United States captain Carlos Bocanegra is viewing today's crunch showdown against Algeria as not only a chance to reach the last 16 of the FIFA World Cup™ but also to win the team some new fans back home.
The popularity of football in the US is on the rise but, unlike in many other countries around the globe, it is not the leading sport with traditional favourites baseball, American football and basketball providing stiff competition. However, Bocanegra believes his side can strike another blow for the sport by securing the victory against Algeria later today that will guarantee them a place in the knockout stages in South Africa.
"Every time we have played in the World Cup, our games have contributed to the interest back home, and I think more and more we have people interested in the United States. Over the last four years, since the 2006 World Cup, we have realised that football has become increasingly popular. It is not the top sport in the United States yet but it is the most popular sport around the world and I hope after the (Algeria) game we will have even more supporters in the US," he said.
US coach Bob Bradley echoed those thoughts, adding: "Soccer in the US continues to grow, there have been so many important steps along the way. We understand that each World Cup takes on extra importance and we understand the responsibility we have as a team representing the United States and representing our sport."
The US missed out on a place in the last 16 of the 2006 FIFA World Cup after losing to Ghana in their final group game in what was a similar situation to the one they now find themselves in. Now they are one of four teams in Group C who still have a chance of reaching the knockout stages heading into today's third and final round of group matches.
Over the last four years, since the 2006 World Cup, we have realised that football has become increasingly popular
Leaders Slovenia are on four points, two ahead of the US and England, and three clear of last-placed Algeria. Algeria may be bottom of the standings and without a goal in their two games, but Bocanegra, who plays his club football for Rennes, is still wary of the threat the north Africans pose.
The defender said: "They're a good team, a few of their guys play in the French league, they're athletic and technically gifted. A few players can stand out and score goals for them, but we are going to focus on the entire team and not any one player."
The US are not the only side feeling the weight of responsibility heading into the today's clash at Pretoria's Loftus Versfeld stadium. Algeria coach Rabah Saadane said: "We have a great deal of responsibility. As it is we represent the African continent, the hopes of the African continent, and we also represent the Arab world."
Saadane was responding to a question as to whether he felt Algeria were also now representing the hopes of France following Les Bleus disappointing early exit yesterday. Saadane, whose squad has many French-born players in it, hoped that would not be the case, joking: "We don`t want this additional responsibility.
"It is unfortunate for France, there are strong links between the two countries."