Wednesday, June 23, 2010

World Cup 2010 Games 37 and 38: Group C

United States 1, Algeria 0
England 1, Slovenia 0

It is traditional from a sports reporting context to report these sorts of fairy tale endings by saying you could just feel it coming.

I didn't. I thought they were dead in the water. All credit to Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore and the rest of Bob Bradley's crew. When Clint Dempsey put the ball in goal in the first half and it was disallowed due to a questionable offside call it just felt as though the United States was going to have a valiant effort followed by four years of legitimate griping.

ESPN commentator Chris Fowler mentioned after the game that the United States in qualifying and the World Cup have scored 9 goals from the 86 minute mark and on--more than double that of any other team. Part of that, of course, may be due to its penchant for playing from behind, but surely part of it is a commitment to playing from whistle to whistle.

I really can't say enough about this U.S. team. I think one of the hardest things to do in life (or the subset of life) is to continue to plug away after you've earned a result (or feel you have) only to have it taken from you by unfairness, circumstances, or bad luck. Psychologically, it becomes easy to feel that things are stacked against you, that it was not meant to be, and that you have a built in excuse for failure. I'm very happy for the team.

The English win was not quite as dramatic. They got an early goal and looked to be group winners until Landon's run. The story line here may be missed opportunities. Rooney put a shot off the post (and this one looked like he was offside). This is important because another goal would have put England in first place rather than second. Why is that important? The United States plays Ghana and then the winner of Uruguay-South Korea; England will get Germany with the winner to play the winner of Argentina-Mexico; which side of the bracket would you rather be on?

Alexi Lalas claims the United States will be the underdog since Ghana will most likely be the only African side to advance. I'm not so sure. Ghana has scored two goals in three games, and both were on penalty kicks. That said, if we've seen anything in the group stage it is that on any given day the margin between these teams is not that great.

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