Facing elimination and a win-or-go-home scenario, getting banged up and red carded off the field vs. Italy, facing a red-hot Ghana squad who shocked the Czechs. This all sounds like the working of certain doom or some serious magic. Unfortunately for the Red White and Blues, it was the former. This was a hard fought game, with Ghana scoring first, but the US equalized with a nice goal from New England Rev Clint Dempsey, one of the lone stars in the US squad this World Cup. Unfortunately, as is seeming to happen a lot in this tournament, bad refereeing won the day for Ghana with a highly questionable penalty in the box for Oguchi Onyewu. This led to Stephen Appiah drilling home the penalty kick and the game winner. Fate of the US soccer team sealed. See you in South Africa?
Italian Diving Team:
The Italian diving team are at it again. In the round of 16, the upstarts of Australia, the Socceroos, are riding high. Scoring their first goals and notching their first World Cup win vs. Japan in the group stage, the Aussies are already betting with house mone after far exceeding expectations this tournament. Their first test in elimination rounds was the defense and skill of the Azzurri. The match was remarkably even, with both teams going for their strength, the Aussies trying a physical, everything-at-you approach, whereas the Italians were trying to control the pace of the game and methodically work their defense. Into stoppage time we went, with an almost certain overtime to be played, it looked like the first 90 minutes would be a draw. However, with about 5 seconds left, Lucas Neill challenges a defender in the Australian area. Penalty. What???!! Yes, the Italian defender trips and rolls around as we see too often in this World Cup, leaving Neill the unfortunate goat of the match. Needless to say, Francisco Totti nails home the game winner, and game over. Anyone watching the replays of this dubious challenge would agree that it was a poor judgement by the ref. Everyone, that is, except Marcelo Balboa, the commentator. Two things I'm pissed about regarding this World Cup, the refereeing and the ESPN commentators. Give me Univision anytime. Who cares if I only understand 10% of what's being said?
Russian Refs Gone Wild:
I settled down this weekend to watch the Netherlands take on Portugal. I thought this was likely to be the game of games, even given the outstanding goal in overtime to put Argentina ahead for good vs. Mexico. I thought Holland v. Portugal would top it, and that the players would put on a clinic of essential football skills. Not so. Portugal scored a nice goal in the 1st half, leaving Netherlands the tough task of coming back from behind. I figured they'd be up for the task. However, the referee had something to say about that. When all was said and done, 16 yellow cards were handed out, most were needless, and 4 red cards were handed out, 2 for each team.
The game spiralled out of control. Players pushed and jostled with each other between plays, and benches cleared and tempers flared. An ugly scene, to be sure. FIFA wanted the refs to be enforcers out there on the pithc this year. Well, they got their wish, and all we watching at home can say is, what hath FIFA wrought?
They said he wasn't match fit. They said he was out of shape. They went so far to say he was fat. What was Ronaldo, perennial Brazilian international striker, doing on the pitch in Germany? He was obviously slow and obviously not match fit. Well, they can say today that Ronaldo leads all players in World Cup goals scored, notching one vs. Japan in the group stage and bringing home another today vs. Ghana. Ghana looked good vs. the Czech republic, as I have said, but Brazil were way too much to handle, as Ghana's cinderella run comes to an end with a 3-0 loss vs. the World Cup 2002 champs. While it may be true that ronaldo is older, slower, and heavier than he was in his prime, one must not say that he has also forgotten the skills that made him such a dangerous player on the pitch in the first place. Look for Brazil to win it all. When Ronaldo and Ronaldinho are in prime form, no team will be able to stop them, even if you can find a team of 10-legged space aliens.
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