Before we get to the picks, we have to talk US Soccer.
It started with a bang. The kind of bang the US is used to, but would rather not happen. US defenders not stepping up on their men lead to the first goal, and before we knew it we were down 1-0. Then Slovenia hit back on a well-timed counter-attack and boom. 2-0.
At this point, you were thinking one of three things.
- Where is Slovenia?
- We are dead.
- When will the US start playing well?
OTC is good at many things, and among them is giving you answers.
- Slovenia borders Italy, Austria, Hungary, and Croatia.
- Not yet, but sure looked like it.
- Evidently not in the first half, but as you have seen, when we turn it on, we can do a lot of things.
We were dead. Notice my use of the past tense. We were not making quality challenges, we were letting guys run too far without confrontation, and we deserved to be down 2-0. The referee was all over the place too, but we will get to him later. After 45 minutes, the US was not only losing, they were not deserving of anything less. They did not play well enough to deserve a goal in that half, and did not do anything to deserve a smaller deficit. Slovenia was the better team, and if we came out and played the 2nd half the way we played the first, we may as well pack our bags. I mean England was going to crush Algeria so that would just about eliminate us (more on that later too).
Why does it take a half for the US to start playing well? I have no idea, but it is a recurring trend with this team. The US came out with energy, attacking soccer, and basically everything they were lacking in the 1st half. Before you knew it, Donovan was loose at the edge of the box, drove toward the near post and smashed one into the top netting. Hey, we might have a game here.
The US was playing much better in the 2nd half and they started looking like they might jsut earn that last goal that would give them a crucial point. In the 82nd minute, Donovan played a longball that Altidore boxed out and headed right to a streaking Michael Bradley who was completely unmarked. He swooped down, toe-poked the sliding shot over the Slovenian keeper and they had done it. They had come back from a 2-0 deficit to earn a point for the first time, and what a time they chose to do it. It was one of those times when a tie was a win, and we could not have been happier about it. We couldn’t ask for more.
Well, I mean I guess we could ask for more. Donovan wins a free kick on the right wing and lines it up to take the free kick. Beautiful ball. AND ITS IN! The Slovenian defenders were draped all over every US player except Maurice Edu, and he made them pay. We thought. Koman Coulibaly thought differently. Normally, most Americans wouldn’t care what a guy from Mali thinks, but this man from Mali was the referee, and waved off the goal. He did not explain the call. He just blew his whistle, and dashed the hopes of the Americans. There will be no press conference to apologize like Jim Joyce. There will be no explanation of what he saw. There was just a whistle, a stop of play, and no goal.
It was a terrible call, and that has been well-established by everyone, so we will not bother re-hashing just how bad a call it was. All that matters to us is that the US got a point.We were going to be 3rd in the table and needing some breaks.
Then England lost. Well, technically they drew, but goot luck telling anyone in England they did not lose. They thought it hurt to draw the US? They did not know pain until now. England now faces a match with Slovenia where anything less than a win leaves them out of the knockout stages. Out. If the US wins, they are in and will have a good shot at winning the group. Even if they tie, they are through barring a high-scoring tie, something that we have not seen in this World Cup. Algeria will be a tough match, but as far as I can see, we are golden.
Alright, we have talked about the game, but I think we need to talk about the team a little. Did you watch the Mexico-France game? France was the more talented team, but they have absolutely no heart. To me, that is the biggest sin a team can commit in sports. Sometimes you aren’t the most skilled team on the field, sometimes you get a bad break, and sometimes you just don’t come out on top. No matter what, you had better care about the game. I watched that game, and the thing I took away was not that France was skilled. The thing I took away was that not a single player for France cared at all what happened. There was no urgency, no passion, and as a result, there was no effort. I looked at the players and I did not see a single guy in blue who actually cared if they won that game. That is the absolute worst thing you can do as a team, and it makes me hope that South Africa beats them. Badly. They will blame Raymond Domenech for the let down. They will fire whomever tehy need to fire to “fix” things. None of that will matter until they find a player who actually cares about the game at hand.
The United States was the complete opposite of that today. They were bad in the first half. They could have come out in the second half and decided that they could rest on the considerable sums of money they each have and take their beating like men. They did not need to win. But they fought back. Their fire got them back in the game, and looks set to keep them in the running for the next round. The result mattered to the fans, but as far as being the opposite of the French team as far as caring, the effort alone was enough. I hope people realize this is a team they can be proud of, regardless of how they do. They do not lay down for anyone. They have a never-say-die attitude. They can score. They have a reliable keeper. They have everything US sports fans value about them team. I hope it translates to people really being behind this team, because this group of guys has earned it.
Alright, off my high horse. One last interesting note. You know how the US hsa really good goalkeeping? We still never get clean sheets. There is certainly more to a clean sheet than the keeper, but you would think a US goalie would run into one against a weaker team in the World Cup. Time for some picks. We had a rough go of it yesterday, so let’stry to get oyu back on track and not losing money by following our advice.
7:30 AM- Netherlands vs. Japan
The Dutch are more talented but this is far from an easy game for them. I think it is a little like the Argentina-South Korea game, but I don’t think the Dutch strikers are in the kind of form the Argentines are. The Dutch do not need to win, but in order to keep their confidence, they had better win. There are a few things to watch if you are a Dutch supporter, however. Van der Vaart was pretty luckluster in the opening match, and the Dutch could really use his threat on the flank if they want to do things in this tournament. Japan will not play poorly, but will ultimately be overwhelmed by the Dutch talent.
Netherlands 2-0 Japan
10:00 AM- Ghana vs. Australia
Australia took it on the chin against Germany. Not only did they concede 4 goals, but Tim Cahill, a man who is probably their best player, got a red card, which means he is going to miss this match. I really do not see a scenario in which Australia wins, especially when a win for Ghana puts them in a fantastic spot as far as qualifying. They would be on 6 points, with Serbia and Germany at 3, with a match with Germany left where all they would have to do is find a way to get a draw. Ghana is the pick to win and give themselves a great chance at qualifying.
Ghana 3-0 Australia
2:30 PM- Cameroon vs. Denmark
This is another tough one to pick. Cameroon was woefully unorganized and undisciplined against Japan, but have it in them to hammer a team like Denmark. Samuel Eto’o is a nightmare for defenders and is more than capable of winning a match all by himself. Denmark, on the other hand, is not the dangerous team Cameron is, but is far more consistent and reliable. Normally, I would pick the draw in this case, but with both teams on 0 points, I think the teams will be a little more assertive. Similar to the France-Mexico game, both teams feel like they need the win, and one of them will get it.
Cameroon 0-1 Denmark