...Jerzy Dudek pull off one impossible save after another impossible saves, in the dying minute, in a rare Polish counter-attack, Emmanuel Olisadebe hit the back of the net. Meanwhile, Portugal and South Korea finish their thrilling match by a score line of 3-3, they both advance to second round...just day dreaming, never mind...
World Cup Preview: Poland v USA
Poland - USA | News Archive
Poland needs desparately to give their fans something to cheer about (Allsport)
USA and Poland look like they are headed in opposite directions. Team USA can lock-up a spot in the second round with a win or a draw and are strong candidates to take top group honors, whereas Poland's disappointing World Cup campaign cannot conclude soon enough.
USA managed a shocking 3-2 opening win over Portugal and followed with a brave 1-1 draw against co-hosts, South Korea. Poland, meantime, are still looking for their first goal and result of the tournament after being shut out 2-0 by China and then humiliated 4-0 by the resurgent Portuguese.
Having been eliminated completely, Poland has nothing to play for which may mean they will lie down against the Americans. However, the opposite may be true as the Polish could look at their clash with USA as an opportunity to exorcise some of their World Cup demons. The match also is an opportunity to play the spoiler role and to salvage some pride.
USA coach Bruce Arena knows his team is tantalizingly close to its first second-round berth since World Cup 1994, and he knows full well that failure to advance will mean the Yanks' historic upset of Portugal will be considered a complete fluke.
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USA: With the exception of injured reserve defender Steve Cherundolo, Arena's squad should be fully fit for Friday's match. Earnie Stewart seems a likely choice to take back his starting midfield spot after missing the South Korea clash with a groin injury. Of concern for Arena may be what to do about three of his starters who are carrying yellow cards (Jeff Agoos, DaMarcus Beasley, Frankie Hejduk).
In addition to his yellow, Agoos' knack for making unlucky plays may put the veteran on the bench to start. Arena was disappointed he did not find a way to insert Pablo Mastroeni onto the pitch against the Koreans, and the Colorado Rapid may be a logical choice to replace Agoos in the starting lineup. Or, Agoos may slide out left to save Hejduk from getting another yellow card.
Another dilemma facing Arena is who to pair up top. Brian McBride and Clint Mathis both have netted for the U.S. so far, but Landon Donovan has created numerous chances and Josh Wolff provides blinding pace. It's quite possible all four will find their way onto the pitch at some point during the match on Friday.
POLAND: Poland will have the backing of the crowd at Daejeon, South Korea, as a win by Poland would ensure the Koreans a spot in the second round no matter the outcome of the host nation's clash with strong Portugal.
"We have to make some gift for the Korean people. We want to win for them, because if we beat the United States, it might help the Koreans go through to the next round," said goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek.
Head coach Jerzy Engel will have to make at least a couple of changes to his side due to an injury to midfielder Radoslaw Kaluzny and the suspension of midfielder Piotr Swierczewski.
Engel may even consider a radical change such as benching disappointing striker Emmanuel Olisadebe to start the match in the attempt to shake his team back into reality. The Nigerian-born striker has done nothing in two World Cup matches after entering as one of the potential dark-horse stars of the tournament.
USA: Brad Friedel
The current Blackburn 'keeper should have cemented his spot ahead of Kasey Keller on the World Cup depth charts with his unconscious performance against South Korea. The former Liverpool 'keeper should get a chance to prove the Anfield club made a mistake by letting him leave by squaring off against current Liverpool #1 Jerzy Dudek. Of course, the enigmatic Arena could sit Friedel and give Keller a chance to stretch his legs.
POLAND: Majdan Radoslaw/Matysek Adam
Majdan and Matysek have not allowed a goal in the World Cup. Of course neither has gotten off the bench as both 'keepers are Dudek's deputies, and they should be commended for avoiding the pitch during Poland's dreadful World Cup campaign.
USA: Jeff Agoos
Agoos waited 15 years for his shot at World Cup glory. In his two World Cup appearances to date Agoos has: scored an own goal, been whistled for a penalty in the box and received a yellow card. Surely the pony-tailed one cannot top that!
POLAND: Emmanuel Olisadebe
Olisadebe has been an utter disappointment. The much-hyped
striker has failed to score a goal and has hardly threatened in his first two matches.
POSSIBLE STARTING LINEUPS
USA: Friedel (GK), Tony Sanneh, Eddie Pope, Jeff Agoos, Frankie Hejduk, Earnie Stewart, Pablo Mastroeni, Claudio Reyna, John O'Brien, Brian McBride, Clint Mathis.
Poland: Dudek (GK), Tomasz Hajto, Michal Zewlakow, Maciej Zurawski, Tomasz Waldoch, Jacek Bak, Pawel Kryszalowicz, Jacek Krzynowek, Pawel Swierczewski, Marek Kozminski, Olisadebe.
I obviously support the US in this game. But I don't want to jump in triumphalistic bandwagon. This is the first game in which the US is favorite to win against Portugal and Korea they were underdos. I am cautiously optimistic, but let's see how the US team handles this new role.