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CONCACAF teams not expected to do much in South Africa.

Published:Saturday | April 10, 2010 | 12:00 AM
Mexico's Carlos Vela
Donovan of the United States

MONTERREY, Mexico (AP): Despite the steady improvement of the United States in recent decades and Mexico's strong traditions, little is expected at the World Cup from the three qualifiers from the CONCACAF region.

To further make the point, Honduras are the third representative - a tiny Central American country playing in only their second World Cup. In the last one, in 1982, the team finished last in their four-team group and didn't win a game.

Most eyes will be on the United States and Mexico. Neither country has reached the semi-finals since the Americans finished third at the inaugural World Cup in 1930. Should either team advance that far, it would be the biggest surprise of the tournament.

The United States, the top qualifiers from the region, will play England, Algeria and Slovenia in Group C. That is one of the easier groups, with England nearly certain to claim one of the top two places and reach the second round.

Gone are the days when American players were largely unknown. Most of the starters are playing in Europe, and in February coach Bob Bradley called up 16 Europe-based players for the team's friendly against the Netherlands.

The United States will also be confident after a 2-0 victory over European champions Spain and a 3-2 loss to five-time champion Brazil in last year's Confederations Cup in South Africa.

The Americans probably lack a match-winning player. They also have injury problems with AC Milan central defender Oguchi Onyewu recovering from knee surgery.

The biggest loss could be forward Charlie Davies, who can change a match with his pace and his understanding with playmaker Landon Donovan.

Davies sustained life-threatening injuries in a car crash on October 13 in Virginia. Injuries included two broken bones in his right leg, a broken and dislocated left elbow, a broken nose, forehead and eye socket, a ruptured bladder and bleeding on the brain.

resumed training

He resumed training in March with French club Sochaux, but nobody is predicting he will be ready.

Lesser known players Benny Feilhaber and Stuart Holden - both midfielders - are also battling injuries.

Mexico face hosts South Africa, 1998 champion France and South American qualifier Uruguay in Group A. Half of Mexico's squad could be Europe-based, an increase on past tournaments when only one or two players would be drawn from the continent's top leagues.

The opening match against the hosts on June 11 could be crucial. South Africa are lightly regarded, but a home victory would be a big boost. For Mexico, a defeat would put qualification to the knockout round in immediate jeopardy.

The group is rated one of the easiest and should make Mexicans optimistic. France are the weakest of the seeded teams and needed a play-off to qualify. Uruguay are ranked lower than Mexico and play a style well known to Mexican players.

Rightly or wrongly, Mexican fans will be devastated if the team does not reach the knockout stage.

Honduras are in Group H with European champion Spain, Chile and Switzerland - all ranked higher than the Central American side.

Honduras can count on Premier League players like Wigan defender Maynor Figueroa and Wilson Palacios, who joined Tottenham last year.

Reaching the knockout stages would spark dancing in the streets of the Honduran capital Tegucigalpa, a welcome change from the riots that accompanied last June's political coup in the country.