The slogan on the side of the bus reads "Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Victory!" with the Stars and Stripes painted alongside. The U.S. World Cup team is making itself at home in Irene, South Africa, ready at last to play the games that matter most.

The Americans are staying in the 74-room Irene Country Lodge, a luxury hotel north of Johannesburg and south of Pretoria protected by stone walls and barbed wire.

"It's been a long time," captain Carlos Bocanegra said yesterday in the interview tent, pitched on the dairy farm. "Now it's finally here. We're in South Africa. So we're excited for the games to start."

The team left Washington-Dulles International Airport on Sunday evening and arrived 17 hours later to a warm welcome. After a night of rest, practice resumed yesterday ahead of the U.S. team's World Cup opener against England on June 12.

After spending two straight World Cups in urban hotels in Seoul, South Korea, and Hamburg, Germany, the U.S. team is in the countryside for the first World Cup in Africa. So far, security is not an issue.

When the U.S. team headed to practice, motorcycles and police cars went in front of the bus, with more security vehicles trailing. State Department officials also accompany the team.

"We have tremendous confidence in the security around our team," coach Bob Bradley said.


* American-born forward Giuseppe Rossi and AC Milan striker Marco Borriello were dropped from Italy's World Cup squad. Rossi was born in Teaneck, N.J., to Italian parents and has dual citizenship. He played well for Italy at last year's Confederations Cup, but struggled during the second half of this season with his Spanish club, Villarreal.

* Theo Walcott was omitted from England's final 23-man squad, 4 years after he was a surprise choice to go to soccer's biggest tournament. The Arsenal winger has long said he felt he did not deserve to go to the 2006 World Cup when, as a 17-year-old forward who had yet to play a Premier League game, he was selected ahead of more experienced players.

* Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz dropped Jose Castro from his squad after doctors said Pepe was fit to play. Pepe was a standout during Portugal's lackluster qualifying campaign before he damaged ligaments in his right knee.

* South Africa's all-time leading scorer, Benni McCarthy, was one of six players cut by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. The 32-year-old McCarthy has struggled with his fitness and been criticized for being overweight. He's scored 32 goals in 78 games since his debut in 1997.