The World's Blog: Day 8

Klose so far away, C is for Crazy and that may be good enough for USA, England or Algeria - but not all three. Thank goodness it's Friday on Day 8 of the World Cup.

Serbia 1, Germany 0

The sweet taste of victory. The one I’ve been telling everyone we would have since the whole draw came out and everyone just laughed in my face.

Welcome to heaven, welcome to Serbia.

As everyone seemed to be reminding me, Germany got off to a flying start against the Australians while the Serbs fell to a late Ghana penalty. But today fortunes were reversed.

Our referee was certainly fond of getting his cards out of his pocket for both sides as rather soft challenges were instantly rewarded with a flash of yellow and the player’s name in the book. But it was German striker Klose who lost his head first and was sent off in the 37th minute after collecting two yellows. German fans may whine but why anyone dives in from behind when they are already on a yellow card is anyone’s guess. And let’s be fair, we didn’t care. Suddenly, everything looked possible. And so it proved.

Within 2 minutes of Klose’s dismissal and with the Germans still reeling Serbia were ahead. The excellent Krasic had beaten his marker, sent a brilliant in a brilliant cross for Zigic to head down and Jovanovic to power into the net. The goal was beautiful, the celebrations possibly more so. Jovanovic leapt over some advertising hoardings chased by his ecstatic teammates, I was soaked by beer as someone behind me in the bar got just as excited. Serbia had arrived in the World Cup.

The belief was with us. It was a defensive second half as the team clung onto their lead so bravely established. They didn’t try anything fancy and they only had one aim: to prevent a German goal. How we cheered this aim!

Then we got the sign from above that this was meant to be, written in the stars and God was on our side. First Germany had nearly scored as Khedira whacked a powerful shot  with Stojkovic well-beaten but Serbia survived thanks to the wonders of the crossbar. Then the excellent, reliable, unstoppable Nemanja Vidic did an inexplicable Superman impression in the box. Flinging himself at the ball with his arms outstretched it hit his hand and the penalty was given.

Worlds threatened to collapse. But God stepped up. In the form of Stojkovic, the nation’s favourite goalkeeper. Punching away Podolski’s penalty he kept dreams and hopes alive as we surged on towards the final whistle. The referee blew for time and more beer descended on ecstatic heads.

The world screamed about a shock German defeat. I screamed as I remembered just what a force Serbia can be. All of a sudden next week cannot come fast enough, bring on the Australians, for the Serbs are ready!

My hands shiver as I sit in front of the computer and type away. Its like déjà vu, I’ve seen this somewhere. Yes, I was during Euro 2008, after comfortably beating Poland in the first game we got outplayed by Croatia in the next, losing 2-1.  Which forced us into a must-win game 3.

A very similar situation in this World Cup, I wouldn’t say we were outplayed by Serbia but we sure did not have a clue on how to break down their defense. It was solid and rigid as ever. Germany looked like a side that had just come out of a miserable defeat rather than a fantastic win in the first game. There was hardly any coordination, ball movement was slow, the players looked disinterested and tired and you know its going to be a bad day if Lahm produces one horrible cross after the other and Podolski misses a penalty.

Forget about the referee, who was horrible to say the least, (sending off Miroslav Klose was very harsh and unjustified). This by no means is an excuse for our performance today. Coach Low was seen screaming and yelling from the sidelines, but what was he thinking when took off Ozil and Mueller? These were the two guys who created whatever little chances we had in this game. What was he thinking getting Cacau and Marin in as their replacements? It beats me, but then again the coach knows his team better than anyone else.

In a few hours, the media is going to write us off, many fans who jumped on the German bandwagon (post Sunday night) will be looking at other teams to cheer for, some football pundits will be ready to see a World Cup without Germany. Even the players and true supporters may feel negative, upset and fear the worst. However, no matter how bad the loss is, how difficult it is to digest, when our emotions settle and the picture becomes a lot clearer we can always take out positives from the worst possible situations. This loss has come at the 'right' time for Germany, thankfully it wasn’t during the knock out stage. But we have alot of work to do and We can still learn, we can still fight, still be confident

In Euro 2008, after losing to Croatia, we came back to beat Austria and then went all the way to the final. Can this be our wake up call? Trust in the German spirit, we are going to go far in this World Cup. I BELIEVE….AND NEVER EVER GIVE UP.

Slovenia 2, United States of America 2

What. A. Game. How to describe it? Intense, heartbreaking, ugly, beautiful, controversial, aggressive, loud, proud, amazing! This has to be the most heart racing game I have ever watched. I must admit: I am a USA fan. But I deeply admired the passion and skill that Slovenia brought today. They looked smooth, precise and calm. They owned the first half. Rarely giving up possession, and silencing the critics. Like I said, they perform on the big stage, against the big opponents. With a win, they could have taken the group. A loss would mean a fight to the finish. A tie makes everything that much more confusing, and dependable on the final game in which they face the giants of the group, England.

You know it’s going to be intense when the first foul is drawn just 30 seconds into the game. The first half was Slovenia, Slovenia, and Slovenia. They came out attacking, and were rewarded just 13 minutes into the game with a BEAUTIFUL shot by Valter Birsa from nearly 25 yards out. Howard could do nothing but stand there as the shot curled into the side of the goal. The USA looked surprised, “what’s going on?" I couldn’t help but say.  Slovenia had taken initiative and came out on an all-out attacking style of play. It didn’t take long for us to completely deflate the Americans hopes. In the 42nd minute a breakaway tuned into a nightmare for the US defenders, and another goal was slipped in by Zlatan Ljubijankic. The USA were shocked, and Slovenia must have felt as though they were on top of the world.

Whatever Bob Sr. said to those guys in the locker room at halftime, it must have worked. The USA came out an entirely different team. They were smooth, quick, and not hesitating to attack. Slovenia on the other hand looked cocky and sloppy. It didn’t take long for the changes to pay off. Donovan used his massive speed to burst down the line and avoid a sliding Slovenian to go one on one with Handanovic. Boom, the USA were back in it. What came next was heart and determination from the Americans. They proved that they deserve this game, and Bradley Jr. proved so in the 82nd minute. Adrenaline rushing, I could almost see the stadium stand still and almost simultaneously erupt in cheer.

I think I can also speak for everyone in saying that the officiating was horrid. It almost seemed as though the ref enjoyed seeing the color yellow, and ruining perfect opportunities for them as well. He called back a third goal for the US on a completely baffling call. I honestly have no idea where it came from.

What a game. Certainly one that will be remembered. Slovenia have been underestimated for the last time. I had a feeling when I saw them dominate, “they can win it all” I thought to myself.

David Martin
Username: dvmartin

The United States, with their usual 90 minutes of tenacity, managed to capture a heart-pounding tie against the underdog referee side.  The Stars and Stripes opened the first half like an English beer: lukewarm and flat.  The referees, wearing the yellow of their national flag, had little to do but watch as Uncle Sam flung the dirt of his own grave over his tired shoulder.

Bob Bradley no doubt issued an emotional halftime speech worthy of a Clint Eastwood film, because the U.S. erupted through the second-half gates.  Donavan nailed a frozen rope from 89 degrees and Bradley Jr. tied it up with plenty of time for drama.  But one has to give credit to the refereeing defense.  Despite playing with fewer than half as many men as the U.S., the referee side was stout.  No one expected them to win, but the yellows will be happy to escape having held the U.S. to only one point.  They were all over the pitch today, citing imaginary hand-balls here, ignoring fouls there.  We even watched them successfully execute the double "no goal/no penalty" combination call they had worked on so hard all week.  Really a stunning defensive game for the referees.

In all seriousness, the men with whistles had a rough night of it and probably cost the U.S. two points.  Human error, however, is part of the game.  Although we must expect the highest level of performance from the law enforcement, we must also live with the outcome and respect the difficulty of their task.  I chuckled to watch Alexi Lalas after the game, as he dropped all pretense of being an objective broadcaster and was furious over the poor calls on the field.  I hope the situation is handled in the same way the Jim Joyce scandal was resolved in the MLB: with class and mutual respect.

On a more positive note, as an American fan in the heart of Iowa, I was thrilled to sit in a packed pub filled with emotional, table-thumping die-hards.  The loud and proud crowd even cheered on the commercial in which George Washington mows down the Redcoats in his sporty new Dodge Challenger.  And who would have known so much beer could be consumed before 9:00AM?  ESPN contributor Rick Reilly recently had some scathing words about the idiosyncrasies of soccer, including its habit of ending in a draw.  Mr. Reilly must not be an avid football-goer; today was one of the most thrilling games I've watched in my short life.  

Algeria 0, England 0

After watching the exciting comeback of the US this morning I was even more excited for the Algeria/England matchup. The tie gave Algeria a much better chance of getting past the group stage.

The first 25 minutes gave me a lot of hope as to our chances of scoring a goal, Algeria came out fast and hard, really putting England on their back foot. The hustle and work rate of the Algerian team as a whole was exceptional and I was absolutely ecstatic that Karim Ziani and Nadir Belhadj finally started to get some good linkup play going down the left hand side, which would become a theme for the game.

Second half was the same story, Algeria came out strong, but lost some steam near the end, giving me quite a few scares. To be fair England really blew some good opportunities but I am going to chalk that up to the pressure the Algerians were constantly putting on them up top and in the back.

I hope the US continues to look at Algeria as a surefire win or else they are in for one heck of a surprise.

Desert foxes? More like Desert workhorses! Vive Les Fennecs!

'Rooney kidnapping uncovered'

While researching for the blog this writer has uncovered a cunning and evil plot to not only scupper the three lions chances of jules rimet glory but steal away their chances of hosting the 2018 world cup finals.

Information passed on to this blogger from inside the England camp has revealed the shocking revalation that highly trained ninjas from the emerging nation of Narnia have kidnapped Englands star striker Wayne Rooney and have told F.A. officials he will be held until England withdraw their bid to host the 2018 tournament and back the Narnia bid.

The insider continued that in order to prevent riots and public panic they have replaced 'our wayne' with professional lookalike Walt Mitty. However as hard as Walt tries his obvious lack of ability and failure to control the ball is evident.

His absence has rubbed off on the other players who are petrified something will happen to him and the pains he may be enduring and this is showing through their poor play.

After friday nights disappointing draw with Algeria England officials say they hope that secret negotiations or military action can secure the release of the real Rooney and his return can lift the England teams spirits for wednesdays must win game against Slovenia and save the nation from a 4 year depression.

Not exactly a match review but sums up the way we feel about how ordinary England have looked so far in this tournaments. Well played Algeria, a solid organised performance.

Still it could be worse, we could be France.