St. Petersburg Times Online: Business

Weather | Sports | Forums | Comics | Classifieds | Calendar | Movies

U.S. heavily favored in Grenada

wire services
Published June 20, 2004

ST. GEORGE'S, Grenada - The United States takes a three-goal lead into today's second leg of its World Cup qualifying series against Grenada, a tiny Caribbean nation hoping to pull off what would be one of the greatest upsets in soccer history.

The ninth-ranked Americans, who won the first leg 3-0 last Sunday in Columbus, Ohio, are overwhelming favorites to win the total-goals series and advance to the semifinals of the North and Central American and Caribbean region, which start in August. The U.S. team hasn't lost a World Cup qualifier by three or more goals since a 5-1 defeat to Mexico in 1980.

Still, the Spice Boyz, ranked 138th, hope to trip up a team seeking its fifth straight World Cup berth.

"Last week's result was not a bad one," Grenada coach Ali Debellote said. "However, we have all accepted the fact that we could have played better."

Grenada won its first-round matchup by outscoring Guyana 8-1 in two games. The Americans, who advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, had a bye in the opening round of qualifying for the 2006 tournament in Germany.

"Grenada is a team that has defended very well," U.S. coach Bruce Arena said after a team practice at the National Stadium. "The team changed for the better when they were able to get Jason Roberts because he is a very good player."

Grenada has a population of about 100,000, and a large percentage of the country's residents figure to be at the game Sunday. The American team spent the week practicing on Long Island, then traveled to the Caribbean on Friday.

"I would like Grenada to win, but I am not holding out much hope," said Lydia Griffith, a 25-year-old store clerk.

© Copyright, St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.