USA Marches On!

Today, USA defeated Algeria 1-0.  Today, USA also defeated all the doubters, naysayers, and nonbelievers. All the English fans who weren’t worried about us, all the national pundits who slammed the US team, all the referees who blew calls against us:  Defeated.  And it was so sweet.

Landon Donovan’s 92nd minute strike was the best moment I’ve had as a US Soccer fan, and I’ve been alive for some great ones.  Up until now, that honor went to John O’Brien for his early strike against Portugal in the 2002 World Cup.  Today blew that away.

I was at Tigin Irish Pubs (the official US Soccer bar in St. Louis) for the match and there was red, white, and blue everywhere.

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Biggest Disappointment Ever?

With today’s 2-1 defeat at the hands of South Africa, France’s dismal World Cup run has come to an end.  The only reason this makes me sad is because of the insane drama they brought to this year’s edition of the World Cup.  Sending home a star striker?  Refusing to train the next day?  Having the head director of team quit and fly home early?  Having the President of the country call the team out publicly?  Yeah, that’s drama.

But first let’s start at the beginning.  The French team struggled through qualifying, finishing second in UEFA Group 7 to Serbia.  Then, they only secured a qualification through Thierry Henry’s double handball during the playoff against the Republic of Ireland.

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Friday 5 – World Cup Draw Edition

The stage for the World Cup Draw

We skipped last week’s Friday 5 in honor of Thanksgiving.  Now we’re back with the first all-soccer Friday 5 in honor of today’s World Cup Draw from South Africa.  So far all we know are the teams who won’t be playing the United States in next Summer’s competition, which are Australia, Japan, Korea DPR, Korea Republic, Honduras, Mexico and New Zealand.  These are things we had already assumed but are now official.

The top seven seeds plus the hosts will be placed at the top of each of the groups and the rest are divided into separate “pots” based on location.  You can read about it here.  Each tournament there is the “Group of Death” which contains one of the top contenders plus the first team left out of the top flight and a decent team from one of the other pots.  Four years ago, the US had the privilege of playing 3rd ranked Czech Republic, the eventual champions Italy, and African upstart Ghana.  Hopefully, that doesn’t happen again.

Anyway, I’ll be counting down what I feel are the Top 5 Contenders for the FIFA World Cup.

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ESPYs

As many of you know, and probably saw, the ESPYs were on last night. For those of you that don’t know, the ESPYs is an annual awards show hosted by ESPN. This year Samuel L. Jackson hosted the show and did a pretty good job. There were funny parts and on the whole it went well but I think there have definitely been better ESPY nights in the past. We did get a small glimpse at what a day in the life of Peyton Manning is like, which was obviously my favorite part of the night. We also had some eye-candy on hand with two of my top three favorite super models being in attendance; Miranda Kerr and Marisa Miller. I would also like to add that Marisa Miller is a Vols fan, just to throw that out there.

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USA Beats Top-Ranked Spain

Clint Dempsey scores for the US

Clint Dempsey scores for the US

What’s up with this team?  First they make a mockery of the game with their play in the losses to Costa Rica, Italy, and Brazil.  Then they dominate Egypt and qualify for the semifinals of the Confederations Cup.  Today, they took on the best team in the world, Spain, and came out victorious.  I think Bob Bradley has found his lineup for the rest of the qualification process.

This win is the second for the Americans against the world’s number one team.  The last came in the 1998 Gold Cup against Brazil.  In my opinion, this win ranks right up with the Portugal game in the 2002 World Cup, the 1989 World Cup Qualifier that sent the team to the 1990 World Cup, and the 1950 upset of England.  This win couldn’t have come at a better time for American team and fans after the previously mentioned games.

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Euro 2008 Final

Well, I have been gone since last Tuesday and my soccer viewing has been minimized. I was able to see Germany’s 3-2 victory over a very game Turkey side, but I did not see Spain’s easy 3-0 win over an annoying Russian team.

Those games set up quite a final this afternoon between Spain and my pick, Germany. Unfortunately, I can’t give any sort of thought or analysis on Spain’s 1-0 win, since I was driving for the duration of the game.

Spain was missing the tournament’s golden boot winner David Villa because of a hamstring injury. I didn’t think they’d miss him too much with Cesc Fabregas and Dani Guiza ready to step in and pick up the slack. I was a little concerned with Fernando Torres form in the tournament, but he proved me wrong with his game winner in the 33rd minute. All in all, it was a great tournament and Spain were very deserving winners. Now we turn our attention to Word Cup 2010.

Euro Match Days 3 and 4

Day three at the European Championships brought about some surprises. It was “The Group of Death,” or Group C’s turn to show their skill. I was able to get the games while at work, but couldn’t watch them straight through. My boss probably wouldn’t have liked that.

The first game was between France and Romania, which ended in a 0-0 tie. The French missed Thierry Henry’s presence up front. The one thing I really remember about the game was that Karim Benzema really should have put away a second half chance and given the French the 3 points. One sidenote is that France’s Lilian Thuram became the first player to ever play in 15 European Championship games, which is quite a feat.

The second game of the day between the Netherlands and Italy produced the shocker. It wasn’t so shocking that the Dutch were victorious, it was the very decisive 3-0 scoreline that got everyone’s attention. I didn’t think Italy was being outplayed that bad until Ruud van Nistelrooy’s 26th minute strike. I thought he was clearly offside, but I missed the injured Italian player, Christian Panucci, laying on the sideline. Apparently, that’s good enough to qualify as being “in the play” and the goal stood. Right after van Nistelrooy’s goal, the Italians looked for an answer off a corner kick but Giovanni van Bronckhorst cleared it off the line and started the most perfect counter attack I’ve ever seen. Van Bronckhorst ran 70 yards to give the initial cross that was headed down by Dirk Kuyt and finished superbly by Wesley Sneijder. Italy only gave up two goals in the entire 2006 World Cup, so obviously they missed the presence of center back Fabio Cannavaro. Van Bronckhorst deservingly got his name on the scoresheet with a header with about 10 minutes left. It was another clinical counter attack, finished off by the dwarfish van Bronckhorst. It was the best performance of the tournament so far. Holland is looking good for the second round after the morning tie between France and Romania. As for Italy, I’d hate to be Romania who will get the full wrath in their next game on Friday.

Today, Spain gave the Dutch a run for the best looking team when they thrashed Russia 4-1. David Villa scored the first hat trick in European competition since Patrick Kluivert did it against Yugoslavia in 2000. His goals were set up perfectly by Fernando Torres and Iniesta, all he really had to do was tap them in. His third goal had a little more individual effort, but was still set up by a great ball from Cesc Fabregas. The Russians pulled one back late and Fabregas got a garbage goal of his own. The Spanish looked fantastic today. They changed their formation after only scoring a late goal against the United States before the tournament. This allowed David Villa to crack the starting lineup; there were doubts that he would play against the Russians. He responded to this by netting at hat trick…I think he’ll be in against Sweden on Saturday.

In the nightcap Sweden downed the holders Greece 2-0. Greece threw their defensive play at the Swedes, putting seven or eight men behind the ball at all times. Sweden really had no space to move in the first half and looked awfully frustrated to me. It looked like we were headed for a second 0-0 tie when Zlatan Ibrahimović lashed a ball into the top corner of the net in the 67th minute. It gets my early vote for goal of the tournament. Petter Hansson scored what gets my vote for the worst goal of the tournament five minutes later and the Swedes got all three points. Both of these teams will have to step up their game in order to take on Spain, who looked like the title contenders everyone predicted. Sweden put themselves into a great position to go through, with a victory over Spain or Russia. I doubt any surprises come out of this group.


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