18 June 2010

World Cup 2010, Match Day 8

The theme for the day was this:

FIFA needs to put some of that "grassroots" money into developing new officials, not just new players.

Germany 0:1 Serbia — Yes, the Germans self-destructed. However, they were only handed the opportunity to do so by an officiating crew that, among all four officials, deserves quite a bit of criticism. The referee in particular does not seem to understand that issuing yellow cards is not the only way to keep control of a match... and that overdoing it can make things worse. The unsportsmanlike play and attitude of the Serbian team (lots of niggling off-the-ball contact) didn't help, but it was effective. C/B-/D

In the meantime, Group C completed its second matches for all teams.

US 2(3):2 Solvenia — The officiating howler of the tournament here denied the US the first come-from-behind win of this Cup. Assume, for the moment, that Edu's well-struck ball had not ended up in the back of the net because there was a foul: It should have been a penalty for dragging Michael Bradley to the ground. The US shouldn't have put itself in the position of being down 0:2 at the half, but dominated play (even during the first half). The referee had lots of opportunities to do the right thing, but seemed completely oblivious... perhaps having some kind of chip on his shoulder against developed nations (which I've seen from African and Asian referees before, largely due to the politics of their respective confederations). B+/B-/D

Algeria 0:0 England — The only reason that the poor officials didn't stand out in this match is that there was essentially no football being played on which to screw up. Algeria never had any intention of doing anything except packing ten behind the ball and hoping it would stay scoreless; they didn't even look like they intended to score the few times they counterattacked, even though the appallingly slow donkeys in the center of the English defense panicked every time an Algerian dribbled at them. Conversely, the English teamwork up top looked just as good as France's did yesterday. C/B-/C

So that leaves Group C looking like this, with one match remaining for each team:

Slovenia 4 +1
US 2 0
England 2 0
Algeria 0 –1

which leaves all four teams alive. Here's how it will work:

  • Any team among the US, Slovenia, and England that wins its final match advances.
  • Algeria advances if, and only if, both it and Slovenia win their last matches.
  • Slovenia advances with a draw against England... which looks eminently possible after England's toothless display.
  • If both matches end up as draws, Slovenia and the US go through unless there is a three-goal-or-more difference in scores between the two matches (such as, Slovenia 3:3 England and US 0:0 Algeria), because the US is two goals ahead of England on goals scored (the second tiebreaker).

For the next US match, Bradley needs to throw away the 2/4 slide defense and 4-4-2 base he's been using thus far. For one thing, Algeria simply does not present enough of a threat up top to require four across the back; for another, his fastest forward (Robbie Findley) is suspended for yellow-card accumulation, meaning that Altidore needs a partner on each side. Probably the best bet would be a 3-5-2, probably laid out as a 3-2-3-2: Bocanega, Cherundulo, and either Onyewu or DeMerit (depending largely upon fitness); Bradley and either Edu or Feilhaber; Dempsey, Donovan, and Holden; Altidore and Buddle (or Gomez, again depending upon fitness). But there are still several days until the match, including opportunities for changes in fitness between now and then. The key point is that the US cannot afford to go behind, and really must take the opportunity to control its own fate and win.