The World's Blog: Day 13

The USA left Group C seeing stars as Donovan striped the game winner and the round of 16 starts to take shape.

 

USA 1, Algeria 0


David Martin
Username: dvmartin

When Bill Clinton left office, our country sat on a seventy-billion dollar budget surplus, we were not embroiled in two wars, and the worst we had to fear from our President was his habit of blowing his vuvuzela on office time.  Today he was on hand to watch in white-knuckled suspense as Team America swashbuckled for their World Cup lives in ninety minutes of scoreless soccer.

Gracias.

After eleven seconds of swirling chaos, that little white ball everyone is complaining about sat open about six to eight yards from goal.  And for Landon Donovan, time seemed to stand still. 

So it is that Bill Clinton has led the U.S. through another dark storm.  After England scored what would be their winning goal, the Yanks were on the ropes and unable to pierce Algeria’s plate-mail defense.  Shots flew wide, shots hit posts, shots even went right into the goal, but still the U.S. could not get the single score they needed until the 91st minute.   

Now I would hate to turn this into recurring complaint, but how many fouls must be ignored, how many goals must be confusingly disallowed, how much blood must course down Clint Dempsey’s face before we can get the calls that we deserve?  At least this time we knew why the goal was withheld, whatever the injustice of it.  If the U.S. would not have won this game, it would have been a long, bitter four years ahead.

What was disaster turned into jubilation.  This may be what’s most fun about being a U.S. supporter: it’s an uphill battle, it’s a grueling slog, it’s suffocating and exhausting.  In fact, I don’t know what is more tiring – watching a U.S. soccer match or playing a Wimbledon tennis match for ten hours.  Maybe we’ll never know.  Suffice to say that if John Isner gets back to his hotel tonight and watches the replay of this exhilarating victory, he will certainly die.

Heartbreak. Although I am glad to not see both Algeria and USA get knocked out it does not change the fact that I still feel as though I was punched in the stomach.

After a fantastic start and first half where I saw many things to get me excited about Algerias chances in this game, a poor second half showing sunk my hope just like the Titanic.

For me the Algerians showed they are a team that is not to be taken lightly,especially players like Belhadj, Bougherra, Yebda, Ziani and the surprise for me, M'Bolhi.

I will finish my last blog for The Desert Foxes with praise for their work effort, organized,disciplined,stand strong defense, and their heart.To be fair to the US they had quite a few scoring chances and deserved the goal to send them through.

I have only to look forward to the World Cup in 2014 and hope we can improve and come out fighting.

As always, Vive Les Fennecs!!!

 

England 1, Slovenia 0

For the last five days the UK media have absolutely slaughtered the England team. Fabio Capello has been called incompetent and John Terry forced to apologise after the press vilified him for answering truthfully questions the press wanted him to answer. I really do wonder if the English press would be happier if we lose?

Come wednesday morning however the UK public seemed to feel different, the suns been shining in Nottingham and come lunchtime the beer gardens were packed out. Across the country people have been sneaking out of work, pulling sickies or finishing early in anticipation of Englands biggest game in four years.

After two less than average performances hopes of a much improved show were high, three changes to the line up with Defoe, Upson and Milner returning but still no place for the much vaunted Joe Cole whose reputation gets better with each appearance on the bench. Come kick off Port Elizabeth may as well have been Wembley as 30,000 England fans made up the majority of the crowd. Only a win would be good enough to satisfy the demands of an expectant nation and after a steady start Jermaine Defoe volleyed in a James Milner centre.

Pubs and BBQ's around the country exploded with relief and joy. 1-0 to England and all the previous two weeks tension seemed to ease as England then set about playing some of the best football they have played in the last six months. Steven Gerrard and Ashley Cole both linked up well down the left hand side to create chances. John Terry and Matt Upson both put in solid displays and Lampard and Barry without looking spectacular both worked hard to confirm the victory and the 3 points needed to qualify for the final 16. Even Wayne Rooney showed glimpses of being the real Wayne Rooney.

A big shout out to the Slovenian goalkeeper Handanovic who had an exceptional game and ddnt deserve to be knocked out of thr tournament. Unfortunately events in Loftus Versfeld conspired against the Slovenians to leave the USA as group winners meaning a last 16 match up against traditional rivals and penalty kick supremos Gernany. Yes England, Yes Fabio, Yes Defoe, Yes still being in the World Cup !!!!

We may be gone, but not without leaving an impression on the footballing world. We fought hard, and proved that we deserved to be here on this stage, and through wins, ties, and losses we showed heart and passion. I’m sure that the future holds more opportunities for Slovenia, and we’ll keep coming back.

Today’s game was more than intense. We knew that we had a chance; all we had to do was hold our own against England. And, for the most part, we did. It was one mistake in the 22’ that lead to our demise. A beautiful display of touches by England brought in a cross that saw Defoe sneak in behind our defense and volley in a shot through Handanovic. I hate to say it, but England dominated the first half. They were constantly pressuring our defense and we couldn’t seem to hold an attack for more than 30 seconds. However, we continued to stand strong and kept any threats away from the net.

The second half was much better. We began to string together more passes, and had several shots on goal. Valter Birsa continued to pepper the goal with his amazing left footed curling shots. As I sat with the USA game on TV, and the Slovenia game on my computer, I was nervously glancing back and forth. I knew that if it were to end like this, a 1-0 loss, we would depend on the result of the USA. I wanted my home country, USA, to win so desperately, and I was pulling for a Slovenian goal to send my two favorite teams through to the final 16. Alas, it was not to be. The Americans pulled out an amazing goal in the 91’, just as the whistle blew to call Slovenia’s World Cup to an end.

Best of luck to USA and England, they showed that they were the strongest teams, and they deserve the spots in the next round. As for my Slovenians, it’s a premature ending, but it came not without reward. We showed the world that even a tiny nation can take down the giants. Seriously, no one I knew had Slovenia even picking up a win. Yet, we were right up there for contention until the very last minute.

 

Australia 2, Serbia 1

It was the face-off of two teams fighting their way out of their group; both reliant on the outcome of the other group D match, played simultaneously.  So I just had to set up two tv's, order some take- away, and let the drama ensue (Not that it could have topped that of the US).

Serbia started the match as the aggressor, while Aussie had the farthest to climb to qualify for the knock-out stage (you do the math).  It only took some stellar keeping and some lucky breaks to keep the Socceroos level in the match through the first half.

They must have known when the Germans had scored and eliminated one possibility to advance.  Now they would need to make up the 4 goal differential with Ghana or hope for Germany to pour it on.  They didn't leave it up to chance, completely going after the Serbs throughout the second half.  Cahill got them on the board first in the 

69' with a header blasted past the keeper who knew nothing about it.  

Then in the 73', Holman, who was subed on just minutes before, blasts a low driver from 25 out to give a glimmer of hope for the Aussies to advance.

It was in reach, the improbable, the Shockeroos make one of the greatest come backs to qualify out of a group stage. However, they still needed 2 more goals, or Ghana to come back and win, or Germany to score some more.

The Aussies' hopes were dashed a little when Serbia decided they would like to try and advance, and scored an 84' goal. From that point on it turned into a back-and-forth, ala Wimbeldon, with each team creating dangerous chance after dangerous chance.

At the end of the day the Socceroos pull off the win, but not the miracle.  You wonder how it could have been different for the boys from down under if they didn't have to play a man down for over a third of their tournament. I'll I can say is, bugger.

The final whistle of a Serbia game, and a familiar refrain.

“Will someone please teach Pantelic the offside rule?”

Serbia were one goal away from the second round, and they had the ball nestled in the Australia net. Sadly, Pantelic had run too early and the goal was ruled offside. Correctly, so I don’t even have the ability to moan about the refereeing.

All through this competition Serbia have tried to send themselves home. Against Ghana they had a man sent off and conceded a penalty for handball.  Having taken the lead against the mighty opposition of Germany...they conceded a penalty for handball, which Stojkovic then saved to preserve the points.

Against Australia today, they looked fantastic in the first half. The movement was good, the passes crisp and they created real chances, two of which should have hit the back of the net. Krasic inexplicably shot over after collecting a perfect pass from Kuzmanovic and rounding Mark Schwarzer, while the Australian goalkeeper made a fantastic one-armed save from Branislav Ivanovic  at close range.

But in the second period they were left devastated by their missed opportunities as Australia emerged a revitalised force and scored twice, first through a Cahill header and then through a long-distance Brett Holman shot. Hopes faded on the sidelines, but the team on the pitch went forward in search of goals. And get one they did as Tosic’s shot was fumbled and good old Pantelic was the first to react and bundle it into the back of the net. And suddenly, it was all back on. One more goal would see Serbia advance ahead of Ghana who were losing to Germany. Pantelic had one ruled out for offside and should have had another go the same way, but for the fact he inexplicably missed from very close range anyway.

If destiny was on our side against the Germans when the penalty was saved, here the same did not apply. Late on from a Nemanja Vidic header the ball hit Tim Cahill’s arm in the Australian box. There were shrieks for a penalty, a penalty that would have represented salvation. But it was not to be.

And Serbia came to the end of the road. It’s been an emotional rollercoaster as usual following my beloved team. Today may be a low, but I will always have the sweet, sweet memories of beating Germany. 

And who knows? Maybe next time...

 

Germany 1, Ghana 0

A must win game for Germany, after a dissapointing loss to Serbia. As I sat on one of the FIFA designated trains taking fans to the stadium, I couldn't help but think about the progress of the England and USA games respectively. Should Germany win who could we face in the next round?

As we approached the stadium I saw thousands of German fans making their way to the stands. There was nervousness in the air. We had to win this one somehow and we knew Ghana are no pushovers. 

In front a 90,000 capacity crowd that had packed soccer city, I was pleased to see the changes made by the coach. Boateng coming in for Badstuber who looked very slow and clueless in game 2 and would probably have  had a hard time against the fast and physical Ghanian forwards.

It was a slow game to start with, Germany seemed cautious in the first half hr, rightly so as going a goal behind would have spelled doom and made the task all the more difficult. However, once the team was settled chances came thick and fast. Ozil had the best chance of the first half but instead of chipping it above the keeper he hit the ball straight at him. 

As time went by, you could feel the uneasiness amongst the German fans, we have to score! We need to score! We have had so many chances but why can't we find the back of the net?Finally after more than half the game gone, Ozil smashed the ball from about 18 yards out past the goal keeper and into the net. Time to celebrate, finally our first goal since game one. Who knew it would have been this hard,  but does anyone care, we are in the knovkout stage.

The game was far from over though, Ghana kept pressing for any equalizer that never came. News had arrived that the socceroos were on the brink of a famous win over the Serbs (one of the dark horses of the tournament). 

The final 10 mins were just a formality, Ghana knew they were through as well.

That win has now set up the mother of all games against out arch rivals. A mouth watering contest, for whichwe need to be ready and play like we did in our first game. We may have a good record versus England in big tournaments but we can't expect a win based on history. They are a good team with world class players, but we are better, more organized with alot more team spirit. There is no holding back now. It's time to go all out, I cannot wait for sunday. 

 

To be perfectly honest my mind wasn't really on the Ghana game last night. Sure the outcome had a lot to do with who would finish first and second in the group, but my mind was fully on the US win!

But after a couple hours of celebration I finally forced myself to sit down at a restaurant just outside of Loftus stadium and watch the game. I watched as the Ghana national team had several great shot attempts blocked at the final second by an outstretched Lahm boot or as the final touch was just strong enough to reach the keeper before a solid shoot could be put on target. The more the game advanced the less I could see Ghana ending the game without at least one goal. And when Mezut's goal flew pass the keeper, it was like the air was taken out of that restaurant. At that moment it seemed like Africa's last chance at advancing had just missed their opportunity.

It wasn't until the Serbia score came onto the screen that everyone around realized that by the smallest of margins Ghana was threw.And this blogger would have another post to write, this time from Rustenburg.

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