Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Soccer Craziness

The US National Soccer team played Algeria today in their third game of group play at the World Cup. The team tied in its first two games, giving them a total of 2 points in league play. This tied them with England for second place in the group. The top two teams of each group move on to the 'playoffs' after the third game.

The scenario was this - if the US squad won, they moved on instead of England, no matter what England did in their last game against Slovenia (who were sitting in first place in the group). If the US tied and England tied, the US moved on. If the US tied or lost, and England won, the US ended up in third place, and their World Cup would be over.

The two games started at the same time - the England game was actually runniong about 2 minutes ahead of the US game. England scored a goal early against Slovenia, putting them int he driver's seat. The US apparently scored a goal near half time, but it was disallowed on a horrible call by a linesman.

The second half saw the US pepper the Algerian goaltender (who had a wonderful game) with shots and misses almost constantly. As time ran out, it appeared the game would be a tie, sending the US packing back across the Atlantic.

In injury stoppage time, in the 91st minute of action, a fast break down the right side, a centering pass, a deflection off the goaltender, and a followup by Landon Donovan that found the net gave the US a 1-0 win. Coupled with England's 1-0 win over Slovenia, that gave the US top spot in the group, with England coming in second. Slovenia, leaders of the group at the beginning of the day, finished 3rd and are out of the competition.

That sums up the craziness of the World Cup. It is either incredibly dramatic, breathtaking, and a spectacle, or it is madness - depends upon how you want to look at it. One goal, scored after official time had expired, meant the difference between winning the group and moving on, or packing up and coming home.

One thing has certainly been obvious in this World Cup - the quality of the officiating has been horrendous, certainly not worthy of the most important soccer tournament in the world. It is a shame when bad calls, disallowed goals, and phantom fouls dominate the headlines, instead of the play of the teams.

Update - The craziness just keeps coming. Defending World Cup Champ Italy was ousted today, with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Slovakia. Now, the two teams that fought in the World Cup final in 2006, a classic final that came down to Penatly Kicks, have both been sent home without making it out of the group stage. France came in last in their group, failing to score a point. Italy came in last in their group, scoring a measley 2 points.

France is in mourning. It is a national disaster, and the President of the country is promising investigations to find out what happened. After its arrival back in France, the team was taken to an undisclosed location under police escort.

Italy will be the same when their team arrive back home tomorrow.

These two nose-in-the-air countries have just had their noses bloodied, their teams humiliated, and their national pride devestated. The only thing that kept England from being in the same position is a single goal they scored in their final group game yesterday.

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