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Tuesday, 4 June, 2002, 10:06 GMT 11:06 UK
USA anticipate next step
Peter Vermes (right) in action in his international playing days
Peter Vermes (right) in his international playing days
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Former international Peter Vermes believes the USA will enjoy their best World Cup to date in the Far East.

The Kansas City Wizards defender played all three games for the States in Italia 90 in his former guise as a striker.

Despite having played in both World Cups since, the USA have qualified for the knock-out phase only once - losing to Brazil on home soil in 1994.

Last time out they left France with the worst record of all 32 competing teams.

However, Vermes believes Bruce Arena's team can finally make the jump into the higher echelons of the international game.

Open Quote
They pressure very well and their counter-attacking is the best we've had
Close Quote
Peter Vermes
"This is the best team that we've ever put on the field for any event in soccer," the 35-year-old told BBC Sport Online.

"I think they'll advance out of the first round. They have the ability to do it and they could surprise some people after that."

When manager Bob Gansler led Vermes and an inexperienced squad in 1990, the majority of the footballing world was stunned that they had made it that far.

But with Korea and Japan marking America's fourth consecutive appearance in the finals, the pressure to succeed is undoubtedly growing.

"Getting to the second round is imperative this time, especially after the poor performance at France 98," he added.

"I believe that what happened in 1998 will not have any affect on this team.

"They have a new coach, a new idea of how they want to play, and they are their own new US team."

Opening matches
1990: v Czech'svkia 1-5
1994: v Switzerland 1-1
1998: v Germany 0-2
In the previous three World Cups, the United States have failed to win the first match of their campaign.

With Portugal looming as America's first World Cup opponent, Vermes admits that that poor record looks set to continue.

"Everybody knows that Portugal are the best team in the group," Vermes said.

"The USA don't have to win that game or even draw it, they just have to be very competitive."

"But with that said, I still believe that it's possible for them to beat Portugal.

"They have to lessen their mistakes and have the guts to take risks and capitalise on any of Portugal's mistakes."

USA captain Claudio Reyna in training
Sunderland's Claudio Reyna is a key figure
Vermes believes that any success in that match or beyond is largely down to Arena.

"I like the idea that Arena named his squad early. He has created a comfort level among his squad, where players can settle down because they know they're going to the World Cup.

"Guys can now concentrate on the task at hand and players understand that this is their role, this is where they fit in, and this is how it's going to play out for them at the World Cup."

Another key performer is captain Claudio Reyna.

"He has a huge job not only in creating goals, but also keeping the rhythm and the tempo of the team going. His experience overseas is invaluable."

Despite his optimism, Vermes remains very realistic about the monumental task that the American squad face.

"At the World Cup, you have to stay concentrated every second and the USA have to be even more so than other teams.

"We are still trying to sustain ourselves at a level that the rest of the world is already at," he said.


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GROUP D
  P GD PTS
SOUTH KOREA 3 +3 7
USA 3 -1 4
PORTUGAL 3 +2 3
POLAND 3 -4 3

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