey said. "On Saturday we will try and do the same thing again.
"England have good players. They play in the best clubs in the world, reach Champions League finals and win the league. There are no excuses if they don't do well. But we are used to being the underdog and and that is the way it will be until we change people's perceptions. Actually, it suits us because we have the right attitude, and with that you will have a chance in every game you play."