Wayne Rooney must be stopped for the United States to have any chance of beating England in their FIFA World Cup™ opener, US coach Bob Bradley said on the eve of Saturday's showdown.
Asked after the final US pre-match workout if the English star striker had to be subdued in order for the Americans to win, Bradley said he thought so. "Our ability to keep track of him and keep him from doing what he wants to do is a very, very important part of what we have to do to win," Bradley said.
Bradley said he will not target Rooney despite admitting how vital his performance will be to the outcome of the Group C clash, especially in light of Rooney's red-card flare-up at Germany 2006. "That's not the way we go about things," Bradley said. "We respect him. He's a competitor. We have to match that."
That puts pressure on the US defenders, whom Bradley said will be ready for the challenge of trying to contain Rooney and the rest of England's formidable attack. "We will have a group that will have a good understanding of what they have to do and what this game is all about," Bradley said.
We respect [Rooney]. He's a competitor. We have to match that.
The Americans will step on the pitch expecting to clinch a victory that would match their 1950 FIFA World Cup upset of England as one of the greatest moments in US soccer history. "A win on Saturday would certainly be right there on par with it," Bradley said. "It wouldn't be a surprise. We have earned more and more respect."
They have earned so much respect that US captain Carlos Bocanegra can laugh off a headline that summed up England's group as "EASY".
"That was The Sun, wasn't it?" Bocanegra said of the British tabloid's confidence. "You have to laugh at some of those papers. We don't look too much into those things."
Bradley admits his players have great expectations for Saturday. "We step on the field believing we can win," Bradley said. "It is said with no disrespect to our opponent. The preparation has been good. The players are ready."
Bradley announced that Jozy Altidore would start at forward, having spilled the beans earlier to a radio reporter. "I felt we could give one name. No more," Bradley said, before adding, "OK, Carlos is starting."
An elephant nibbling on a tree blocked the US team bus for 10 minutes, delaying the Americans trip to Royal Bafokeng Stadium for their training session. "It was cool," Bocanegra said. "A big elephant was eating on the path of our hotel."