LONDON – Maybe it should be no surprise that many of the English media, and to outward appearances the England national team, are paying precious little attention to the United States ahead of Wednesday's international friendly at Wembley Stadium.
Talk this side of the pond is all about the aftermath of the Champions League final, Avram Grant's replacement at Chelsea, the issue of the England captaincy and the rebuilding process under Fabio Capello after England missed out on the Euro 2008 finals.
David Bentley and Owen Hargreaves were the two players wheeled in before the media Monday, and neither offered, or was asked for, any real insight or opinion on Bob Bradley's American side.
"Winning breeds confidence," said Hargreaves, but he wasn't talking about the U.S.'s recent impressive away form after victories in Switzerland, South Africa and Poland. He was referring to the buzz about him and his Manchester United colleagues following their victory in Moscow to make them club kings of Europe.
Meanwhile, Bradley and his players touched down in London to little fanfare and given the circumstances it should be no shock that this game is dipping under the radar.
The playoff finals to decide promotion in the various divisions of the English leagues took place over the long weekend and, even in international terms, it is widely understood that England is at the beginning of a long-term process that will not culminate until the 2010 World Cup.
Even Hargreaves, who grew up in Canada, was unable to muster much excitement when asked if his heritage made a showdown with the U.S. slightly more special.
"I haven't looked at it that way," he said gloomily. "I have never played against the USA, so it is great to play new teams. Hopefully, we can put on a good show."
In these early days of Capello's reign, the public's eyes are full of scrutiny and self-preserving suspicion. While the Italian is generally agreed to be a far better option than the disaster that was Steve McClaren, it remains to be seen whether he can achieve big things at a major tournament.
The England team is constantly under the spotlight, which breeds an inherent resistance from its players. Guards are permanently up, and there is none of the relaxed ambience that runs through the U.S. camp.
Bentley's news conference was full of predictable clichés, and his one brief comment about Wednesday's opponent was exactly the sort of thing he would say before any game like this.
"The U.S. will want to make an impression and perform well," Bentley said. "They will be running around and getting stuck in and will want to have a go at us."
The papers have paid scant attention also, aside from a tiny article on Landon Donovan in the Sunday Telegraph and a small feature with Clint Dempsey on Sky Sports News that focused more on matters with his club, Fulham, than those of the U.S. national team.
Not that Bradley should be too bothered. If England is anything other than fully motivated, this game will provide an opportunity for a morale-boosting result against an England squad that is still one of the biggest names in the FIFA family.
"Are we expecting to win?" Bradley asked. "We come with the idea of competing with a good team and finding a way to win, so I suppose the answer is yes."
- Owen Hargreaves
- Bob Bradley
- Fabio Capello
- David Bentley