The opening round match between England and the United States ended without a winner in a 1-1 draw. But that didn’t stop the Americans from celebrating like victors after a fluke goal saved them from defeat on June 12 at Royal Bafokeng Stadium in Rustenburg, South Africa.
For the U.S., a draw against a dominant team like England is perhaps the confidence boost needed to advance onto the second round of play.
“We'll take more out of a draw than they will,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “They’re going to feel like they should have won the game.”
England might have, if goalkeeper Robert Green hadn’t mishandled a sharp 25-yard shot by American’s Clint Dempsey in the 40th minute. Dempsey’s shot caromed off Green’s outstretched hands and rolled over the goal line as Green scrambled to keep it out.
Dempsey’s goal ignited a huge roar from every American present, who had been anticipating this match for decades. The last time USA and England faced off was during the 1950 World Cup, a match which USA won, 1-0.
“I’m sure they were excited in bars back home, too. I can only imagine it was pretty intense,” Howard told reporters. “We’re a resilient side, you know. We're a tough side and on our day we can put a good performance in.”
Howard was the primary reason the Americans managed to stay out of the loser’s column. He gave up an early goal to England’s Steven Gerrard in the fourth minute of the game, but recovered to shut them out for the remainder of the game, even after a hard collision in the first half with England’s Emile Heskey.
The United States team will see its next action against Slovenia on June 18, while England will face Algeria the same day.