23 June 2010

World Cup 2010, Match Day 13

Another pair of groups finish today.

Group C:

US 5 +1
England 5 +1
Slovenia 4 0
Algeria 1 –2

after US 1:0 Algeria and Slovenia 0:1 England.

It's not easy being Green   This hasn't been a great tournament thus far for England, as indicated by this wonderful rendition of England's team. As my only feline friend the IPKat notes:

The big questions for IP fans are whether (i) the owner and any licensees of the rights in the characters featured in The Muppets may have grounds of action based on tarnishment of the reputation of these splendid creatures and (ii) Fifa will consider this to be an egregious act of ambush marketing in respect of which they will, given their well-known sense of humour, invoke the full range of criminal and civil sanctions as well as United Nations intervention.

I didn't watch the England game at all, and could give only half of my attention to the US match (due to other deadlines, etc.). That said, I spoke too soon about the referee's excellent reputation and track record: He and his assistants very nearly cost the US advancement to the round of sixteen with not one, but four dodgy decisions that essentially denied US goals. Dempsey's first-half goal was not offside; the elbow incident should have resulted in a red card and a penalty (and he and the assistant both had a clear line of sight); the wall was maybe eight yards away on that venomous free kick from Bradley, and I suspect that a full-distance wall would have frozen the keeper due to more ground to cover; and he missed a clear penalty against Altidore. Then there was the phantom handball/yellow card against Beasley... Two matches dropping four points due solely to officiating would have been too much!

At least this time, the US's early-in-the-match defensive frailty resulted only in a shot against the bar, and not a goal. Bob Bradley deserves a lot of credit for making appropriate lineup and tactical changes, although I still think the US would have been better off pushing the left back all the way into midfield; virtually all of Algeria's dangerous attacks came from midfield, not directly against the back line. Both teams deserve credit for trying to actually play football: Despite the defensive bias of Algeria's squad, the players really did try to score when they did have the ball. Conversely, the US played with urgency, but not desperation, throughout the match. Donovan's goal in stoppage time was just desserts, and the US kept a clean sheet at the World Cup for the first time in well over a decade. B+/B-/C+

Group D:

Germany 6 +4
Ghana 4 0
Australia 4 –3
Serbia 3 –1

after Ghana 0:1 Germany and Serbia 1:2 Australia. I watched the Ghana match, between weather-related 'net outages. I think the commentators on ESPN3 were looking to create some controversy more than anything else... or else I was watching a slightly different match. Certainly in the first half, and for most of the second half, Germany was much more dangerous on offense than was Ghana. Although Ghana was able to play the ball around the outside of the German defense and get some decent chances on goal, the German defense (until about the 65th minute) never got into the desperate-tackle mode that we saw in Ghana's box as the German attack probed. That said, the German attack did look a little bit less potent without Klose. The officiating was quite good, largely because the teams were both more interested in winning through playing than winning through intimidation. In the end, Ghana's inability to control the center of the field came back to bite them at both ends. B-/B/A

So that leaves us with the following round-of-sixteen matches:

US : Ghana (26 June)

Germany : England (27 June)

Vengeance is the theme here — Ghana knocked the US out at the group stage the last time around, and England has been beaten by Germany quite a few times in tournaments.