Terry says U.S. will be a tough match in World Cup

Terry says U.S. will be a tough match in World Cup

Published Dec. 21, 2009 10:04 p.m. ET

England captain John Terry is already raising a warning flag to those who think the United States will be a pushover in the teams' group opener at next year's World Cup.

Terry said Monday that the rapid improvement in the Americans' play over the last few years means England is in for a big challenge in Rustenberg, South Africa, on June 12, and tried to dispel the notion that his team was given an easy draw.

It is the first time the two nations meet in a World Cup since the Americans' shocking 1-0 upset in 1950.

"With the group we got, everyone's getting carried away and thinks it's going to be an easy group," Terry said in Zurich, where he attended a FIFA gala.

"The Americans are going to be a really tough game," the 29-year-old defender said. "We need to be on our toes for that and make sure we take nothing for granted."

Slovenia and Algeria are also in the group.

The Chelsea and England captain said he believed the quality of play in the U.S. was "low" when he toured the country with his club on a preseason tour in 2005. But that opinion changed as more of the top American players moved to leagues in Europe and the U.S. national team put on an impressing performance at this year's Confederations Cup in South Africa.

"Over the last four or five years, the improvement has been massive," Terry said. "We've seen some of the (U.S.) players coming to the Premiership, some well-known faces and players across the world now playing at the highest stage."

Among the Americans playing in England are goalkeeper Tim Howard of Everton, midfielder Clint Dempsey of Fulham, defenders Jonathan Spector of West Ham and Jay DeMerit of Watford, and forward Jozy Altidore of Hull. Los Angeles Galaxy forward Landon Donovan will also join Everton on loan in January.

Terry, who was included as one of the defenders on a World XI team at the FIFA event, also downplayed England's status as a favorite for a first major championship since 1966, saying there are seven or eight teams that can win the World Cup.

He listed Argentina, Brazil and Spain as the main favorites, but included England among the teams that have enough quality to go all the way.

"I'm not going to stand here and say 'We are going to win the World Cup,"' Terry said. "We have the chance, as long as we keep people fit and strong, and we go over there with the right mentality."

The U.S. has qualified for each World Cup since 1990, after a four-decade absence, but it has won only three of 18 matches in that span. The Americans have a 2-7 record against England, including losses in the last two friendly meetings - 2-1 at Chicago's Soldier Field in 2005 and 2-0 at Wembley last year.