ROODEPOORT, South Africa — The dress rehearsal could not have gone much better for the United States.
In a small stadium near an open field in a suburb west of Johannesburg, the Americans beat Australia for the first time, a 3-1 victory Saturday on a sun-splashed autumn afternoon that filled the U.S. players with confidence.
Next up is the game the Americans have been waiting six months for, their high-profile World Cup opener against England on Saturday.
"We don’t fear them," forward Landon Donovan said. "We feel they’re a team we can compete with."
Edson Buddle, not even in the national team picture a few months ago, scored in the fourth and 31st minutes for his first two international goals. Herculez Gomez, another player not expected to make the World Cup roster, entered in the 82nd minute and scored against the Socceroos in second-half injury time, the Las Vegas High School product’s second national team goal in 12 days.
"It seems like everything Edson touches is a goal," goalkeeper Tim Howard said.
Tim Cahill scored for Australia in the 19th minute when he beat Howard, his Everton teammate, for his 20th goal in 40 international appearances.
"We’re definitely moving in the right direction," said Steve Cherundolo, who took over from Jonathan Spector at right back. "We still have a few things to work out."
In the two previous warm-ups since gathering in mid-May, the U.S. lost to the Czech Republic 4-2 using mostly second-stringers, then rallied for a 2-1 win over Turkey on May 29.
This was the team’s first game since arriving in South Africa on Monday and the first time it used the much-criticized Adidas Jabulani ball.
"I think the majority of the problems today were due to the flight of the ball," Donovan said. "I think a lot of times the ball doesn’t fly true, and it puts your defenders under a lot of pressure. So we’re going to have to do some work this week just judging the ball better."
In the next six days, U.S. coach Bob Bradley will watch injured forward Jozy Altidore, who didn’t play after spraining his right ankle during training Wednesday. In Altidore’s absence, Bradley started Buddle, Major League Soccer’s scoring leader, as his target forward and paired him with speedy Robbie Findley.
The U.S. hadn’t scored in two previous matches against Australia, losing 1-0 in 1992 and tying 0-0 six years later.Dutch, Nigerian players join walking wounded
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — The injuries keep coming, and plenty of big-name players are being affected with the World Cup less than a week away.
A day after Ivory Coast striker Didier Drogba and England captain Rio Ferdinand were hurt, Netherlands winger Arjen Robben limped off the field with a left hamstring injury, and Nigeria midfielder John Obi Mikel was ruled out of the tournament because of his ailing knee.
Robben scored two goals before being hurt in the Dutch team’s 6-1 win over Hungary in Amsterdam.
Robben came on as a second-half substitute against Hungary before leaving the game in the 85th minute.
Mikel will miss the World Cup because he has not recovered from knee surgery.
Slovakia defender Martin Skrtel also was hurt Saturday. The Liverpool central defender injured his ankle in the 13th minute of Slovakia’s 3-0 win over Costa Rica, but he is expected to travel with the team to South Africa.
Drogba, initially thought to be out after breaking his right arm in an exhibition against Japan on Friday, has hope of playing at some point in the tournament.
The Ivory Coast football federation said surgery on Drogba’s arm was a success, and doctors and the team’s medical staff are confident the Chelsea forward will make a "speedy recovery."
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS