Friendly fire gets Sunderland’s Jozy up for Brazil

United States's Jozy Altidore, left, celebrates with teammate Fabian Johnson (23).
United States's Jozy Altidore, left, celebrates with teammate Fabian Johnson (23).
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SUNDERLAND striker Jozy Altidore may be running into form at the perfect time after breaking his goal drought at the weekend.

The 24-year-old scored both the USA’s goals in a 2-1 friendly win over Nigeria – as many goals as he scored for Sunderland in the entire 2013-14 season – and will now head to Brazil for the World Cup in a much more confident frame of mind.

The second was a finely worked goal which national coach Jurgen Klinsmann hailed as “world class”.

Those goals showed awareness – his first, stabbing home a low cross into an open goal from the edge of the six-yard box; his second confidence, the striker running onto a ball over the top, cutting inside Norwich’s Joseph Yobo from the left before drilling it past Vincent Enyeama at the keeper’s near post.

Those finishes made light of a barren run which extended back 27 games. They were Altidore’s first goals since December 4, when he scored in Sunderland’s 4-3 home Premier League defeat by Chelsea.

They were his first international goals since October 11 when he notched against Jamaica.

But Altidore insists confidence has not been an issue.

“To be honest, I felt fine before the goals and I feel fine now,” he said.

“The biggest thing was to work – it was great team play. We’ve played some good football in the last few years and that was typical of that.

“The most important thing, especially after being part of this team for such a long time, is how we perform. And going to a tournament like this, we want to make sure we’re performing at a level that will give us a good chance.”

The USA’s run into these finals have been far from smooth with Altidore’s goalless streak coming in for scrutiny and criticism and Klinsmann being questioned for his decision to leave the iconic Landon Donovan – their all-time leading scorer – out of the squad.

But three wins out of three in their warm-up friendlies cannot be a bad thing and with Altidore back among the goals, this could be an interesting finals both for the Americans and for the Sunderland striker.

Certainly, Everton and USA keeper Tim Howard sees Altidore’s contribution as of crucial importance.

“He’s our horse,” Tim Howard said after the game. “We’ve made no bones about that. It’s no secret.

“We have to ride him.”