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.
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.
If you’re only going to read one thing, make it the poetic review at the end. But my next section should not be ignored either:
Totally Inaccurate Power Rankings
Last ranking in brackets.
This team is a soccer machine. They tore apart Portugal with efficiency. Only Germans can be that efficient. They have so many talented players that even with Marco Reus out injured, they were able to leave Klose, Podolski, Schürrle, and even Schweinsteiger (Schweini!) on the bench and still have a world class starting XI. You can make a team out of Germany’s bench and win the World Cup. But can they pull it off in Brazil? I’m not sure.
It didn’t take long for the host nation to drop their first points, and some will argue that they also didn’t deserve a win in the first game. They have 4 points, and they should still qualify out of their group with ease (Cameroon are the only team they have left to play–easy win…right?) but they haven’t looked dominant at all.
Against Bosnia (I’ll get to them) this team looked completely disjointed in attack. But Messi is a player who can change the game. Everyone talks about Neymar, and Cristiano Ronaldo has been the crème de la crème for the past year and a half, but Messi could very well prove why he’s the best at this World Cup. They have an easy draw to start, but Messi needs better help to win the World Cup.
They only started attacking well when Messi moved further back into the midfield in the second half allowing him to get on the ball. However, he then had further to go to get to the goal, which created enough time for Bosnia to close down on him, forcing him to pass to one of his teammates. It normally didn’t go well. Argentina need to get that star-studded attack working well.
Nothing will come easy. At some point I will probably write an article talking more about Belgium (I would’ve wrote one for yesterday but I got a headache after the US game, and then the headache was made worse because I was upset because I had a headache), but for now, I want to leave it at this: you can’t become title-contenders in one cycle. Nothing comes easy.
Throughout the build-up and now during the actual tournament, I’ve heaped praise on the World Cup debutants. If Messi wasn’t playing, they probably would’ve won, or at least got a draw. Also, you must consider that their own goal was fluky. It counted, of course, but if that same game would’ve been played 20 times, it’s something that wouldn’t have happened more than once or twice. If Messi was Bosnian, it would’ve been 4-0. That’s how good Messi and all of Bosnia were compared to the rest of Argentina. They defended very well, and I have little doubt that they’ll handle Nigeria and Iran.
Likely Round of 16 opponents for Bosnia, the French are in a great year. How do I know that? In 1994, France didn’t make the World Cup. In 1998, France won it. In 2002, they went out in the group stage. In 2006, they came excruciatingly close to winning it again. In 2010, they imploded. Based on the pattern of being horrific one tournament and excellent the next, this should be a good year for Les Blues.
This Mexico team has proven that they are much better than the 2013 team. They will still probably need a result against Croatia to make it through, but a draw would cut it due to their impressive 0-0 draw vs. the mighty Brazil. Oh, and they should’ve beat Cameroon 3-0 instead of 1-0. This team has been very good so far.
There are still some issues, and Jozy Altidore’s injury is worrying, but this team does have quality, and most importantly an ability to get results.
Yeah, I intentionally put the US right above England.
Man, they looked terrible. Half of their backline is gone (Pepe suspended for the next game, Coentrao out for the tournament with injury), their striker is gone (Hugo Almeida injured for the next game), and their star player (Cristiano Ronaldo, who has been struggling recently) was a non-factor against Germany. But then again, it was against Germany.
The Swiss, I think, have a good chance to make it out of the Group of Life. Unless they mess up against Honduras, they should be able to afford a poor result in the next game against France, as long as the other teams also do so.
They needed to pick up 3 points to have a sizable chance to win the group. They failed, but if they can hold on they can make it to the Round of 16.
The Ghanaians are very one-dimensional in attack. They prefer to play on the counter. The US defended deep, not pressing too much in order to protect space in behind, so they forced Ghana to break them down. They couldn’t do it. Their next task is the team that just beat Portugal 4-0.
They should’ve gotten more than a point against Iran, but I’ve already written them off anyway. Bosnia is a good team, and you’re either ignorant or Nigerian if you thought they weren’t favorites to join Argentina out of the group.
The Koreans just got a point against the best team they’ll face in the group stage that doesn’t have Eden Hazard. They absolutely have a fairly good chance to make it out of the group stage.
They got close, but they couldn’t last the whole game. They have a shot if they can get an upset against France, but it’s looking unlikely.
As I said, France are good this year. Everyone will drop points against France. Honduras need to get points against Switzerland and Ecuador. Possible, but not at all easy.
Maybe 32nd was harsh, but they couldn’t hold their lead. Again, I have no idea what I’m doing.
Remember, I said it was “Totally Inaccurate.” That wasn’t a joke at all.
USA-Ghana: Poetic Review
(Forgive me for it sounding bad. I don’t make poetry that often.)
The Black Stars were sloppy as the game was beginning.
But Dempsey was ready, and focused on winning.
In half a minute, the US were in control,
A third World Cup for Deuce with scoring a goal.
Ghana looked nervous, and frantic as well.
Their World Cup’s start wasn’t too swell.
While the US wasn’t good in possession,
Ghana couldn’t rule the game with oppression.
They tried and tried, but failed to break them down.
Every Black Star attack ended with frowns.
Altidore hurt, and then Besler, too.
Is it over-training that Klinsmann should rue?
Fiftieth, sixtieth, seventieth minute.
America looked quite like they would win it.
But with a moment of brilliance, the lead was gone.
Andre Ayew the goal, assisted by Gyan.
It was tied up, and it looked without hope.
“We’re still in in the game!” says the US coach.
Fabian Johnson won a nice corner kick.
The US with a chance, but the clock moving quick.
Here comes the sub, Graham Zusi to take it.
Brooks with the header, trying to make it.
And then in a moment not to forget,
The ball went into the back of the net!
“GOAL!” they all shouted, jumping up and down.
Brooks, stunned, just fell to the ground.
Relief, excitement, and much jubilation,
To everyone all across the nation.
Next up is Manaus, with many piranhas.
But for now, it’s the joy of beating Ghana.
That’s it! Stay tuned for more later on. I’ll be here for the whole World Cup and beyond. Annoy everyone you kind-of know with emails about my blog. The more people reading this the more motivated I am to do better.
As promised, I have a preview for you, Readers. Enjoy (note: it’s like several little previews put together, and it has polls at the end):
Let me give you a history lesson: American soccer fans don’t particularly like Ghana. They’ve eliminated us from the last two World Cups.
2006: group stage: the US had 1 point in the first two games after a draw with eventual champions Italy and a loss to the Czech Republic, while Ghana had 3 points, after beating the Czech Republic and losing to the Italians. The US had this to advance: beat Ghana, and hope that Italy beat the Czech Republic. Ghana won.
2010: round of 16: Bob Bradley’s American team won a group that included England, and then played Ghana, runner-ups in a group containing Germany, in the first knockout stage. Ghana won.
All this, plus in World Cup Qualifying last year Ghana crushed Bob Bradley’s Egypt.
They are excellent vs. American coached teams. Good thing we have a German this time around.
Why it’s a “Must-Win”
Both teams see this as a very big game. Let’s look at it from the US perspective:
-Scenario 1: the US wins. Let’s say that Germany beats Portugal. Let’s also say that Germany beats Ghana. So the standings with the US and Portugal about to play would have Germany in the lead with 6 points, the US with 3, and Portugal and Ghana with none. In this scenario the US can qualify just by beating Portugal. However, the US can still draw Portugal, which would mean that both results plus goal difference would need to go in Portugal’s favor for the USMNT to miss advancing.
-Scenario 2: the US loses. Again, Germany win their games. (That’s the control.) Standings would have the US and Portugal at the bottom with 0, Ghana at 3, and Germany at 6. So the team would have to beat Portugal to have any hope (technically they could draw Portugal, beat Germany, and they’d have a chance to go through on goal difference if Portugal beat Ghana, but that’s admittedly very unlikely).
With a US win vs. Portugal in that scenario, the team would then be tied at 3 with Ghana, half of Germany’s points. To advance without goal difference, the US would need to beat Germany, while Ghana doesn’t beat Portugal, OR draw Germany while Portugal beats Ghana. To advance on goal difference, the US would need to match Ghana’s result vs. Portugal: if Ghana wins, the US needs to win; if Ghana draws, the US needs to draw. The most interesting thing would be if Portugal and Germany both win in this scenario, in which case all three non-Germany teams are tied at 3 in an epic-three-way-goal-difference-battle.
Also worthy of note: for the US to advance on goal difference, they’d need, you know, to actually have superior goal difference. Just throwing that out there.
Anyways, there are lots of different combinations. Plus, I should tell you that Ghana’s scenario map is very similar to America’s. And if they draw, both teams are in trouble.
This is the group of death, people. But it’s not just that! It’s the Group of Certain Death. When I first noticed that there were three groups of death (B, D, G) I tried to see the differences. From before the tournament began, it looked like there were three really good teams in groups B and D, but group G seemed to be the only one with 4 quality teams. Costa Rica has proven that that’s the case in Group D as well, but I already gave the name (Group of Certain Death) to Group G. Two good teams will certainly die. Well, they’ll be knocked out, but “Group of Certain Knocking Out” has less of a ring to it.
You still don’t think that it’s a “Must-Win?” Let me explain:
The two weak links in Group G are the US and Ghana. There is no sugarcoating it. Yeah, the US and Ghana have some international superstars, but Germany is made entirely of international superstars, while Portugal has THE international superstar.
Because these two teams are the weakest two in the group, they are each the weakest of the other teams in the perspective of each other. The best chance for victory. Either of these teams can get a win and then draw Portugal and Germany and be happy; that’s 5 points, probably good enough to make it out of the group.
The fact that it’s the easiest game to win for both teams coupled with the fact that it’s the first game and the fact that the opponent is taking it so seriously as well means that it’s of utmost importance to win, for both teams.
The Underdog Mentality
The United States of America is underdogs in this group. That’s a fact. Is anyone going to try and say that it’s a bad thing?
Let me teach you about the history of this country:
1775-1783: American Revolutionary War. We weren’t technically a country yet and we beat the British Empire.
1941-1945: World War II. We beat the Imperial Japanese AND the Nazi Germans.
1950: USA 1-0 England. This was back when England were really good and the US were really bad. It would be like if Canada beat Germany today.
1980: Miracle On Ice. Soviet Union hockey team that had won the last four Olympic gold medals? Let’s send some college players to beat them.
2002: World Cup group stage, vs. Portugal and their star #7. Up 3-0 after 36 minutes.
America thrives on being the underdogs. It isn’t an insult. It’s bulletin-board material. Stuff to put on the bulletin-board, look at it, take it off, and shove it down the opponents throats when you beat them. It’s the American way.
Note: yeah, okay, foreigners helped us out in a lot of those. French in the Revolutionary war, Russians, British, and many more countries helped in WWII, while the goalscorer vs. England was Haitian.
In 2014? We’ve got Germericans. And a couple Scandinaviamericans.
Remember the Squishy Diamond?
That? Yeah, well, I think it’s going to stay. At least for this next game. It can morph into a diamond or 4-2-3-1 in attack, it’s a nice 4-3-2-1 in defense, and the inclusion of Kyle Beckerman means that both Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley can do what they do best. I’ve done this before, but I’ll go through the roles of each player:
-Jozy Altidore: the target forward. His job is to help the attack, by hold-up play and/or scoring goals.
-Clint Dempsey: second striker. His job is to get into the box and score goals.
-Alejandro Bedoya: box-to-box winger. His job is to help out defensively, and act as another one of Bradley’s passing options in attack.
-Michael Bradley: The General. His job is to solidify the team in defense, and to control the team like a quarterback in the attack. I think a reason that Klinsmann is playing him further forward is so that he can shut down Michael Essien.
-Jermaine Jones: destroyer. His job is to smash stuff.
-Kyle Beckerman: calm defensive presence. His job is to sit in front of the defense. This is something that Jones has trouble doing, and if Bradley does it you’re only getting half of The General’s benefits; by having Beckerman do it it’s freeing up both those players to impact the team in the way that they best can.
I’ll expand on Michael Essien: if Klinsmann is going to use the diamond (Squishy Diamond, or whatever you want to call it–everyone has their own name and they call it that with authority) for only one game, it’s the Ghana one. With playing Bradley forward, you lose a little bit defensively. He is both the best attacking midfielder and the best defensive midfielder that the US has. Ghana is probably the team that has the least to give in the attack (they’re dangerous in the attack, just not as dangerous as CR7 or Germany) so Klinsmann will sacrifice defensive solidity to hit the African foes harder.
But, it’s not sacrificing defensive solidity as much, when you consider that Michael Essien plays a huge role in Ghana’s team. He’s kind of like Ghana’s Michael Bradley, except with more hair. Bradley will be closer to Essien in the attacking-midfield role than he would be in the defensive-midfield role, so he could shut down the former Chelsea player when Ghana get the ball, thus disrupting their attack.
How will Ghana play? I’m not quite sure. They’re sure to have the lethal Asamoah Gyan at striker, and we’ll also see the talented young Kwadwo Asamoah somewhere, whether it’s at left-back or in a midfield role. Might we also see utility man Kevin-Prince Boateng? Probably. And don’t forget about Essien, or the Ayew brothers, speedy wingers Andre and Jordan. Do you want a deeper analysis into The Black Stars? Well, that’s more for professionals.
This Is It
On June the 25th, 2011, the USMNT was defeated by Mexico, 4-2, in the Gold Cup final. Shortly thereafter, coach Bob Bradley was fired. He was replaced by former Germany striker Jürgen Klinsmann, who previously coached the German national team and Bayern Munich, to mixed results, and has lived in the US since his retirement.
Klinsmann’s Americans started off with mixed success, having a sputtering start, 1-1-1, in CONCACAF World Cup Qualifying Round 3 (of the three teams in that group, neither of them got anywhere near a World Cup berth). But 2012 also had positives: friendly wins away to both Mexico and Italy.
In the Hex, the last round of qualification, the US lost the first game away to Honduras. That was the low point of the Klinsmann reign. He was widely criticized, and panic mode ensued, either because of the infamous Brian Straus article or as a catalyst for it. That article was filled with anonymous player quotes criticizing Klinsmann, and detailing the divide between the German-based players and the others, and it made him look like someone who has no business coaching a soccer team.
What did the US do after that? They won 15 games in their next 16, including a comfortable Gold Cup victory and an easy-looking World Cup berth (11 points clear of the playoff place).
But since that incredible year? Uncertainty.
Uncertainty over a vastly inexperienced defense, uncertainty over a forward who struggled in the EPL, uncertainty over another forward who struggled to make an immediate impact in MLS, uncertainty over the group of death, and basically a pessimistic criticism of every decision that Klinsmann has made, including the obviously incorrect decision to select Julian Green over Landon Donovan for the World Cup roster.
But you know what? None of that matters at all. The early struggles and doubts, the Gold Cup win, the qualifying romp, the recent struggles and doubts, the roster decision, the send-off series, etc.. None of it matters at all.
This is the World Cup. Coaching a sports team is a results-driven business. No matter how smart you seem, or what your resume is, it’s based on results. International soccer is all about the World Cup, so naturally an international soccer manager, at least one managing a country at the level of the US, lives and dies based on World Cup performance. Is that fair, considering that the US is in the group of death? Not entirely. But it’s not about being fair. It’s about cold, hard results.
Anyone can lead the US to a Gold Cup win, at least when Mexico is in an epic slump. Anyone can lead the US to the World Cup. They hired Jürgen Klinsmann to bring the US success at the World Cup. What happens if he doesn’t do well at the World Cup? There’s a good chance he gets fired, regardless of the fact that he signed a contract through 2018 (Bob Bradley signed one through 2014).
The past doesn’t matter. The future doesn’t matter. It’s about the World Cup. Right now, it’s about getting out of the group. To do that, the United States will need to beat Ghana. The time is now.