USA-Germany Epic Preview

The group stage is nearing conclusion. We have already learned 6 of the 8 Round of 16 matchups. The others will be learned today.

Before I dig into my preview of the matchup between the two nations with the highest page views on this site, let’s look at the Table of Contents (or, in German, Inhaltsverzeichnis):

Background – what you need to know. It includes Germerican facts.

Scenarios – what needs to happen for each country to go through.

How will Germany play? – Taktik der Deutsch-Nationalmannschaft.

How will the US play? – tactics of the US national team. (Note: I do not talk about the goalkeepers in this. Both Manuel Neuer and Tim Howard are very solid players and guaranteed starters.)

Prediction – my totally un-biased predictions.

Background

-These teams have played each other 9 times. Germany has won 6, the US has won 3, and none have ended in draws.

-The last time they played in the World Cup was in 2002, in the quarterfinals. Germany won 1-0, but they shouldn’t have. THAT WAS A HANDBALL!!!!

-The last time they played was last year, a friendly in Washington, DC. The US won 4-3, but many of Germany’s top players were not there. This was the game where the currently-injured Jozy Altidore broke a very long scoreless streak for the US.

-One of the biggest stories leading into this game is the German influence in the US team. Of the 23 US players, 5 grew up mostly in Germany (they all have a parent who was stationed there in the military). I’ll give a run-down of the Germericans:

Jermaine Jones – the 32-year-old has been the best US player for the World Cup. He’s been doing great. Even not counting the incredible goal (which was the 2300th World Cup goal ever–not sure why Wikipedia tracks that, but it’s interesting) his play has been incredible so far. A big portion of the central midfielders’ success is the insertion of Kyle Beckerman alongside him, which gives Jones, currently a Besiktas player, more freedom to roam. And he’s done a lot of high-quality roaming. If you don’t think that Jones has done good, then you don’t understand this sport.

Fabian Johnson – the 26-year old wide-player can play in midfield or defense; right-back has been his position this World Cup. He and Jones are the only two Germericans who start, and his quality play for club and country combined with the fact that Germany don’t have that many full-backs means that some Germans now think that he’d be good enough for Die Mannschaft. Too bad, he’s cap-tied to the US. The soon-to-be Borussia Monchengladbach man is good in both attack and defense, although he is far from perfect in the latter.

John Brooks – the 21-year-old’s performance so far might be the most memorable; it was his winning goal that sent the US past Ghana. The tall, left-footed centerback has already been getting serious minutes in the Bundesliga for Hertha Berlin, although he isn’t yet a starter for the US. Matt Besler is the favorite at left-center-back.

Timothy Chandler – the full-back has been good in the Bundesliga, yet he hasn’t really impressed in the US national team set-up. In fact, you could say that he’s done the opposite of impressing; commitment issues compounded by injury meant that he was basically exiled from the team for 15-months before Klinsmann called him back in for this World Cup. He hasn’t played yet, but considering that he’s 24 he should still be in the picture for 2018.

Julian Green – he’s 19. As I’ve said, there is no way that he should be in the team ahead of Landon Donovan. But he is. He hasn’t played yet, and he won’t play unless Germany is already up 4-0 and it doesn’t matter. Playing with him is like voluntarily going a man down. You think I’m being harsh? That he’s just a kid? No he isn’t, he’s a World Cup player. He needs to be held to that standard.

Jürgen Klinsmann – the most famous Germerican is the coach. He used to be the Deutsch Nationaltrainer (German national team manager), and after that he had a stint with Bayern Munich. Ever heard of the term “varying success?” That kind of explains Klinsmann’s managerial reign in Germany. He played as well, scoring 47 goals in 108 appearances for West Germany or Germany. He’s lived in California since his retirement.

I’ve been critical of a lot of his decisions, and I remain critical of one of them (Green), but as I’ve said before none of that stuff matters. It’s based on cold, hard results. And so far, the US has beat Ghana and played well enough to beat Portugal. Klinsmann’s team was either a sloppy mistake early on or a late equalizer away from qualifying out of the Group of Certain Death with a game to spare. You can’t argue with how the team has played.

When Klinsmann was the Germany coach, his assistant was Joachim Löw, who currently coaches Die Mannschaft.

For all of you cynics, this is what Klinsmann says about facing Germany: “there is no game I would like to win more.”

Scenarios

This game will happen simultaneously to the Ghana-Portugal game. This is what the table looks like now:

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……4………+4

USA……………4………+1

Ghana……….1………-1

Portugal…….1………-4

The group winner will probably face Algeria or Russia. The second-place team will probably face Belgium, while the third- and fourth-place teams will be eliminated. If you are new to the sport than you need to know that the winner will get 3 points, the loser gets 0, and if it’s a draw both teams will get 1 point.

There are several different things that can happen. Let’s go through them:

Germany-USA Draw

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……5………+4

USA……………5………+1

Ghana……….1……….-1

Portugal…….1………-4

I’m not even going to fill in the results for Ghana or Portugal, because it won’t matter. Neither of them can get to 5 points. In the case of a draw, Germany beats the US on goal difference, which is the first tiebreaker. The US would still join Germany in advancing from the group, which would make it a successful World Cup for Klinsmann’s team.

Ghana-Portugal Draw

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Ghana……….2………-1

Portugal…….2………-4

No matter which team loses the US-Germany game, they will be safe if the Ghana and Portugal can’t find a winner. Considering that those two teams are 3 points behind the top two, they will need a win to get out of the group.

Germany win, Ghana win

Team…….Points…Goal difference

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Ghana……….4……….0

Portugal…….1………-5

Best-case scenario for the US if Germany and Ghana both win is to be tied with Ghana on goal difference, and that would happen if both games end in one-goal margins. Goals scored is the next tiebreaker. Currently, the US has scored 4 goals in the tournament, while Ghana has scored 3, so something like a 1-0 or margin in each game, or a 2-1 margin in each game, would see the US advance in the next tiebreaker: head-to-head. The US would win that one. However, the likelihood that it goes to that is slim. If both Germany and Ghana win, they’ll probably be the teams going through.

Germany win, Portugal win

Germany……7………+5

USA……………4……….0

Portugal…….4………-3

Ghana……….0………-2

If the US lose while Ghana do as well, that’s a good thing for the team unless Portugal can overtake the US in goal difference, not something that’s likely thanks to Germany’s 4-0 win over CR7’s team. The sum of the margin of victory would have to be 5 to take it to goals scored.

So, if Portugal wins by 4 and the US loses by 1, or if Portugal wins by 1 and the US loses by 4, or, say, Portugal wins by 3 and the US lose by 2, it goes to goals scored; right now the US leads Portugal in that, 4 to 2.  A big win by Portugal would probably bring it to even.

If Portugal beat Ghana 2-0, and Germany beat the US 3-0, or some other combination where the total margin is 5, the European teams win, and Portugal scores 2 more than the US, then it would go to head-to-head (the two teams drew, so that tiebreaker goes nowhere) and it will then go to a drawing of lots. A drawing of lots!

USA win, Ghana win

USA……………7………+2

Germany……4………+3

Ghana……….4………..0

Portugal…….1………-5

There is a slim chance that Germany will get eliminated. Very, very slim. But still a chance. Germany would need to lose for it to happen, and the winner of the other game would need to overtake them on Tordifferenz (goal difference). That would most likely be Ghana, because Portugal trail Germany in goal difference by 8.

How will Germany play?

Die Mannschaft have lined up the same way in both of their games so far. While I would switch around a few things, I’m obviously not the German coach and Löw probably won’t change it. By the way, wouldn’t it be funny if I was the German coach? A German coaching the US against an American coaching Germany?

This German team is an efficient machine of playing good soccer. I call them the German soccer machine, or, in German, the Deutsch Fußball-Maschine.

Anyway, this is how they’ve played:

Possible Germany vs. US formation

That’s a very good team. Now for the details:

Attackers

They play in a 4-3-3, and unlike other 4-3-3s in which there is a well-defined striker and the wingers drop back to make it a virtual 4-5-1, the German front 3 is interchangeable. Müller is the center-forward if anyone is, but he often changes positions with Götze and Özil.

Only one player is listed as a “forward,” and that’s Miroslav Klose. He hasn’t started yet, although considering that he scored last game, tying the record for most World Cup goals ever, I expect to see him play, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see him start. I doubt he will, but I wouldn’t be too surprised. Klose is an expert in scoring goals.

Another forward, one who can play more centrally or on the left, is Lukas Podolski. Plus I wouldn’t be surprised to see Andre Schürrle or even the young Julian Draxler come off the bench to play.

Of the three whom I expect to start, Müller, Özil, and Götze, all three of them are talented players who can easily inflict damage on the US. Thomas Müller has played in 8 World Cup games. He has scored 8 World Cup goals, already in the top 30 of all-time. He’s scored as many World Cup goals as Diego Maradona and he’s only 24. Read that sentence again. This guy can score goals.

Mesut Özil is a master of chance creation. In his club season, his first with Arsenal, he was a bit shaky at times, but he still had 2.9 key passes per game. That number is at 2.5 for his World Cup play so far. Mario Götze was one of only 7 Bundesliga players with at least 8 goals and at least 8 assists, and he was also in the top 7 in dribbles per game in the Bundesliga.

These players will shift around and basically do everything humanly possible to score goals for Germany. The US backline should be very afraid.

Midfield

The central three for Germany has been made stronger by Pep Guardiola’s decision to play Philipp Lahm, Germany’s captain and arguably best player, as a defensive midfielder. Yes, I am sure that Löw wouldn’t have played him there if Lahm wouldn’t have just played a full season in the midfield.

Alongside Lahm has been Sami Khedira, who just won the Champions League, and Toni Kroos, another member of Bayern Munich in this German side (the Bundesliga champs have 7 players on the squad: Lahm, Müller, Götze, Kroos, Schweinsteiger, Boateng, and goalkeeper Neuer).

Bastian Schweinsteiger was just recently cleared from injury, and he played 20 minutes against Ghana. While he hasn’t gotten a start yet, I would assume that he would be a sure-fire starter if/when healthy.

Defense

The weakness of the German team is their defense. Yes, most other teams in the world would love to have Germany’s defense, especially if you throw in Philipp Lahm, but compared to their front 6 their back 4 is lacking.

Mats Hummels and Per Mertesacker are the two centerbacks. Jerome Boateng and Benedikt Höwedes are also center-backs, but Löw decides to play them at full-back. Boateng, on the right, is certainly capable of being a right-back. Höwedes, on the left, is good enough to start at left-back for almost every other team, but on this team he’s probably the weakest link.

Why don’t they just move Lahm, arguably the best full-back on planet earth, to left-back, and then have Schweinsteiger, Kroos, and Khedira in midfield? Perhaps Schweinsteiger still has fitness issues, but going forward I think that Lahm should move to left-back.

Other options in defense include Erik Durm, a speedy left-back, Borussia Dortmund right-back Kevin Großkreutz, Matthias Ginter, a young center-back, and Sampdoria center-back/right-back Shkodran Mustafi, who has gotten a substitute appearance in each of Germany’s games.

Isn’t it amazing how many good players Germany have? They’ve used the same 11 starters in each game. This is what their team would look like not counting those 11:

Germany B

This is their B team. How good would this team be if they were in the World Cup separately? They’d make it out of most groups.

How will the US play?

What is Jürgen Klinsmann going to do to get a result against the Deutsch Fußball-Maschine? Well, his formation will be one of these:

Possible US vs. Germany Formations

Most likely he will do the 4-2-3-1 again. Lots of people think that that worked well, and that the US played a much more attacking style against Portugal. This isn’t true. The US scored really early against Ghana, and then they sat back, while Ghana tried to attack the game. Portugal scored really early in match #2, so the US tried to chase the game while Portugal sat back. They had the exact same game plan. I personally thought that a lot of the time the US needed more numbers in the box, and I especially thought that Michael Bradley was pushed too far forward.

Am I just criticizing the 4-2-3-1 because I want to see Wondo?

Never mind that. I made valid points. Look at my valid points instead of speculating on ulterior motives.

Attackers

The US has 3 legitimate forwards. Neither Chris Wondolowski nor Aron Jóhannsson have ever gotten a World Cup start, and one of them could find their first alongside Clint Dempsey. Or we could just see Dempsey alone up top.

Clint Dempsey has played well in this World Cup. Only 7 players have scored a goal in every game they’ve played in: Robin van Persie, Memphis Depay, Tim Cahill, James Rodriguez, Andre Ayew, Lionel Messi, and Clint Dempsey.

Wingers

In the squishy diamond we’ll see one winger, and in the 4-2-3-1 we’ll see two wingers. The possible wingers are Graham Zusi, Alejandro Bedoya, and Brad Davis. I already mentioned multiple times that Julian Green won’t see any playing time, much less starting.

Davis hasn’t played a minute in this tournament, so I doubt that he will start in this. Alejandro Bedoya has started both games, so that means that he’ll either start this one as well, or he’ll be rested.

Central Midfield

As I said before, Jermaine Jones has been the US’s best player. He can certainly prove to be a thorn in the side of the team that rejected him. I expect another man of the match level performance from Jones.

Kyle Beckerman, as I’ve said many times before, stays in the same position, ahead of the center-backs. He allows Jermaine Jones to run around destroying stuff, and he also allows Michael Bradley to theoretically push forward and create.

Michael Bradley is normally the US’s best player. I have no idea what’s gotten into him. Is he hurt? Is he over-confident (either because Klinsmann has been pumping him up, or because everyone’s been saying that he’s the best, or because he’s the star in Toronto)? Is he under-confident, for whatever reason?

Something is wrong with Michael Bradley. He’s not playing as terrible as some think, but he is playing poorly for his standards. What is normally the team’s biggest strength has somehow become almost a weakness. Yeah, part of it is because opposing teams target him, and part of it is because he’s playing out of position (he’s playing as an attacking midfielder, he’s normally a box-to-box midfielder) but not all of it can be explained by that. Something is wrong with Michael Bradley, and Jürgen Klinsmann needs to find out what it is and fix it now!

Oh, and Bradley cannot be benched. Neither Zusi or Bedoya or Davis would work centrally for this team, and Diskerud isn’t nearly as good as Bradley is defensively.

Defense

If all of these players remain healthy, I can’t see any other starting combination instead of Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Johnson.

Yeah, Beasley hasn’t been perfect. But he’s been a bit overwhelmed because Jermaine Jones, who plays on the left side of the squishy diamond, while he does everything else, he doesn’t have time to support Beasley as much as a true left-midfielder. Also, does anyone think that Chandler would do better? And no, DeAndre Yedlin isn’t a left-sided player, so don’t give me that.

Last game, Besler was solid. He normally is, and he’s a must-start. Geoff Cameron has been a little shaky, but do you really want to see Omar Gonzalez in the form that he’s been in? I didn’t think so. Also, we probably won’t see Besler-Brooks. Both of them are left-footed, and Klinsmann hasn’t played anything other than a lefty-righty center-back combination since this roster was announced. He has, however, surprised me in the past.

Fabian Johnson is a must-start as well because of what he gives the team going forward. Sure, he makes some mistakes defensively, but the other players you could start there (Chandler and Yedlin) are not perfect going back either. Plus, I’m sure that Johnson would have a chip on his shoulder against Germany, he wants to make them regret not selecting him.

Prediction

Ignoring the fact that I was way off on the goal-scorers, I didn’t do that poorly in my US-Portugal prediction. I said 3-2 for the US, and I was thus a Ricardo Costa block/Michael Bradley miss away from getting it exactly.

USA 1-1 Germany

Both teams will be cautious. The US can’t seem to keep a clean sheet, which is why it won’t be 0-0.

The Deutsch Fußball-Maschine will score first, fairly early, and then considering that there is no difference between a win and a draw, they will sit back a bit, the US will thus attack a lot (Klinsmann will be heavily praised for his “attacking style”) and Clint Dempsey will score a goal in the 76th minute. Both teams will be tired, and they will both cautiously sit back.

14’ Müller (Özil)

76’ Deuce (Diskerud)

 

Any thoughts? Questions? Requests? Threats? I’ll make some nice posts for the knockout stage. Stay tuned to Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.

Monday/Tuesday Thoughts

Here is what’s going through my mind: World Cup wise. Key topics are bolded. Let’s start with the headliner:

LUIS SUAREZ BIT SOMEONE!!! AGAIN!!! This is absurd. What in the world would compel someone to bite a person? And then suffer the consequences…only to bite a person again? And then to suffer worse consequences (worse because England)…seem to sincerely regret his decision…rebuild his reputation by having a legendary season…only to bite a person FOR THE THIRD TIME!?!?!?

-Something has to be wrong with him mentally. I’m not saying that he’s stupid or even mentally challenged, really, but that there is something about the way that his brain functions that other brains don’t function that way. Something in his mind that for some weird reason tells him to bite another human being, despite past experiences, logic, and common rules of etiquette saying otherwise.

-What is the source of his success is the source of his shortcomings. He’s too competitive for his own good. He’s a player who is a joy to watch 97% of the time unless you are a fan of the team he’s playing against. He’s one of the top 5 attacking players in the world. Not only is he a wonderful goal-scorer, but he’s a team player; he scored 12 assists in the Premier League last year, trailing only his Liverpool teammate Steven Gerrard.

-He shouldn’t be banned for life or anything like that. A hefty suspension, yes, but going overboard is silly. They should slap a hefty suspension and a hefty fine on him, which obviously includes him being out of the rest of the World Cup, and then make sure that he sees a psychiatrist of some sort. For 97% of the time he’s playing he’s entertaining, and for probably about 98% of the time he’s living he’s a good person. But when he’s playing, sometimes his competitiveness gets too much for him to handle.

-He’s actually said that he’s like a different person when he’s playing soccer. Part of that is the Latin American (especially Uruguayan) culture, where winning at all costs is considered an admirable trait, but part of that is just him. He goes all out. Oh, and for whatever reason his go-to reaction is to bite someone. I really don’t understand it. It doesn’t make him an evil person, however, just one who has serious problems.

-The Netherlands are second to last in possession, with 39.5% (Iran is last). No one has scored more goals than them, although France may equal their mark of 10. As I always like to say, possession is not a measure of how good a team is but rather a measure of how good it plays. The Dutch went undefeated in a very hard group, which included beating reigning champions Spain 5-1, beating a surprisingly good Australia side 3-2 (that Tim Cahill goal was m-a-g-i-c), and then efficiently beating Chile 2-0. They’ve been killing teams on the counter, and it’s working. Can Rafa Marquez and Maza Rodriguez keep up with the speed of Arjen Robben? Is there anything that can stop this Dutch team?

Miguel Herrera is great. After each Mexico goal he was going crazy. No, literally, going crazy.

-Do you know who is leading the World Cup in scoring goals? Neymar. Yes, that’s right. He’s had the weight of a country on his shoulders, and he’s capitalized. The 22-year-old also had the weight of the country on his shoulders in the Confederations Cup last year. He was named that tournament’s best player. Does this guy even feel pressure?

Diego Godin’s Head should win the Ballon d’Or this year. His Head scored the equalizer in the final game of La Liga, which propelled Atletico Madrid to historically win the title; his Head scored the opening goal in the Champions League final, which would’ve been the winner if it wasn’t for Sergio Ramos; and his Head also scored the goal that got Uruguay out of the group stage in this World Cup. Wow.

COSTA RICA WON GROUP D!!!!!!!! EVERYONE ELSE LOST!!!!!!

-Seriously though, Italy and England both got knocked out, while Costa Rica won the group. UEFA have more losses than wins, while CONCACAF have 5 wins, 2 draws, and 2 losses. Undefeated not counting Honduras, who have very little World Cup experience.

-I’ll mention the players who have most likely finished their last World Cups. On Tuesday alone, Didier Drogba, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard, Andrea Pirlo, Gianluigi Buffon and maybe Yaya Toure all played in their last World Cup games, and on Monday David Villa, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, Iker Casillas, and Samuel Eto’o ended their own World Cup careers. These are greats of the game. Fortunately they’ll still play at club level. Might I add that one of them (Villa) plays in MLS, and most of the others have been rumored to come to MLS? Just something to think about.

Wednesday Picks:

Argentina 2-0 Nigeria – At some point this Argentine attack has to gel, right? And if not, Messi will still probably bail them out.

Bosnia 1-0 Iran – I still can’t believe that those refs made those calls against Bosnia. Terrible, terrible calls. Even if you think that Emineke didn’t foul Spahic, that Dzeko goal was clearly onside.

Honduras 2-1 Switzerland – Upset alert! It’s the alpine nation of Switzerland vs. the Central American nation of Honduras. In Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest. Doesn’t sound like much of an upset now, eh?

Ecuador 0-2 France – Les Blues might go far in this tournament. Then again, they may not. Unless the Argentines just collapse, they’ll face either Nigeria or Iran in the Round of 16. No offense, but those aren’t the hardest opponents in the world.

 

My next post will be my preview of the United States vs. Germany. Stay tuned.

Group Stage Scenarios + Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings + Brief US-Portugal Review

That was a wonderful, terrifying, fascinating, gut-wrenching, yet kind-of-hopeful draw by the US. That’s all I’ve got. Too numb to go into detail. By the way, what’s wrong with Michael Bradley? For The General to have two bad games in a row is so un-Bradley-like. Something must be wrong. Is he nervous? Over-confident? Injured?

However painful the last goal conceded was, the US have got 4 points out of 6 in the Group of Certain Death, with our most important player being pedestrian at best, and that’s terrific. If Bradley can find his form again (I would say “when,” but I said that before this game as well) this team will be a strong test for Germany. I will agree that that last goal was painful, however.

(Note: I apparently didn’t mean “that’s all I’ve got” in a literal sense. Or a figurative sense, really. Not in any sense, come to think of it.)

Now it’s time for Total Inaccurateness! With a picture this time, too!

Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings

Previous editions can be found under the “World Cup” tab. You should go there, as I’ve written some kind-of-good stuff. It has humor, my opinion on things, and some tactical insight. It even has philosophical insight! Oh, and Mario Balotelli. Because everything has Mario Balotelli.

DISCLAIMER: these power rankings are totally inaccurate. If there is anything that you disagree with, it’s probably because it’s wrong because I’m terrible at Ranking stuff, Power-wise.

1(1) – Germany

Yeah, they drew against Ghana, but that’s a good team. Germany still has the ability to crush teams. They are an efficient machine that destroys stuff in a business-like manner.

What’s that you say? By praising Germany so much am I actively trying to jinx them, so that they don’t beat the US? If I answered that, I think it would disable the jinx.

2(2) – Brazil

They and Mexico are the only teams not to have played since my last rankings. They’ll both play tomorrow. Brazil have been shaky, but they’ll need a crazy amount of things to happen in order to not qualify, including them losing to Cameroon. Cameroon! Not going to happen. This is still the same group of players and the same coach that steamrolled everyone in the Confederations Cup, and they’re still the home team. It will take more than just “shaky” to stop them.

3(3) – Argentina

Do you know how much I want to drop this team in the rankings? A lot. But I won’t. Why do I want to drop them? Because they’re terrible outside of Messi. Why do I not want to drop them? Because 1) it’s against my kind-of-soft-yet-still-existent rules, 2) they’ve technically won their last two games and 3) who else do I put ahead of them?

Oh, and this is their tactical lineup:

Argentina WC 2014

That isn’t really far off.

4(8) – Colombia

Whoa! Just like that, into the top 4? Yep, just like that. But they don’t have Falcao? True, but they have James “Don’t Call Me James” Rodriguez. Wait, that doesn’t work in print. Oh well. Another knock on them is that they’re in a fairly easy group, but European teams tend to struggle in the Americas, and as I displayed previously in my CONCACAF-centric report, this Americas-based World Cup is no exception.

5(6) – Netherlands

This team got over-confident against a formidable Australia side, but they still won. They were also more than formidable against a perhaps over-confident Spain side, and they thoroughly crushed them. But how far can they go in this World Cup? If they don’t beat Chile tomorrow, playing Brazil could be in their very near future.

6(4) – Italy

They lost against Costa Rica, yes, but they still have Pirlo and Balotelli. They still may not make it out of the group, and even then Colombia are their likely opposition, but this is a team that could go very, very deep.

7(7) – Belgium

How deep can Belgium go? I’m not sure. I’m really not sure at all. They have a fairly easy group, although if they win that they’ll have to face second-place in the Group of Certain Death (Group G), with Argentina most likely if they win that. As I said before, success doesn’t come easy. This experience will help them going forward. Belgium will not win the 2014 World Cup. Take it to the bank.

8(9) – Chile

Arturo Vidal? Those home-like crowds? ELECTRIC SANCHEZ!!?!!?!! This team can go a long way, but they have some serious obstacles in their path. Including the Dutch tomorrow, where they need a win to find victory in the group.

9(11) – France

I won’t completely buy France as a contender until they play really good teams. They won’t until the quarterfinals. However, they’ve done very, very well against who they have played.

10(12) – Uruguay

They beat England, but, I mean, anyone can do that, right? They do have Luis Suarez, though, who can tear apart defenses AND coach Honduras at the same time!

11(15) – United States

Take your pick. Results? Ghana. Performance? Portugal. Oh, and all of it was without the team’s most important player doing well, and most of it was without the team’s target forward. One of the games was against Cristiano Ronaldo, while the other was against a team that drew Germany, the #1 team in these Power Rankings.

12(13) – Mexico

Mexico are one of the few teams that haven’t yet conceded a goal. Memo Ochoa hasn’t let in a single goal, and they’ve played both Brazil and Samuel Eto’o. Croatia will need to work hard to score against Mexico, which they will have to do given El Tri’s superior points total.

13(14) – Croatia

The team with the MAGISTERIAL!!!! checkered uniforms beat Cameroon 4-0. They will need to get another win vs. Mexico in order to make it out of the group.

14(21) – Costa Rica

This team went out and beat Uruguay AND Italy? Applause! They turned a group full of inferior players into a superior team.

15(5) – Spain

Yeah, Spain played poorly, but they were up against very good teams. I think they would’ve made it out of most other groups, especially as the seeded team (Group C, anyone?).

16(10) – Bosnia and Herzegovina

DZEKO’S GOAL WAS SO CLEARLY ONSIDE!!!!

Also: on the goal that was called a goal, Emineke’s foul/not foul against Spahic: if that was a defender doing that to forward, it would’ve been called a foul, right?

So, um, how much did the Nigerians give the refs? And in what denomination? Asking for a friend…

17(17) – Portugal

They played poorly for a lot of the game against the US, and the first goal was gifted to them (WHY, CAMERON, WHY!?!?!), but their second goal was created by CR7. Ronaldo is Ronaldo and he does Ronaldo things. They’ll need a lot of things to go their way to make it out at this point, but in another group with a healthy CR7 they could’ve easily made it out of the group.

18(22) – Ghana

Similar to Portugal, the Black Stars are a good enough team to be able to make it out of an easier group. But in Group G, they’ll need lots of result to go their way. It’s the Group of Certain Death, people.

19(23) – Nigeria

Based on the scoreline Bosnia should’ve won, but Nigeria actually did play well, and they now have a good chance to make it out of the group, which surprises me.

20(16) – England

They didn’t do that poorly, actually. Now, they didn’t do all that good either, and they’re being dumped from the Group Stage for the first time since 1958, when Roy Hodgson was 11. If half of their young players become what they can be, this could be a good team in the future.

21(18) – Switzerland

They got crushed by France, people. I’m not sure why I’m not giving them a poorer ranking. I guess it’s my reaction to people writing off them as terrible, which was a reaction to them surprisingly getting seeded, which was the result of the mathematical formulae saying that they were top 8, which was the result of them steamrolling through an easy qualifying group.

22(25) – Ecuador

This is when it starts to go off the rails. What am I doing? I don’t know!

23(19) – Russia

Not good enough. 1 point in their first two? It’s a must-win against Algeria. Wait, must win against Algeria? Who’s the closest thing Russia has to Landon Donovan?

24(20) – Ivory Coast

Why am I ranking them this low? I’m not sure. Gervinho, Gervinho, Gervinho. Yes, I was meaning for that to be musical.

25(32) – Algeria

Last place? Algeria laughed at my rankings, and set them ablaze.

26(31) – Iran

Yeah, they totally lost against Argentina, and they haven’t scored a goal, but they defend well. I could see them sneaking through. And then getting pummeled by France.

27(30) – Australia

This team got a terrible draw, and they’ve done very well, despite not getting any points so far. They won’t make the Knockout Stage, but they’ve set up a foundation for the future.

28(24) – South Korea

They conceded 4 against the team that I randomly ranked last. For shame.

29(26) – Greece

Man, 29 is too low.

30(27) – Japan

#FreeShinji

31(29) – Honduras

They’ll do better next time.

32(28) – Camerooooooon

Their loss against Croatia was pure self-destruction at its finest. How does CAF get 1.5 more spots than CONCACAF?

Qualification Scenarios

This is where it gets serious. Who will advance? Who will…not advance?

This section is meant as a reference. Don’t try to read it all like you would read my normal writing. You might not make it.

Group A

Cameroon vs. Brazil, Croatia vs. Mexico, Monday.

Already in: none.

Eliminated: Cameroon.

-Brazil, 4 points, +2 goal difference:

Win/draw OR

Mexico win OR

Croatia win AND goal difference

-Mexico, 4 points, +1 goal difference:

Win/draw

-Croatia, 3 points, +2 goal difference:

Win OR

Draw AND Cameroon win AND goal difference

Group B

Australia vs. Spain, Netherlands vs. Chile, Monday.

Already in: Netherlands, Chile.

Eliminated: Australia, Spain.

Group C

Japan vs. Colombia, Greece vs. Ivory Coast, Tuesday.

Already in: Colombia.

Eliminated: none.

-Ivory Coast, 3 points, 0 goal difference:

Win OR

Draw AND goal difference

-Japan, 1 point, -1 goal difference:

Win AND Greece win/draw AND goal difference

-Greece, 1 point, -3 goal difference:

Win AND Colombia win/draw OR

Win AND goal difference

Group D

Italy vs. Uruguay, Costa Rica vs. England, Tuesday.

Already in: Costa Rica.

Eliminated: England.

-Italy, 3 points, 0 goal difference:

Win/draw

-Uruguay, 3 points, -1 goal difference:

Win

Group E

Honduras vs. Switzerland, Ecuador vs. France, Wednesday.

Already in: none.

Eliminated: none.

-France, 6 points, +6 goal difference:

Win/draw OR

Honduras win/draw OR

Goal difference

-Ecuador, 3 points, 0 goal difference:

Win/draw AND Honduras win/draw OR

Win AND goal difference OR

Honduras win AND goal difference

-Switzerland, 3 points, -2 goal difference:

Win AND France win/draw OR

Win AND goal difference OR

Draw AND France win OR

France win AND goal difference

-Honduras, 0 points, -4 goal difference:

Win AND France win AND goal difference

Group F

Nigeria vs. Argentina, Bosnia vs. Iran, Wednesday.

Already in: Argentina.

Eliminated: Bosnia.

-Nigeria, 4 points, +1 goal difference:

Win/draw OR

Bosnia win/draw OR

Goal difference

-Iran, 1 point, -1 goal difference:

Win AND Argentina win AND goal difference

Group G

United States vs. Germany, Portugal vs. Ghana, Thursday.

Already in: none.

Eliminated: none.

-Germany, 4 points, +4 goal difference:

Win/draw OR

Ghana draw OR

Goal difference

-United States, 4 points, +1 goal difference:

Win/draw OR

Ghana draw OR

Goal difference

-Ghana, 1 point, -1 goal difference:

Win AND United States win AND goal difference OR

Win AND Germany win AND goal difference

-Portugal, 1 point, -1 goal difference:

Win AND United States win AND goal difference OR

Win AND Germany win AND goal difference

Group H

South Korea vs. Belgium, Algeria vs. Russia, Thursday.

Already in: Belgium

Eliminated: none.

-Algeria, 3 points, +1 goal difference:

Win OR

Draw AND Belgium win/draw OR

Draw AND goal difference

-Russia, 1 point, -1 goal difference:

Win AND Belgium win/draw OR

Win AND goal difference

-South Korea, 1 point, -2 goal difference:

Win AND Russia win/draw AND goal difference

 

For the rest of the group stage, I’ll only do daily thoughts, and a US-Germany preview, because I’ll be working on an epic group stage review article (my take on Spain’s elimination will be included), along with Round of 16 previews. That’s it for now, from Daniel’s Soccer Emporium, your home for adults kicking stuff.

USA-Portugal Epic Preview

Note: I’m a bit late. It was supposed to be Saturday night, but oh well, I couldn’t do it by then. Yeah, I had a while, but I wasn’t able to get it done. Knowing me, it’s a good thing I completed it at all.

Are you excited for this game? You totally should be. Here’s a complete rundown of the compelling clash:

Contents:

Watch This – why you need to watch this.

Top 5 Storylines – a run-down of basically everything everyone will be talking about before the game.

Why it’s a Must-Win, but Mainly Just for Portugal – a scenario breakdown.

On Julian Green – will the over-hyped youngster play? (Spoiler alert: no.)

It’s Unrealistic – me not talking about Jürgen Klinsmann’s comments.

How will Portugal play? – I delve into the tactics of the US’s Iberian foes.

How will the US play? – I delve DEEP into the tactics of Portugal’s American foes.

Prediction – totally unbiased.

Watch This

Let me give you a possible advertisement of this game:

“USA. Portugal. Jungle. 5:30 ET on ESPN.”

If you aren’t super-excited to watch it right now, then you aren’t a human.

Top 5 Storylines

5. What will the effects of Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest, do? (It’s all very unusual and not the optimal conditions–just like CONCACAF. I think it will hurt Portugal more than it will hurt the US.)

4. How will the US replace Jozy Altidore?

3. Can Cristiano Ronaldo score a World Cup goal against a team that’s actually good? Will he even play well at all, or is his injury too bad?

2. Can Portugal stay alive?

1. Can the US clinch, or at least make it hard not to clinch, a knockout round berth from the Group of Certain Death?

Why it’s a Must-Win, but Mainly Just for Portugal

Considering that Germany and Ghana drew, there are three different ways that the table can line up after this game:

(Note: the goal difference, that second number, assumes that the winner of the US-Portugal game wins by 1 goal. All the rest will definitely be accurate if the stated result happens.)

If the US beat Portugal:

USA…………6…+2

Germany…4…+4

Ghana……..1…-1

Portugal….0…-5

This means that US advancement would be clinched, while Portuguese elimination would also be clinched. A draw against Germany would mean that the US would win the group and thus wouldn’t have to play the Group H winner (probably Belgium).

If Portugal beat the US:

Germany…4…+4

USA…………3….0

Portugal….3…-3

Ghana……..1…-1

In this case, the US would need to beat Germany, or get a draw and hope that multiple other things happen, to advance. A loss against Germany would mean certain elimination if there’s a loss against Portugal. The US can’t lose both games and still advance, while a loss against Portugal would cut the US’s chances in less than half.

-In this scenario, the US would need: a win vs. Germany OR a draw vs. Germany and a Ghana win and goal difference OR a draw vs. Germany and a Portugal-Ghana draw and goal difference.

-In this scenario, Portugal would need: a win vs. Ghana OR a draw vs. Ghana and a Germany win OR a draw vs. Ghana and goal difference.

If the US and Portugal draw:

Germany…4…+4

USA…………4…+1

Ghana……..1…-1

Portugal….1…-4

This would mean that the US and Germany would be in a game to see who wins the group. In this scenario, if neither of the final matches end in draws, the second spot would be decided on goal difference between the winner of the USA-Germany game and the loser of the Ghana-Portugal game.

-In this scenario, the US would need: a draw vs. Germany OR a Portugal-Ghana draw OR goal difference.

-In this scenario, Portugal would need: a win vs. Ghana and a US-Germany non-draw and goal difference.

Observations from the scenarios:

-It is very important for the US to not lose. Yeah, anything can happen, but counting on a result against Germany is like counting on a St. Bernard to manually land a spacecraft on the moon.

-It is very important for Portugal to win. They need a bunch of stuff to happen to qualify if they get a draw, and if they lose, they’re out.

-Goal difference is very important. That’s why Thomas Muller, who put 3 past Portugal, might be the US’s most important player this World Cup. Portugal have a huge goal difference hole to climb out of. It’s a very hard group, with four teams that could each advance out of most groups, so big margins don’t come easily. This means that Portugal probably won’t climb out of their goal difference hole, which means that the US can get a draw in this game and have a very good chance to advance.

On Julian Green

Looking at my website’s stats, I can see who has found my website from different search terms. Someone found it by inquiring if Julian Green will start vs. Portugal. Answer? Not a chance.

In fact, I very, very highly doubt that Green will play a single minute, and if he does it’s in garbage time when the US is already probably 3 goals up or down, probably against his beloved Germany so that he can have his special moment. I’m sorry if that last bit sounded bitter. It didn’t? Well, it was meant to sound bitter, and I’m sorry for it.

As I said in my epic post about Green and Donovan, he doesn’t belong in the World Cup. He’s been terrible, and he has no experience above the German 4th division. And yes, I totally understand the German league system, with the Regionalliga and all. That’s not good enough for the US national team.

And on the part where I said “he’s been terrible,” you might say that I’m being too hard on him. No, I’m not. But, but, he’s just a kid! No, he isn’t. He’s a World Cup player. This isn’t a U-20 tournament. This isn’t a friendly camp. It’s the World Cup. If he’s selected for the World Cup, either the coach is delusional or he really is at World Cup level, in which case he must be held up to that standard. I’m not saying that he’s a bad person or that he won’t be good in the future, in fact he seems like a good kid and a promising talent, but he just isn’t good enough.

I watch MLS, and I will tell you that Diego Fagundez seems to be a much better player than Green. Fagundez plays for the New England Revolution, he’s only a few months older than Green, and if he had US eligibility (he’s working on it) I’d say he deserves to go to the World Cup more than Julian Green.

But for better or worse, Julian Green is on the World Cup squad. I seriously doubt he’ll get any minutes.

Don’t believe me? Well, if he was going to get playing time at the World Cup, don’t you think they would’ve played him for more than 27 minutes in the friendlies? Only the third-string goalkeeper played less than Green! Aron Jóhannsson was the only other outfield player to not play at least 45 minutes in the friendlies, and that was because of fitness issues. John Brooks, who wasn’t originally intended to even play, was the only player to play in the Ghana game without at least 100 minutes of playing time in the three warm-up games.

This is a guarantee: Julian Green will not play any meaningful minutes in this World Cup.

It’s Unrealistic

I had something written up basically detailing why the US will more than likely not win the World Cup, why that is okay (we don’t have nearly as good players as the better teams), why I’m not communist, and why everyone is making such a big deal out of Jürgen Klinsmann’s comments (if he says that the US will win the World Cup, then he’s setting himself up for failure).

I deleted all of that because everyone who follows soccer knows that the US probably won’t win the World Cup, that that’s okay (for now, at least), that I’m not a communist for thinking that, and that people like to make really big deals out of people’s comments.

How Will Portugal Play?

Probably like this:

Portugal vs. US Expected

There are a few lineup questions:

-Is goalkeeper Rui Patricio healthy? If not, they’ll go with Eduardo or Beto. The former has more experience with Portugal’s team, while the latter just won the Europa League. Tim Howard is better than all three. I’d even say that Brad Guzan is better than at least one or two of them, if not all three.

-Will the striker be Eder or Helder Postiga? Probably Eder, based mainly on the fact that he came on for Hugo Almeida when he got injured last game.

-Will Vieirinha make a surprise start in place of Nani?

-Will perhaps the youngster William Carvalho start ahead of Miguel Veloso?

-Will Luis Neto indeed start at center-back, or will we see Ricardo Costa, who is 7 years older than Neto?

And here are a few points about their players:

-Cristiano Ronaldo is the star for Portugal. No question. He’s had some injury problems, but he should still carry the team. He was mostly ineffective against Germany, and while some of that is due to his health, a lot of that is probably because Germany are one of the best teams in the world. Ronaldo doesn’t stay on the left. He will solidly make life miserable for everyone on the opponents’ defense.

-Warning: I often call Cristiano Ronaldo “CR7.” Why? because “Ronaldo” makes it sound like I’m talking about the Brazilian, “Cristiano” sounds like I know the guy, and I don’t want to say “Cristiano Ronaldo,” which has more syllables than World Cups Portugal has played in, ten times every paragraph.

-#8 Joao Moutinho is the playmaker. He’s the guy that runs the show from central midfield.

-Raul Meireles, #16 with the interesting beard, hair, and tattoos, is a box-to-box midfielder. He’s good at a lot of things, not really great at anything, but he’s a useful player both ways. Especially defensively.

-The other guy they play, probably #4 Miguel Veloso, will be the defensive midfielder. This will be the player who Michael Bradley will need to evade. They might play William Carvalho in this position.

-They’re normally especially good on the left side with the all-Real Madrid pairing of Fabio Coentrao and CR7. With Coentrao out for the tournament, it will be interesting to see how #19 Andre Almeida will do.

-Not only is Coentrao out, but their Real Madrid center-back Pepe is suspended due to a red card (typical Pepe stuff, nothing to see here). Half of their backline, and maybe their goalkeeper, will be new, so their teamwork will be vital.

-This Portugal team likes to attack down the wings, and they’re deadly on the counter. America’s weakness defensively seems to be down the wings, so they should change that. Also, they can’t send too many numbers forward. Even 75% CR7 can crush a team on the counter.

-Another thing: Portugal seem, to me anyways, like they can easily get frustrated. They don’t seem to have a good “team spirit,” shall we say. Cristiano Ronaldo is the captain, Pepe is the best defender, and that kind of tells you everything you need to know about the Portuguese team.

-So, they get frustrated easily and they’re great on the counter? Then the US should sit back and force Portugal to try and break them down.

How Will the US Play?

The team has normally played in a Squishy Diamond that is authoritatively called a 4-3-2-1, 4-4-2 diamond, 4-2-2-2, or a 4-2-3-1 depending on who it is. Yeah, it’s weird how everyone is so sure about what formation it is, yet they all say different things. But they’re all right. It’s all of those formations. It’s a Squishy Diamond. It morphs into these different formations as the game goes on, because it’s squishy. In the last game, against Ghana, we saw Michael Bradley drop back and make it a flat 4-4-2 at times.

I’ll get to the Altidore thing. Be patient. First, I’d like to discuss the simplest thing about how the US will play: the formation.

Will they stick with the Squishy Diamond? It retains the back four of Beasley-Besler-Cameron-Johnson, or their backups, with Beckerman in the calm defensive role, Jones in the DESTROYEVERYTHING!!! role, Bedoya/Zusi as the right winger, Bradley as the box-to-box playmaker, and then Dempsey and someone else at striker. I’ll show the formations, but first I’ll get to the other options. After that I’ll talk personnel.

Do they play a 4-2-3-1, with Dempsey as the lone striker, Bradley in a #10 role, and then two wingers? Behind them would be the back six (defenders + Jones and Beckerman) as per usual.

Here’s my idea: the Stretchy Diamond. I’ll display these formations in pictures before I tell you what that is:

Possible US vs. Portugal Formations
I took this one with my camera that I take bigfoot pictures with.

The Stretchy Diamond is like the diamond, except it’s stretched. It’s like a 4-4-2, with an attacking central midfielder, a defensive central midfielder, and defensive wingers. You can also call it a 4-3-1-2.

The most interesting thing is the personnel I’ve listed. I’ll get to that now.

The idea of my Stretchy Diamond is to close down the wings. Portugal attack through the wings. DaMarcus Beasley was isolated a lot against Ghana. What happens if Cristiano Ronaldo gets isolated against a US full-back? I’m not saying he’ll definitely score, but if it happens, say, 5 times, I doubt the scoreline won’t be affected.

So I have a defensive right winger. Sure, Bedoya and Zusi can defend well, but inserting someone who’s basically another full-back means that the real full-back won’t have many chances to mess up (lots of goals that the team have conceded have come off of errors from the full-backs–like Johnson’s error against Ghana). I also move over Jones as a defensive left-midfielder, as opposed to a left defensive-midfielder, if that makes any sense.

Fabian Johnson is a must-start because he’s good defensively and vital offensively. But he makes errors defensively. Now, again, I said he’s a must-start so don’t say that I hate him. I don’t. But he makes errors defensively. If there was basically a second full-back alongside him, then he wouldn’t be isolated.

You can do lots of things to create this formation:

-Add John Brooks to the starting line-up, pair him with Besler, move Geoff Cameron to right-back, and Johnson to right midfielder.

-Same as above, but with Omar Gonzalez at center-back. This keeps it lefty-righty, and we’ve seen Gonzalez’s best performances alongside Besler, but the very idea of Gonzalez starting gives me shivers, considering the fact that his club and more importantly national team form over the last several months has been bad. Like, open the windows bad.

-Add DeAndre Yedlin, the speedy yet inexperienced Seattle right-back, to right midfield.

-If you want to rest Jones or Beckerman, you can have the guy you aren’t resting at central defensive midfield, have Fabian Johnson at left-midfielder, insert Yedlin at right-midfield, move Cameron to right-back, and then doing either Besler-Brooks or (gulp) Besler-Gonzalez at centerback.

None of this will probably happen, though. So I’ll talk about real personnel decisions, going from back to front:

Besler, Brooks, or Both?

Matt Besler is considered the rock in the defense. Most people agree that if he’s healthy he plays. But, is he healthy? He came off at halftime vs. Ghana. He’ll be officially okay for the Portugal game, but I’m not convinced that he really will be able to play.

Keeping the team’s best defender on the bench might be made easier by John Brooks. In addition to scoring the goal, in the 90 minutes he’s played in the last 4 games he’s looked fairly solid. Not without errors, but a couple minor mistakes won’t cause as much damage as aggravating Besler’s injury and having to burn a sub after 10 minutes Costa-style would cause.

Could they do both? Playing them both would be either to rest Cameron, who was apparently sick for the Ghana game, or to move Cameron out to right-back, where he plays for Stoke. Moving Cameron to right-back would be either to rest Johnson, or to move Johnson to left-back (to rest Beasley) or to move Johnson to the midfield (to create a defensive formation similar to my Stretchy Diamond).

Why am I pretty sure that only one of them will start? Because Jürgen Klinsmann hasn’t played two center-backs with the same preferred foot since the second half vs. Mexico back in April. Besler and Brooks are both left-footed (Cameron and Gonzalez are both right-footed) so I doubt that either of them would play without a right-footed partner. I’m pretty sure that Klinsmann’s reasoning for that is so that they can take up the full-back positions if needed, so that the full-backs can go forward more.

Zusi, Bedoya, or…Davis?

If Klinsmann goes with the Squishy Diamond, only one of these guys will play, and it will be one of the right-sided ones, Zusi or Bedoya. If he only plays one striker in a 4-2-3-1, two of these guys will play.

Alejandro Bedoya has seemed to be the favorite on the right side, starting the last friendly (first game with the Squishy Diamond) and the game against Ghana. But Zusi has also seen a lot of time under Klinsmann, and with him getting the assist on the winner, plus Bedoya with seeming to be cramping up last game, I could certainly see the Nantes midfielder being rested in favor of the one from Sporting Kansas City.

In a 4-2-3-1, or in an attacking diamond, we could see Zusi on the right and Bedoya on the left, like what we saw against Azerbaijan, but then again we could also see Brad Davis. He’s a set piece and service master, and while he’s not that good athletically or speed-wise, he plays in Houston, which is probably the closest thing in the US, or at least in MLS, that you can get to Manaus.

There’s a lot to criticize about Brad Davis’s ability, which is magnified due to the omission of Landon Donovan, but they’re different players (Klinsmann was always going to call in a left-footed winger, Davis beat out Shea and Torres, not Donovan) and there’s also a lot to praise about Brad Davis, namely his magical left foot. Is that enough?

What about Mix?

The Norwegian-American Mix Diskerud, a fan favorite, is a quality player. He wears the number 10, and it’s accurate: he’s the closest thing Klinsmann has to a central midfield playmaker. He’s one of the few players on this team who can relatively-consistently play that magical pass; that ball sent in that takes several defenders out of the play and sets up a fairly easy chance to score.

He rarely starts, however, and for good reason. He isn’t the best defensively, so playing him behind two forwards would be poor unless it’s against a weak bus-parking team, and playing him any other way would require only one true striker.

Mix, to me, totally seems like someone who will come off the bench in the 60th minute, and break down the Portuguese defense. Have you heard that this game is being played in Manaus, in the Amazon Rainforest? Players will get very tired, and I think that giving the creative Diskerud 30 minutes at 100% to break down the tired Portuguese would be more effective than him spending the first 60 minutes tiring out with them.

Michael Bradley?

No question he starts, but how good will he be?

Bradley had a poor game against Ghana, at least in the attack, but I think that that fact makes it more likely that he’ll play great going forward. As I said in my last post, he’s gotten all his mistakes out of the way. Ballon d’Or performances from here on out, everyone.

How do you Replace Jozy Altidore?

You can’t. His hold up play is like no one else in the team.

Please don’t mention Landon Donovan. He can’t do hold-up play. Green’s role was the one that Donovan would’ve been in. But Terrence Boyd and Eddie Johnson are probably the 2nd and 3rd best players at Altidore’s role, and neither of them made the 23. EJ didn’t even make the 30.

So, does that mean that the US just plays with 10 against Portugal? No, of course not. There are three options, basically:

-Chris Wondolowski

Pros: this is the player I would choose. He can score goals. Pepe is out with a red card suspension, so Portugal will have an inexperienced center-back partnership. They will probably make mistakes. Wondo is the perfect player on this team to capitalize on mistakes.

Cons: I can’t think of many. Sure, he lacks physicality, but so does Jóhannsson. And sure, he lacks speed in comparison to Jóhannsson, but he isn’t slow. You can also say that Wondo doesn’t offer much outside of goal-scoring, but did you watch the Ghana game? Jóhannsson didn’t do all that great.

Yeah, every “con” has a qualifier. Can you blame me? I want Wondo to start.

-Aron Jóhannsson

Pros: he’s been scoring goals like crazy in the Eredivisie. He’s supposedly full of confidence. He’s young. He looks like Kevin Bacon.

Cons: he was non-existent against Ghana. And yeah, I know that he hadn’t warmed up, and that Bradley, the link between defense and offense, was poor in distribution, and that Ghana closed down on the US midfield, but still. Only 1 shot the entire game. Also, they don’t play defense in the Eredivisie. I doubt that he can play as the lone striker in the World Cup. He’s said himself that he prefers to play behind the main forward.

-Clint Dempsey as the #9 in a 4-2-3-1

Pros: moving Deuce from floating 9.5 up front allows for another midfielder. He’s the best goalscorer on the team. No arguments, he is.

Cons: I hate the idea of playing him central. I much prefer Dempsey as the second striker; floating around, combining with the midfield, getting into goalscoring positions by running in behind the main striker. And you can say “play him as a false 9” all day, but you need to be a possession team to play with a false 9. Let Deuce be Deuce and play Wondo up top.

Well, okay, I clearly have my mind made up. I’ll go all the way:

Play Wondo

Prediction

USA 3-2 Portugal.

22’ WONDO (Zusi)

43’ Ronaldo (Ronaldo)

62’ Ronaldo (Ronaldo)

73’ WONDO (Diskerud)

90’ Deuce (Diskerud)

 

That’s it. Any thoughts? Predictions? Questions? Threats? I’ll get back to regularly scheduled programming soon.

 

 

Friday Thoughts (Brief)

This will be super-short because I’m working on the USA-Portugal preview. Go:

-France just completely thrashed Switzerland for 80 minutes. I guess they kind of turned off, and that was how the Swiss got back their two goals. Can France win the World Cup? That’s a real question. We won’t know until they play better teams. Bosnia’s good enough right? And if they beat Bosnia and you still aren’t amazed, the likely quarterfinal opponent is Germany. You can’t win the World Cup without playing some good teams, so an easy draw can only get you so far. We will learn how good France and the Netherlands really are long before they’re in view of the trophy.

-Honduras now has a very small chance to advance, since they lost to Ecuador. However, Ecuador have a pretty good chance now, and they’re basically up against Switzerland, although they don’t play each other. Might I add that these three countries would have much less chance to advance in any other group, while in any other group I doubt that France would be so dominant. However, speculating on non-existent scenarios is stupid, so I’ll stop. We won’t know how good they really are until they play opposition that we also know is good. Did I mention that Argentina is the likely opponent for the Group E runners-up?

-COSTA RICA!!!!! How in the world did that happen? Well, I can actually tell you: they defend as a team, and they attack as a team. Obviously they got help because they played Uruguay without Suarez, and they played Italy after their Manaus game, but still, Costa Rica have played very, very well. Italy’s two best players, at least going forward, are Pirlo and Balotelli. If you can shut them down, you’ve basically kept yourselves from losing. If you can also be dangerous going forward, then you’re probably going to win. That’s what Costa Rica did. And that’s why, in the first ever group with 3 different World Cup champions, the first team out is one that’s never made the quarterfinals. What a World Cup from Costa Rica.

-Is anyone excited to see what Messi and Argentina can do against a bad team? Iran are not to be under-estimated defensively, but I doubt that they can slow down Argentina like Bosnia did. Speaking of which, is anyone excited to see the Edin Dzeko led Bosnian attack in all their glory? As I said, Iran have a fairly good defense, but that’s not Nigeria’s strong-suit. While goalkeeper Vincent Enyema might be good, he’ll be forced into making tons of saves if the Super Eagles are to contain Bosnia.

-Boateng vs. Boateng. With Hummels out, how will Germany line up against the Black Stars? Will Ghana salvage their World Cup hopes after going down to the mighty, well, passable US?

-Oh, and a note: the reason that the US didn’t dispatch Ghana so easily was because Michael Bradley, our best outfielder, decided to get all of his bad play out of the way in one game. Ballon d’Or stuff from here on out, everyone.

That’s it.

I said it was super-short. If you really want more of me, check out the “World Cup” page. I’ve got some good stuff in there that you may have missed.

Any special requests for the USA-Portugal game? Or any articles that I do for the rest of the group stage? That’s what I’m here for.

Thursday Thoughts + World Cup of CONCACAF

I’ll make something about Spain’s shocking (or is it?) elimination for when Spain play next, but today I can’t pass up the chance to talk about North America’s impact in this World Cup. First, though, a few thoughts:

-Do you like my new header? That’s the DSE crest. 2013 because that’s when it was founded, DH because that’s my initials, “Adulti Recalcitratio Effercio” because that’s Latin for “Adults Kicking Stuff,” circle-shaped because I like circle-shaped crests, the tacky soccer ball because I loved how people freaked out about the San Jose Earthquakes having a tacky soccer ball in their crest, and how terrible they thought it looked, and it’s all done in fuzzy MS paint because I aim for mediocrity.

-Colombia is good. I guess Chile has joined Belgium in being disqualified for being called “dark horses” because they’ve been called that so much, so it leaves Colombia (joint dark horses with Belgium before Falcao’s injury) and maybe a few others (Bosnia? France? Can the Dutch be dark horses after almost winning last time?) in the “dark horse” category.

-Do you know who else is good, and Colombian? James Rodriguez. He came in as the star man in Falcao’s absence, and he’s delivered. A goal and some nice play in each of his two games, and he’s only 22! He may not know how to pronounce his name, but he sure can play.

-Congratulations to the Netherlands, Chile, and Colombia. All three of these teams will be in the knockout stage. It’s starting to take shape!

-England still have a chance to go through, but not a good one. I’ll break down all the final day scenarios a bit later. They have a semi-promising side for the future, with young players Sterling, Barkley, Shaw, and the Ox, and not-as-young-but-still-pretty-young players in Sturridge, Wilshere, Welbeck, and currently injured Walcott. I was going to mention Phil Jones, but I’m trying to be serious, here. If half of these guys reach most of their potential, this team has a chance to get to the final of the Euros. And lose on penalties.

-I’m glad that Wayne Rooney scored. Now the English will have to get more creative with placing the blame. Also, while Rooney was unfortunate in his finishing, he was so very active. They’ll blame Hart, because they always do, and they’ll probably blame English Roy, even though I don’t think he should get it. They played well and narrowly lost against superior teams. Only special managers (yes, I said “special” intentionally) can reliably get out of that kind of group.

-Jozy Altidore will, as expected, miss the game against Portugal. The US player is the only one on the team who can really play as a target-forward. Wondo kind-of can, but not really, especially at the international level; Dempsey can as well, but not nearly as good as Altidore, plus he plays much better in a floating role; Jóhannsson is probably the worst of the four strikers at hold-up play, as he proved against Ghana. A lot of people forgot that he was playing, although you can’t pin all that on him. Klinsmann should’ve called up Terrence Boyd or even Eddie Johnson. But instead he didn’t call up a true replacement for Altidore, and he got hurt.

-Bottom line: start Wondo!

-Isn’t it ironic how the guy who gets hurt is the only one that there isn’t a true replacement for? Life’s funny that way…

-If you have nothing else to do, and this is your first visit, I suggest that you read some of my other posts. Not all of them are bad. And yes, that is my tagline. Well, one of my several taglines, actually.

World Cup of CONCACAF

This is a table of how good the confederations have been:

Confederation……Teams…W…D…L

AFC (Asia)………………….4……0…3…3

CAF (Africa)……………….5……1…1…5

CONCACAF (N. Am.)….4……3…1…1

CONMEBOL (S. Am.)….6……7…1…2

UEFA (Europe)………….13…..8…2…8

So the Americas are a combined 7-2-3, while UEFA has just as many losses as wins? I’m just the messenger, you draw the conclusions.

Let’s look at CONCACAF’s games:

Mexico 1-0 Cameroon

Calling this win 1-0 is a bit inaccurate, considering that Gio Dos Santos scored two goals that were incorrectly called offside, but still, a win is a win.

Uruguay 1-3 Costa Rica

This is the biggest win for CONCACAF, and it was totally unexpected. Even without Luis Suarez, it was a big win for Costa Rica.

France 3-0 Honduras

This was the only loss. The three French goals came after a Honduras red card, so we’re still undefeated 11-on-11. Plus, France have alternated between good World Cups and bad World Cups. Based on that, this is a good World Cup for them.

Ghana 1-2 USA

A win is a win is a win.

Brazil 0-0 Mexico

This was a BIG result. Memo Ochoa stood on his head. The home team and favorites, Brazil, couldn’t break down the team that just barely squeaked into the World Cup.

All in all, CONCACAF has had a great World Cup so far. Wish you were here Panama, although selfishly FC Dallas need Blas Perez, regardless of him being 57. Anyway, 3 of the 4 teams are in position to make the knockout rounds. I’ll say that at least two of them will probably do it.

 

Today, we have a double-dose of CONCACAF, plus a dose of Pirlo and Balotelli’s Italy. I’ll have a USA-Portugal preview tomorrow, and then I’ll work on the previews for the third games. And I’ll also do something about Spain. At some point.

Wednesday Thoughts + the 4 Stages of Belgium

I’ll try to write up something about Spain’s elimination, and I’ll also do something about CONCACAF in this World Cup, but for now I’ll just give a little sampler of what’s on my mind (and then something about Belgium after):

-This blogging experience, which is one of many attempts I’ve made at being a blogger (I’ll probably share some of my old posts on a slow day), could be going much worse. Considering the fact that I’m terribly lazy and experience something that makes writer’s block  like eating a cookie, this has been somewhat successful.

-Apparently I’ve had views from Canada, Ireland, Germany, plus 27 from the US. While 20 of that 27 is probably me, it’s still nice to see that this blog is getting some views, even by accident. I want to add that I wholeheartedly appreciate all of you for wasting spending time reading me talk about adults kicking stuff.

-Alex Song? What is wrong with you? You shouldn’t hit people, but especially when they don’t have the ball. Not only do you do that, but you’re doing it in what is basically an elimination game at the World Cup!

-Luka Modrić, I think, might have made a mistake by cutting his hair. He isn’t playing poorly, but if I was about to play in a World Cup and I’ve been playing well at club level, I wouldn’t change a thing.

-Do you know who refereed the Spain-Chile game? MLS’s Mark Geiger! I’ve seen this guy referee a game in person, and now he’s at the biggest stage. In this case, he was proceeding over the former king’s execution like Maximillian Robespierre.

-Oh, and I’m not saying that Mark Geiger is an insane revolutionary. He’s a pretty good referee. Maybe it was a bad analogy, but any opportunity to make a French history reference is one that I can’t help but capitalizing on.

-Tim Cahill, one of Australia’s greatest players, scored his second goal this World Cup in as many games. As he also picked up his second yellow card he will be suspended for the game vs. Spain, Australia’s last due to their mathematical elimination. The 34-year-old has thus most likely ended his World Cup career, where he’s scored 5 goals in 8 games. That record is made even more astonishing considering the fact that in his three World Cups Australia has only made it out of the group stage once, when Guus Hiddink was coach back in 2006.

-Oh, and do you know where Tim Cahill plays? For the New York Red Bulls, in MLS!

-I’ll say one thing about Spain’s elimination: watching Xavi on the sidelines being sad makes me sad. I’m glad that they didn’t also show Juan Mata being sad. That would’ve been too much to bear.

-I’ve been thinking a good bit about my preview article for US-Portugal. I’ll lock myself in the closet making it on Friday, and I’ll finish it off Saturday night Eastern US time. Hopefully. It will be like my epic USA-Ghana preview, only better and with more CR7.

-And before I do that, I’ll drop a CONCACAF-based view at the World Cup, and I’ll also drop something on Spain’s elimination, if I can find the time. But I’m not making any promises on the latter.

-In lieu of a real England-Uruguay preview, I’ll say this: Wayne Rooney is England’s best player. He hasn’t showed it in the World Cup, but that doesn’t change the facts. He did poorly vs. Italy mainly because he was on the wing, which isn’t his best position. Oh, and he did have a good club season, despite the fact that his team was poor, so don’t come at me with any of that.

-I’d like to say something about Germany: in the last game they had Bastian Schweinsteiger on the bench, Phillip Lahm at central midfield, and both of the full-backs were converted center-backs. Couldn’t they move Lahm to left-back, and then put Schweini in the team? I know that Lahm is a good D-mid, and that’s where he’s been playing at club level, but he’s also a good full-back, and Schweinsteiger is too good to leave off the team, I think. Am I the only one who thinks this is crazy?

[EDIT: I have since learned that Schweinsteiger had injury concerns. But I still insist that when the entire team is healthy it’s better to put Lahm at full-back. They’re a great team either way, though.]

-I’ll get to the Belgium thing, but first I want to reveal the USMNT’s secret to making it out of the group: we have a Boateng brother, too: Zack-King Boateng. He’ll make his debut vs. Portugal. Game. Set. Match. Boateng.

(Note: is there a name more American than “Zack?”)

The 4 Stages of Belgium

You know, I could write all day and all night about Belgium. About their fascinating country, their fascinating national team, Eden Hazard, Thibaut Courtois, “Big Rom” Lukaku, Vincent Kompany, Fellaini’s Hair, Witsel’s Hair, and all that stuff, but for now I’ll just write about the thought process that has gone around about the public opinion of this team:

1. Discovery: “Wait, he’s from Belgium, too? Man, there are a lot of good Belgians.”

You notice that several prominent players are from Belgium. Not anything special yet; I mean, the Ivory Coast have lots of good players and they’ve been poor despite those players.

2. Realization: “This Belgium team is a dark horse to win it all!”

Everyone noticed that they had a lot of quality players, and that they theoretically make a good team. Everyone makes the discovery that, hey, this team can make some noise in Brazil! And they feel so good about it.

3. Hipsterism: “Belgium are as good as that underground band you’ve never heard of.”

Are Brazil, Spain, Germany, and Argentina too mainstream for you? Then pick Belgium. They’re cool. I mean, they’ve got Kompany, Hazard, and Courtois; plus, if you pick them over those four then you’re standing apart from the crowd. Is anything cooler than that combination? Belgium became trendy.

4. Annoyingness: “If you call them dark horses one more time I’m not responsible for what I do!”

Belgium have become so trendy that they’re now mainstream. Many people have scoffed at people calling Belgium “dark horses,” mainly because they’re 5th favorites to win the World Cup. By the way, if you’re telling me that Belgium have a better chance at winning the World Cup than Italy, I’m very sorry. See, World Cup success doesn’t come that easy.

Seriously, though, this is someone’s Belgium preview:

“DON’T CALL THEM DARK HORSES!!!!”

“But, I wasn’t going to ca–”

“JUST DON’T, OKAY!?!?”

“I wasn’t thinking of–”

“They are NOT dark horses!!!”

“Okay, but can’t we–”

“Because lots of people have said ‘Belgium are dark horses’ AND IT ISN’T TRUE!!!”

“Yes, but let’s talk about Hazard or–”

“Do you think they’re dark horses?!?”

“No, but–”

“NOBODY CALL THEM DARK HORSES!!!”

“We have a preview to do.”

“Nope, we’re out of time.”

 

That’s it. Remember, stay tuned to Daniel’s Soccer Emporium (I’m Daniel, by the way), your home for adults kicking stuff.