The U.S. coach, Bob Bradley, believes his side can emulate his country's celebrated victory over England in 1950 in Saturday evening's opening Group C fixture, though he conceded they will prevail only if they can stifle Wayne Rooney.

The U.S. won the only previous competitive meeting between the sides at the Brazil finals, albeit 60 years ago, with Bradley saying a repeat of that success tonight would not constitute a surprise. The Hull City striker, Jozy Altidore, will start in Rustenburg, a venue with happy memories for Bradley's team – it is where they defeated the reigning European champions Spain in last summer's Confederations Cup.

Asked to consider how a victory over Fabio Capello's team would compare with the 1-0 win in Belo Horizonte, the U.S. coach, said: "It certainly would be a great way for us to start the World Cup. 1950 is a big moment in U.S. soccer history and victory here would certainly be right there on a par with it. But it wouldn't be a surprise like some of the victories in the past. We've earned more and more respect over the years.

"We prepare for every team properly and we have a great amount of respect for England. But, on the inside, we feel good about the way we've grown as a team and we've been looking forward to this opportunity since the draw. Given the work we've put in, and the belief we have in our team, we step on to the field believing we can win. It will take a strong, strong effort on our part but we go out on to the field to win."

‘Checking Rooney will be critical’

Checking Rooney will be critical if the U.S. are to succeed. "I would agree with that," said Bradley. "He's such an important player in their team. He comes here off a super season. Our ability to keep track of him and make life hard for him is a key part of us making sure we can win. We won't be 'targeting' him. That's not the way we go about things. We respect him as a player. He's experienced, a competitor. We have to compete at the same level as him."

The U.S. team visited the White House prior to their departure for South Africa and met President Obama and former president Clinton, and they believe they will have more support in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium this evening than England.

"The players that have gone to the Premiership have done a great job of showing English fans that US soccer continues to improve," said Bradley. "If we can now do it on a national team level against them on a big stage, it takes the ball a little bit forward. It would be the best way to start the tournament. It would give us the edge."

© Guardian News and Media 2010

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