United States legend Landon Donovan tonight welcomed the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ draw that pitted the US against England.
Donovan, the USA's all-time leading goalscorer, has a potential head-to-head meeting with Los Angeles Galaxy team-mate David Beckham when the two countries open their Group C campaigns in Rustenberg, with Algeria and Slovenia also in the group.
"It could have been worse," Donovan said after watching the draw from New York. "It's going to be fun. Depending on where I play, playing against [Frank] Lampard, [Steven] Gerrard in a midfield against those guys is going to be pretty fun. I can't think of a better match-up personally."
We've just talked about being there and seeing each other there but I don't think it entered our minds that we might be playing each other.
"I'm excited. England's a very good team and it's a great match-up. It's going to be very exciting. I think under [coach, Fabio] Capello, they've become a very good team. They qualified relatively easily in a very tough group and they've got players who play in some of the best teams in the world consistently."
Donovan clashed verbally with Beckham earlier this year after the American questioned the Englishman's commitment to the Galaxy and Major League Soccer following an extended loan move at AC Milan. The two mended fences over the course of the 2009 MLS season and combined to help the Galaxy reach last month's MLS Cup league title decider, which LA lost in a penalty shoot-out in Seattle.
"We've moved past the things that we had problems with and now it will just be fun," Donovan said yesterday. "The banter will be good, there'll be some trash talking I'm sure."
Beckham will return to Milan on a second loan deal on 28 December, not returning to MLS until the end of South Africa 2010, but of the possibility of playing against Beckham, Donovan added: "Hopefully we'll both be there, because a lot can happen between now and then but if that's the case, it'll be fun.
Mates to rivals
"There'll be a lot of talking before the first game. He won't be around with the Galaxy before the tournament starts so it won't be as intense as it might be but it's going to be fun to see him there," added Donovan. "We've just talked about being there and seeing each other there but I don't think it entered our minds that we might be playing each other."
Donovan's international team-mate DaMarcus Beasley was similarly enthused by the draw. "It's going to be a great game, we have got a lot of players in England at the moment so we know them well," he told Sky Sports News. "We played them last year and they have some great players.
"It's obviously on paper the toughest game either way. England's a great side, they have a lot of great players but we have a good squad with players that are very experienced, so I think we have a good chance."
US Soccer president Sunil Gulati also welcomed the draw. There are plenty of links between the US and England, both on and off the field and Gulati believes it is a perfect result. "It's very exciting. We are natural rivals and there is a long history between the countries and between the federations," Gulati told the US Soccer website.
"The history between the sides makes a natural alliance, we're English-speaking, we've had lots of players in the Premier League, David [Beckham] is in the MLS, David and Landon Donovan are team-mates. England is the number one stop for Americans abroad so it's a natural alliance but also a natural rivalry."