Posts Tagged ‘United States’

2010 FIFA World Cup: USA Wants More Than Just Respect

June 25th, 2010

There is no way to describe what happened yesterday.

The United States were able to find the back of the net when all seemed lost.

The Americans were on the verge of elimination when Landon Donovan stepped up.

Donovan’s goal in the 91st minute saved the U.S. from suffering the same fate it did four years ago in Germany.

The Americans entered the 2006 World Cup with high hopes.

In 2002, the U.S. upset Portugal, tied South Korea, and escaped the group stage with four points before defeating rival Mexico 2-0 in the second round.

The U.S. went toe to toe with Germany in the quarterfinals, but a set piece score from the Germans ended the Americans best run in a World Cup since 1930.

Last summer, the U.S. made a run to the Confederations Cup final, losing to Brazil 3-2 in a game where they couldn't hold onto a 2-0 lead.

En route, the Americans shocked Spain, the European champions, in the semifinals.

Following the loss to the Brazilians, the U.S. earned respect for its performance, but Donovan wanted more.

“We are in the position where we don’t want respect,” said Donovan, “we want to win.”

Donovan's 44th international goal couldn't have come at a better time.

Making it past the group round in 2010 was a necessary goal for the USA.

Getting eliminated would have been a setback for a nation looking to leave its print on the world’s stage.

For 90 minutes, the Americans fought desperately knowing that they needed a victory to keep their dreams alive.

Had their third goal against Slovenia not been disallowed, the U.S. wouldn’t have been anxiously looking for a score against Algeria.

The U.S. built success in moderation.

It began with the 1990 World Cup, the Americans first appearance in 40 years.

Since that point, the U.S. became a fixture at the top of CONCACAF.

The emotional victory over the Algerians advanced the Americans to the second round for the third time since 1990, and has qualified for each World Cup since.

Only 12 years ago, the U.S. finished dead last in the 1998 World Cup—a disaster showing for the American side.

Yesterday, the Americans not only qualified but also won the group for the first time in 80 years.

For once, the U.S. was favored to defeat both Slovenia and Algeria, a role that is still brand new for this squad.

The Americans look to make it to the quarterfinals for the second time in three years when they face Ghana on Saturday.

Regardless whether the U.S. advances further into the tournament, plenty was proved on the field.

Donovan removed the tag of not stepping up on the national stage and I’m pretty sure the nickname "Landycakes" will no longer have the same meaning.

2010 could very well be the year that the U.S. leaves a permanent mark on the world’s game and not just as silly Americans.





FIFA World Cup 2010: Knockout Kicks—Who Makes The “Elite Eight”? Part One

June 25th, 2010

The 2010 FIFA World Cup has created many surprises in the First round of the tournament.  Most notably, both finalists of 2010, Italy and France, have fallen like a house of cards in groups that were very winnable.  Still, the Round of 16 is generally the moment where the "better" sides end up progressing and moving towards the point of glory.  Who is in prime position to win each match up?


Uruguay vs. South Korea

Uruguay's ascension towards the Round of 16 is of surprise to no one because of their disciplined defensive style and two superstars up front in Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez.  However, few would have bet them actually winning the group including France and Mexico and setting themselves up in this prime position against a seemingly weak South Korea team.

Except that this Asian powerhouse has shown to be a tough nut to crack, defeating a Greek side and holding Nigeria to a draw to send them through to the knockout stages.  Furthermore, their attacking style has arguably made them the most entertaining group to watch, as Manchester United's Park Ji-Sung has shown to be the perfect orchestrator in their side.

While the heart of a soccer fan would like South Korea to win, because they do play a very attacking-oriented style, they simply are outclassed against a tough Uruguay defense.  And with the striking partnership up front, I feel that this run for South Korea is over in 2010.

Final Result: Uruguay 2 South Korea 0


United States of America vs. Ghana

As a fan of the United States, I love the style the Americans played at.  In my precursor to the World Cup I warned fans that the group was weak, because we were in it and not the other way around.  Well this weak group is now won thanks in large part to the heroics of now soon-to-be rich Landon Donovan and certainly not the officiating.  The talent of the United States is undeniable in the midfield with Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, supporting Donovan, all contributing the goals for the American team.

Ghana have restored African blushes at the World Cup, being the only African team to advance to the knockout round.  Certainly, the crowd will be behind the Ghanaians in hopes of a deep run into the tournament for at least one member of the Confederation.  Asamoah Gyan has scored two goals from the spot, meaning this team know how to take advantage of opportunities given to them.

In the end, Ghana's lack of Michael Essien and a weakened Sulley Muntari give the United States a major edge in this game.  Ghana have played bright with their attacking style, however both goals have come from penalty kicks.  The United States have also played very well in this tournament so far, rebounding from early defensive lapses to put on some entertaining displays even for a neutral fan.  And this all without one of their strikers actually scoring a goal.  I think this streak ends this game and the United States roll on, much to the chagrin of the African continent.

Final Result: United States 3 Ghana 0


Argentina vs. Mexico

Arguably, no team has played better in South Africa than the squad from Argentina.  While scoring no goals, Lionel Messi has had a sublime string of performances, setting up virtually every goal for his side in each game.  They tore through their group, getting all nine points and dispatching teams with seven goals while only allowing one on a defensive lapse.

Mexico came into this tournament as a cusp team with great offensive talent, but in a group where Uruguay and France looked better on paper.  No more is Jared "The Desert Fox" Borgetti in front to head away crosses so Mexico would have to turn to its young trio of Dos Santos, Hernandez, and Carlos Vela.  What this trio has lacked in experience is made up for in talent, as the Mexican counterattack has shown to be one of the best in the tournament, and more than two goals should have been scored from this Mexican side.

This matchup is extremely entertaining on paper, as both countries have reputations for being "glass cannons" (strong on attack, but very weak defensively).  Every year there is one team that becomes everyone's favorite because of how they begin the tournament and then they fizzle out like a whimper in the knockout stages because they run into a team better tested.  Against what may be conventional wisdom, I think Mexico have what it takes to defend against the Argentinian attack, whereas Argentina have not yet played a difficult side.  Also, don't forget that it took one of the best goals in World Cup History to defeat the Mexicans in 2006 (pictured).  I believe that a major revenge factor is put in play here as Mexico will work for retribution of that moment in Germany.  Maradona will be wishing he brought along defenders Cambiasso and Zanetti because he will find difficulty controlling the forwards of "El Tri."

Final Result: Mexico 2 Argentina 1 (a.e.t)


Germany vs. England

Germany come into this match up after showing mixed results.  After a four-nil demolition of an old Australian side, Germany were outmanned by a strong Serbian defense and a referee who I'm sure won't be welcome in Berlin or Munich anytime soon.  Still, thanks to a wonderful strike by rising star Mesut Ozil against Ghana, the Germans won their difficult group and now find themselves with their striker Miroslav Klose back in a matchup against their European rivals.

Unlike Germany, who have seen more successes than failures, England has certainly not had the best experience in South Africa.  The parts are certainly bigger than the whole, with Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, and especially Frank Lampard showing shells of their talent.  Still, in the end they progressed as imagined and would have won the group had it not been for the heroics of Landon Donovan.  Furthermore, England have only conceded one goal and that was no thanks to goalkeeper Robert Green.

Germany came into this World Cup with flaws, and England did not.  However, the two have virtually switched fortunes and this seems to be a German win.  However, England simply has more talent, and their defense has still been stout even without Rio Ferdinand in the back line.  The goalkeeper howler came early, and I think the Germans are more worried about this matchup than England is.  England have the better midfield and can control this game, making this is a disappointing exit for the young German side.

Final Result: England 1 Germany 0

After the final results tomorrow, I will preview the other four games of the World Cup, including a potential upset from rising star in Keusuke Honda and his Japanese side, and a potential whooping of Slovakia.  Let's all hope I was wrong and that a second African team makes it, in the Ivory Coast, because that matchup possibility with Spain would be very interesting.

FIFA World Cup 2010: This Isn’t Just a World Cup, It’s a War

June 25th, 2010

Never on the field of human conflict has so much football been played by so few, for so many. Isn’t that what England’s veteran central defender Winston Churchill said 70 years ago? It’s been a curious global conflagration this.

Without wishing to irk the historians, France surrendered early and a new regime will take over the wreckage. Italy changed ends a few times, and then threw up their hands too. Brave England, weary and dispirited, bravely trudged on. And then the high-spirited Americans appeared at the last minute to grab the glory.

I hope there’s no confusion. It’s the absorbing, unpredictable World Cup we’re talking about. Right here in South Africa, where the disenfranchised majority desperately volunteer to back England, the Limeys are under siege, and the Afrikaners may be quietly backing the Germans.

Now we await the big England showdown against the old foe, a long way from Tipperary. And the Japanese are lurking dangerously. The Swiss are in neutral for the time being, the Spanish are recovering from their earlier conflict, and the South Americans appear largely unaffected by it all. Poor old Africa appears to have been utterly let down by years of colonial dominance. European superpowers have drained their resources. Ghana are the first nation to claim freedom—and the last. But I’m going too far. Don’t mention the war, as the striking John Cleese once said.

"Lest we forget, France really did surrender here. They laid down their arms and left with one solitary point from a boring display against the Uruguayans in Cape Town. A massive government inquiry is ongoing, Laurent Blanc now takes over the reins while Raymond Domenech falls on his sword, assisted by the hands-some major figure, Thierry Henry."

Four years ago Les Bleus reached the final. Twelve years ago they ruled the world. But in South Africa the French Resistance was about as laughable as the British comedy ‘Allo ‘Allo.

The Italians fared little better. They conquered the globe four years ago and forgot to conscript youngsters to replace those war-weary veterans. Generally, Marcello Lippi may have to resign his commission. When the big guns of Slovakia were turned on them, the Azzuri submitted 3-2 despite a few late shots. Like France, they finished bottom of their group and retreat in disgrace.

England, after a terrible start—that 0-0 draw against Algeria might have been our Dunkirk, we were all at sea—showed the Blitz spirit to see off mighty Slovenia 1-0 with the shout of “who goes there friend or Defoe?”

And just when it looked like those brave troops had Group C at their mercy, along comes Landon Donovan with that late goal against Algeria, in Pretoria, to put the United States on top. Yankee dandies doodled, but they triumphed in the end with an ex-President urging them on.

Which of course leaves Her Majesty’s finest to take on the Germans. Alone. In Bloemfontein. On Sunday. Now I remember the capital of the Free State being a bit of a no-man’s land on the Sabbath. No drinking, no sport, just church. Perhaps things have changed. I doubt it. If there’s a corner of a foreign field that isn’t forever England, it’s Bloem.

The USA have the easy option, what with all their resources and plentiful rations of good fortune. They play sole African survivors Ghana in Phokeng, just down the road from England’s Royal Bafokeng Sports Campus base. The FA’s World Cup Final Solution—formulated long before the World Cup draw on December 4—has gone awry.

And all the while the South Americans are progressing on several fronts. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Chile sit proudly atop their groups and look capable of changing the course of global events. They haven’t endured a long, hard winter like the Europeans. They’re fresh, few casualties... and they’re taking no prisoners. All five of the CONMEBOL qualifiers.

Mexico have sneaked in too, but they’re not really in the same category. Portugal should join them, they’re the neutral choice. But only if they drive the Brazilians nuts in Durban.

And the sly Dutch appear to be lurking with intent. Three games, nine points after last night’s meaningless 2-1 victory over doomed Cameroon in Cape Town. Arsenal’s Robin van Persie dropped the bombshell just before halftime, after an explosive interchange with Liverpool’s Dirk Kuyt.

Then Rafael van der Vaart put his hands up—to block Geremi's free-kick. Samuel Eto'o stuck away the penalty to equalise.

Then we had the standing ovation for the arrival of Bayern Munich’s Aarjen Robben, back after a hamstring injury. Almost immediately he hit a post, and Milan’s Klaas-Jan Huntelaar followed up to score the winner. Orange juice all round. But nobody’s really talking about the lowlanders. We are otherwise occupied.

With Japan for instance. They’re supposed to be a distant Asian power. Like South Korea. They play a different game; quick, neat, but ineffective. Yet here they are, on the brink of threatening the traditional European powers. We may have underestimated the Orientals (which is not to suggest an allegiance with Leyton Orient, no way). The Americans may be left to deal with this particular threat.

Their 3-1 triumph at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace last night would please any Emperor. Keisuke Honda produced the first genuine free-kick strike with the ballooning Jabulani ball to put Denmark on the back foot from 30 yards after 27 minutes. Yasuhito Endo did much the same 13 minutes later and by halftime it was 2-0.

Denmark hit the bar in the second half as they finally realised they were on their way out, but by then they were bacon. Well done. An 83rd minute penalty—scored on the rebound by former Newcastle veteran Jon Dahl Tomasson, his first goal in 13 games—gave the Danes hope but it was a phoney war; up popped Shinji Okazaki to produce coup de grace in the dying moments.

Australia? New Zealand? They fought so hard, sacrificed so much... but went home without recognition. Like a couple of the unpredictable Balkan states, Greece, Serbia, and Slovenia. Cannon fodder. Slovakia alone have defied the odds, but they should be kept in Czech.

It’s all fitting in to an historical pattern this World Cup. And the good news? History suggests England will rise up after those torrid opening skirmishes to conquer those efficient Germans.

Could we call that VE day? Oh, what a lovely war!


Neal Collins is not a war historian. He is a sports journalist touring South Africa to promote his first novel, A GAME APART, currently No. 67 on Amazon’s African best-sellers list, just ahead of “Truth and Lies: Stories from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa”. For more information, see Or ask your local book shop to order one.

To see Neal talk at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown on July 4, go to

2010 FIFA World Cup: The More the Merrier on the USA Bandwagon!

June 25th, 2010

We are in the midst of an exciting World Cup. France and Italy have already been eliminated, and the United States national team is performing much better than expected.

With the odds (and the refs) seemingly against the US team, our players have fought hard and have made it to the Round of 16. We cannot help getting caught up in the overwhelming sense of patriotism resulting from Landon Donovan’s last-minute goal against Algeria, but we must admit that most of us paid little attention to soccer before this summer’s World Cup.

Many die-hard soccer fans reside here in the U-S-of-A, but let’s face it: Our national sport includes more padding than just shin-guards, and our football players use their hands.

Defending our new-found passion for soccer to the people who have always loved the sport is difficult because, up until the beginning of the Cup, most of us named David Beckham as our favorite soccer player. In Columbus, the Buckeyes are king, and many think that the Crew is a rowing team.

Even though the majority of us know very little about soccer, we still rally behind our national team as they continue to impress us in South Africa. We have the best of intentions, but the truth is we are a nation of “bandwagon” fans.

But it’s ok!

There will be plenty of time to feel guilty about our lack of soccer knowledge if we find ourselves neglecting the sport when the World Cup is over.

As of right now, the sense of pride and unity we feel is just what the doctor ordered, given the current state of our nation. While we may be struggling with the economy, immigration, and the current crisis in the Gulf of Mexico, the look of sheer euphoria on the faces of our boys in white made us remember why we love this country.

So, bandwagon fans: There is no need to feel ashamed. Wear your Red, White, and Blue with pride. Our team may be half a world away, but the American people are closer than ever.

2010 NHL Mock Draft: BT and Bass, Picks 24-30

June 25th, 2010

So the NHL tried to thwart Alan and I yet again.

On Tuesday when we posted picks 1-8 and 8-15, the Boston Bruins immediately swung that trade the saw the 15th overall pick change hands. Now, the day before we're set to finish this up, Chicago snaps up the 24th pick from Atlanta, who snuck it out from under New Jersey.

Instead of changing our entire draft order (Because: A) I have no idea where Bass is and B) There'll be at least two more first rounders changing hands before tomorrow night is through—and I'll gamble on it because I'll be in a Casino), I will now show you who I had Atlanta taking, and reason with you as to why it makes sense for Chicago to take the same guy.

Oh yeah. Picks 15-23 are up too.


24. Atlanta Thrashers (from New Jersey)
Jonathon Merril, D, USNDP

He's a smart, heads-up defenseman. Atlanta already has offensive guys (Bogosian and Enstrom) and a good defensive guy in Hainsey, so a good thinker would be a nice addition.

Why Chicago will STILL take Merril: The Blackhawks replaced what they lost at the NHL level on the wings with Crabb and Morin and have a solid core down the middle of the ice. They have enough offense on the back-end with Keith and Campbell (Even if he gets moved, a puck-mover will still take his spot), so Merril fits. Either that, or they'll take the guy they're selecting at number 30 in this spot, which seems very likely.

25. Vancouver Canucks
Jarred Tinordi, D, US-18 (USHL)

Standing at 6-foot-6, Tinordi has shored up his game playing with the US developmental program in the United States League. The pick is a bit off the board, so don't be surprised if Vancouver trades down. But there is no denying the Canucks' defensive need and Tinordi's solid defensive game.

26. Washington Capitals
Calvin Pickard, G, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

Pickard is used to not getting any help, which should really bode well for him in Washington's offense-first system. Despite facing a ton of shots, the numbers are still good. It's also good insurance if Varlamov doesn't pan out or changes the spelling of his name 'Sieve.'

27. Montreal Canadiens
Tyler Toffoli, C, Ottawa 67s (OHL)

Scoring 115 points in his Ontario League career, Toffoli could help jolt a Montreal offense that seemed to struggle against teams in the playoffs and throughout the season. Toffoli was ranked third in the OHL in points per game.

28. San Jose Sharks
Patrik Nemeth, D, Aik Jr (SWE)

San Jose will be filling the hole left by Rob Blake's retirement this year, but their number one (Dan Boyle) is getting up there in years too. Given some more time over in Europe and then a few years in the AHL, Nemeth should fit right in with the Sharks when his time comes.

29. Anaheim Ducks (from Philadelphia)
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, Chelyabinsk (KHL)

Kuznetsov had a solid year in arguably the second best league in the world, for a team that finished low in the standings. The Ducks could use the offensive depth that Kuznetsov could provide in the future - especially with the potential retirement of Teemu Selanne.

30. Chicago Blackhawks
Jack Campbell, G, USNDP

A bit of a surprise given the recent rise of Antti Niemi in the Stanley Cup finals, and the immobile Christobal Huet contract, but the 'Hawks have no depth at goaltender in the system. Campbell can have his two years in Windsor as development, which will have him coming up just as Huet's contract ends.

Alan and BT both write for—The Face of the Game! Be sure to follow BT on Twitter @BryanThiel_88.

eXTReMe Tracker