The World's Blog: Day 2
Posted by: World Blogger
In a much anticipated match between England and the USA, no one prevailed. But finally, after many draws, there was a winner in this year's World Cup action.
Korea Republic 2, Greece 0
I couldn’t believe my eyes at 4 in the morning. It was an early game and an early goal by Lee Jung-Soo. Who would have thought that a Korean defender would score the first game of the match against 6’ 3” Greek defenders from a free kick? Not me for sure. Before I watched the game, I predicted that it would be a boring game and a tie. Well, I was wrong.
Koreans were strong and confident, and Lee Chung-Yong and Park Ji-Sung were dominant on the pitch.
Is it too early to expect Koreans advancing to the knock out stage? They already have shown the world what they are capable of. They had been calm throughout the game, played as a team and scored goals, and they got the great result. It’s a big if and maybe. If they play well against Argentina and defeat the super eagles, they might be able to repeat their 2002 glory. With that being said, after watching Mexico, France, Argentina, and England unable to score goals, I was quite disappointed, and to be honest and fair to say, South Korea played the best game by far among the countries played yesterday and today.
Lastly, without a doubt, Jung-Woo Kim was the man of the match. He had been solid in the middle and distributed the balls to the forward well.
Although the game between Greece and South Korea began with a few hopeful chances for the men in the blue jerseys, most notably a corner kick opportunity that should have been scored by Karagounis, any hopes of glory were quickly extinguished after Lee Jung Soo of South Korea volleyed a deflected header easily into a wide open goal in the sixth minute.
For the rest of the game, the South Koreans looked inspired and played beautiful creative soccer while we simply drove long ball after long ball into the box hoping to connect with a header. We looked sluggish, and the Koreans were quick to counter at every opportunity. Greece didn’t threaten again until the 69th minute with our first shot on goal, a header, and then a lighting volley by Gekas that was athletically tipped over the bar in a punch save. The final score was 2-0, but in truth, it could have been much worse. Short of unleashing the Kraken, nothing was going to stop South Korea today. I have never started drinking at four o’clock in the morning before, but I suppose there are firsts for everything... oh yeah, except a Greek win in a World Cup.
Argentina 1, Nigeria 0
I felt like I had been walking for hours. The strip of carpet I had worn down was evidence of my pacing. My eyes locked on the TV, body only pausing to take in a build up, leading to an eventual shot on goal or untimely loss of possession. It had been five minutes since kick off- but time seemed to stall, slow down as each agonizing possession came and went. My eyes burned from the light of the television- it was early, almost too early for a Saturday, but I had been waiting 1,443 days since Argentina's last World Cup match, and today another quest for a title began in Johannesburg, and it wouldn't take long to ease the worries of Argentinian fans.
At the 5:38 mark in the first half, Juan Sebastián Verón set the ball down to take a corner, and started a chain reaction felt by millions of fans cheering on La Albiceleste. Moments before, Lionel Messi, known to some as the greatest living soccer player, and perhaps the best ever, nearly struck first but his left footed shot was pushed over the cross bar. Seconds later the ball left the head of Gabriel Heinze and deflected off a Nigerian defender in to the back of the net. The weight of a quarter-finals loss to Germany in 2006, controversial decisions on and off the field by an Argentine hero, Diego Maradona, and disappointingly qualifying in the fourth and final spot from the South American group- lifted. In an instant, all had been forgotten, and Argentina were 84 minutes away from three valuable points they would eventually receive.
To describe the goal in a word: relief. In an emotion: jubilation. I yipped, yelped, clapped, and nearly pulled a muscle jumping over the couch, but the emotion, passion, and fervor coursing through my body only confirmed my belief that the World Cup is the greatest sporting event known to man. While the opening game of the FIFA World Cup doesn't decide a team's fate for the remainder of the tournament, it sure felt otherwise. Four years of waiting, pining for a chance to get back on the field and capture the greatest prize sport has to offer, and all it took was six minutes, from the first touch by Verón to the finish by Heinze, and a nation of people were lifted to distant, yet familiar heights. It's been twenty years since Argentina last reached the World Cup final, but if today is any indication, timely finishes, an unyielding defense, and a vexatious super star named Messi may just have what it takes to capture soccer immortality.
I had hoped Nigeria would receive a boost from home fans, much like South Africa had in the opening match. No such luck as much of the stadium in Johannesburg was draped in sky blue and white. Much like the stadium, all the pre-match coverage focused on Argentina, Maradona, and Messi with barely a mention of their opponent.
The Nigerian keeper, Vincent Enyeama was a revelation. Easily the MVP for Nigeria, Enyeama made several heroic saves and was rock solid for the whole match. The only goal allowed was due to inexcusable defending, leaving a man alone in the middle of the box with no one marking. Down 1-0, and with few offensive chances, the Eagles looked anything but super during the first half.
Obafemi Martins and Peter Odemwingie were great off the bench in the second half. I wonder why they weren’t starting as they provided the only real pop in the Nigerian attack. The Super Eagles showed much better heart and grit in the second half with quite few shots that just missed and much better defending in the back. That type of improvement is encouraging, and if that trend continues, advancement is still in sight.
The best example of Nigeria’s play came from my roommate and my brother. Neither man has any allegiance to Nigeria, and both openly mock my affinity for the team. A Yakubu cross into the box in the 82nd minute, followed a difficult half volley shot, found all three of us shouting with shock as the ball sailed high. The passionate, skilled, and determined play of the Super Eagles had won over two new fans.
USA 1, England 1
United States of America
My wife and I enjoyed the match from Bali Satay, an Asian-style restaurant by day and seedy college drunk spot by night. We were joined by a table of Chinese teenagers donning French Premier League jerseys and a large contingent of Indian diners confusingly supporting the English side (not a crowd of history buffs). Needless to say, my cheers for any U.S. successes were typically drowned out by their frustrated shouts…not a U.S. fan to be found. I didn’t make any friends by celebrating when the English goalkeeper sportingly tossed the ball into his own net just to give us a fair chance.
A win would have been the most important win in U.S. soccer history. Does that make this the most important tie in our history? Not exactly. A victory might have electrified this nation, turning skeptics into scarf-waving die-hards. A tie might be seen as a rather flaccid outcome for a nation in which professional wrestling is considered a financially sustainable “sport.” Still, the U.S. have avoided the World Cup’s first-loss curse and are destined to face easier battles in their remaining group matches. Look for the U.S. to advance to the quarter-finals after a strong showing today.
Finally the moment arrives, the beers are stocked up, the big screen tv sets are in place. Pubs are packed to heaving point while the roads are empty. Its England against the USA, the three lions against uncle sam.
The game begins amid the backdrop of the ongoing battle between the England band and the vuvezelas.
In the 4th minute living rooms across england erupted..... because itvs hd coverage had gone down.(unfortunately this wouldnt be the biggest cock up of the night) Once it returned seconds later it had become apparent that for a couple of minutes 'stevie g' had become confused, thinking he was playing for liverpool strode through the star spangled defence to toe poke past Timmy to put the three lions ahead.
Credit where its due Bob Bradleys side stepped it up and had Josey Altidore not succeeded in getting his head fully out of the way of landon donovans centre it could have been on equal terms soon after.
It was level just before the half when footballing Eminem Clint Dempsey made sure goalkeeper Rob Green would join Robinson, Carson and James as the latest heel between the posts. Ironically Rob Green has an unusually red nose which maybe should have tipped Don Fabio off to the fact he's a clown.
The second half was fairly even with chances missed by Heskey and Altidore alike. With no side willing to go for it the match came to a fairly tame finish with both sides taking a point.
For England a chance to work on crossing the ball, staying onside and stopping shots that even a Sunday morning footballer would be embarrassed by.
For me the fact I can continue with the blog without having to worry about offending my American web hosts ;-p.
Next up Algeria where hopefully Rooney can get involved more, Heskey can stay onside and Rob Green can keep comfortable on the bench.
A subdued night for the England faithful, no celebratory drinks after a game that feels like a defeat.
Still after a couple of days in camp with Mr. Capello the team will be pumped and the fans will still believe.
Can we win it? Yes we can!!!!!