Soccer  > World Cup  > Americans adjust to favorite status
June 17, 2010, 02:12 PM
By Michael Lewis

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- The United States is not used to being a favorite at the World Cup.

With a draw against England already secured, the Americans face Slovenia on Friday with bookmakers making them a slightly better choice to come out the winner. And that after Slovenia defeated Algeria 1-0 in their World Cup opener.

It's a match where a victory would put the United States on the verge of the second round, a draw keep it alive and a loss mean all but mathematical elimination.

"It's a challenge," central defender Jay DeMerit said. "Preparation is key, I think our mindset as a team is key. Going into a game as possible favorites would be different for us, especially in this World Cup, and that does pose a challenge on the pressure side of things, to know that you're under pressure to get three points, or get a good result."

It seems that the tougher the opponent and the more pressure, the better the United States plays.

The United States proved that in last year's Confederations Cup. The Americans needed a win in its final group match to get out of the first round and it produced a 3-0 victory over Egypt.

It then surprised then top-ranked Spain 2-0 in the semifinals.

In its World Cup opener Saturday, the Americans overcame a one-goal deficit and battled England to a 1-1 draw.

"I don't know why, but it's like we have nothing to lose," midfielder Clint Dempsey said. "I wish we could play like that when we're not down a goal actually, but at the same time we did a good job in the Confederations Cup against Egypt and Spain, and we didn't need to go down in those games to figure it out. We did a good job managing those games well so hopefully we can play like that."

After playing such an emotionally and physically taxing game against England, the United States has to fear against losing its edge against Slovenia.

"That's a normal thing in sports, especially with all the hype around the England game," defender Carlos Bocanegra said. "I think what helps us in this is that Slovenia won, and we know we can't lose this game or it will be very difficult to qualify for the second round. We're going in with the mindset that if we lose, we're out. That's a big factor for our team, but as far as the leadership roles we have to keep everybody going and put England behind us."

DeMerit has been impressed with Slovenia's work ethic.

"They're a big, physical team that we're going to have to fight with and battle with," he said. "So on a physical level, they're going to be a challenge. I think on the technical side, England, as physical as their players are, because they are such a technical team sometimes their physicality goes by the wayside.

"With Slovenia, they're such a hard-working, together team that they rely on their physical presence quite a lot. Maybe a little bit different than England. So we're going to have to be ready to battle."

Group C

Saturday, June 12
England 1, United States 1
Sunday, June 13
Algeria 0, Slovenia 1
Friday, June 18
Slovenia vs. United States
England vs. Algeria
Wednesday, June 23
United States vs. Algeria
Slovenia vs. England


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