World Cup Analysis

The Glorious Ticos

Image

So they caught Uruguay off guard. Two quick counter attack goals left the 2010 semi-finalists stunned. Uruguay was not prepared to play without their biting talisman, Luis Suarez. Surely, the Costa Ricans were in ecstasy that wouldn’t last long. Friday’s match with the Italians would return them back to earth. Except it didn’t. The Ticos didn’t even play like an underdog. They truly appeared to be the class of the group. Remember, the Group of Death this tournament is Group G… only because Costa Rica wasn’t good enough to be in a Group of Death. England, Italy, and Uruguay are a terrifying trio that understandably left Costa Rica as an afterthought. Through two games, Costa Rica is through to the knockout stages.

One of the beautiful aspects of the World Cup is seeing a player who has lost all confidence with their club team get a new life playing for their country. Bryan Ruiz was a spark for Fulham initially, but fell out of good graces with a new manager and was eventually loaned out. Essentially, Bryan Ruiz is a player not good enough to play on a relegated Premier League team. However, with Costa Rica, he is a key player in their menacing counter attack. Ruiz headed in a beautiful cross to beat a team full of stars on Italy. However, only talking about Ruiz takes away from everything that Costa Rica is about. Ruiz symbolizes many players on Costa Rica. They are a squad full of promising, but not extremely successful club players. However, give them 90 minutes to play organized football and they can beat 11 club superstars from Italy, Uruguay, and likely England next week.

 

Advertisements
Standard
World Cup Analysis

Group Stage Round 1: Three Key Thoughts

The initial 16 games are in the books. (Let’s act like Brazil and Mexico haven’t played their scoreless draw yet) It’s been a whirlwind of a week. It’s a tough life consuming 24 hours of football over 6 days… but someone has to do it. There should be a day off tomorrow to denote the next round of group matches, but I would run the risk of being too efficient at work. These are my quick thoughts on the tournament so far:

1. Goals. 3.09 per match so far. It’s a popular theme in the American media to praise the amount of goals being scored. If goal scoring is up, casual fans will be interested and TV ratings will follow a similar path. I’m just excited the popular theme is not about a crazy, uncontrollable ball, such as the Jabulani from South Africa. Although the heat and humidity conditions are a popular mention, it doesn’t necessarily breed unexciting football. Generally, the start of a major tournament can be lackluster. Teams play conservatively, not minding a draw. With the exception of a couple of matches, the run of play has been wide open and free flowing. 

2. It’s natural to overreact, but don’t. Writers have to be salivating at a shot to dig into the end of the Spanish dynasty, the massive meltdown of the Portuguese squad, or the demise of Uruguay while their polarizing star looks on. Expect these teams to bounce back. These teams have all been here multiple times before and are too talented to fold after one bad result.

3. ESPN is the big winner. American fans can be dismissive of watching or supporting “soccer” for a number of reasons. Ties, low scoring, USA is not elite, flopping, lack of masculinity, etc. These reasons are scapegoats for the lack of interest in the U.S.A. To those casual fans – This has been a high scoring, only twice drawing tournament featuring a broken nosed Dempsey helping the USA win. Not only can point to real solutions to those issues based on the initial 16 matches, we can resolve the real issue why football is not as popular in the United States relative to the world. We don’t have it shoved down our throat on ESPN like we do baseball, basketball, and american football. Casual fans don’t know 20 of the 23 United States squad members because they don’t play their club games on American television. There are a lot of reasons why football isn’t on ESPN more, but with the World Cup, we get non-stop coverage. Americans have no choice but to get interested. We will gradually accept anything that is pushed on us. (See most all of pop music radio) It just really helps American interest when we have such a fantastic start to the World Cup. A start that nixes the aforementioned issues from casual fans. 

Standard
World Cup Analysis

John Anthony Brooks

The name alone seems like a historic serial killer, not a historic goal scorer at the World Cup. It was literally – the unlikeliest of goal scorers. A player making just his fifth cap for the United States team; Only in the game due to an injury.

I had professed before the game started: This Ghana fixture would ultimately define the Klinsmann era. It goes without saying that there is not a shot at advancing from this group with a tie or a loss in this game. In the past, the United States would have no business advancing from the Group of Death. Jurgen has talked about doing things differently and changing the culture of American soccer for four years now. What better way to change the culture than beating a team who eliminated the two preceding coaches? 

Jurgen’s recruitment of German/American dual nationals has been scrutinized in the media. However, each team in this tournament has more than one dual national on their squad. The recruits, combined with the confidence he puts in other young American players, have bolstered this team. In truth, the talent pool to choose his 23-man roster was exponentially greater than any previous World Cups. That is a genuine compliment to Klinsmann’s approach. In fact, the talent to choose from last month was strong enough to leave the American Hero, Landon Donovan, off the roster. This move put his ultimate stamp on the U.S. team. No player is greater than the team. His team-before-player philosophy couldn’t have been displayed in a more positive light today. Two injuries brought in two young, promising squad members who played with as much confidence as Landon himself.

Many casual fans would point out how Ghana maintained possession most of the match – that the U.S. team stole a victory late. The truth is, the game changes when you go up a goal. Even if the tactics are still to attack, it’s a natural instinct to protect that lead. As I referenced in my previous post, this game was never going to be about tactics. The narrative of revenge on Ghana ran too deep through this American squad. This was all about heart. Portugal will be a different battle, but for a night, let’s savor this victory. 

In a way, John Anthony’s goal in the 86th minute epitomized the Jurgen Klinsmann era. A nameless, young, confident German/American dual national came off the bench to finally conquer Ghana. 

Standard
World Cup 2014

Where Will You Be At 6PM Eastern Tomorrow?

usmnt

This is obviously the one team I cannot watch without a bias.

The last two world cups have ended in heartbreak for the Americans – both at the hands of Ghana. Four years after an extra time goal that still keeps me up night, we have a shot at redemption. You either do not care for sport or do not have a pulse if this isn’t exciting. Our men’s squad is definitely a deeper and more robust roster than four years ago. I can write several paragraphs on why, but it doesn’t matter. Ghana is not afraid. This will be war.

I contemplated pacing around my living room alone nervously for hours tomorrow, but that is not what this tournament is about. I am going to a local soccer bar – not inviting any of my personal friends – just arriving alone to unite with other American fans. This is what the World Cup does. For two hours, life worries are brushed aside. Get excited, America. Everybody – do your part.  I will be consuming alcohol at noon while sporting blue suit pants, a white button up, with a red tie.

I cannot think of anything more American.

Standard
World Cup Analysis

Goal Line Technology!!

Controversial??

I feared we would not have a controversial goal in this World Cup with the new implementation of goal line technology. It was not more than an hour into the ninth match of the tournament that Karim Benzema a provided perfect introduction. The sad effect of the narrative to follow: Benzema’s brilliance was vastly understated on the broadcast. A full sprint volley across the net is no easy task. What’s worse for the French striker, he was not given credit for the controversial goal, as it was ultimately knocked in by the Honduran keeper. Four years from now, the notion of goal line technology will make us wonder as to why FIFA didn’t implement this earlier. Referee’s have too much to worry about on the pitch as it is. If you have the technology, why force them to decide a match on a call they will never have a decent angle to make correctly?

As for the game itself, it was all about Benzema. His finishing ability on the final two goals was impeccable. I don’t think a casual fan can appreciate how easy he made those two goals look. As a neutral, it was disappointing that Palacios was sent off in the first half. I wanted to see the Hondurans perform their greatest Costa Rica impersonation: Fend off early pressure and counter attack their way to an upset. On the positive side, it is easy to enjoy an expressive French team a man up and with a lead. For moments of the second half, it seemed France might pour on five or six goals before the final whistle blew. Benzema has to be the early front runner for the Golden Boot at this stage, given his form and the relatively easy group. Even if the narrative is unkind to Benzema in this match, I am glad we got the first important usage of goal line technology out of the way early in this World Cup. Let us now enjoy football.

Standard
World Cup Analysis

The All Important 2nd Goal

Generally, the first goal of a such a low scoring sport like football is the important one. Google research shows a team who scores first is only about 10% likely to lose that match altogether. Not the case with the World Cup through eight matches. Four of the eight teams to concede a goal first have come back to win the game outright. Brazil, Netherlands, Costa Rica, and Ivory Coast have all appeared outmatched for major portions of their first halves. Each one of those games changed completely after the equalizer struck netting. In fact, it is the second goal which is all important. Six of the seven matches to feature two or more goals have been won by the team who scores second. It’s not uncommon to witness confidence flow from a team who has just scored, but those four games saw a dramatic shift in momentum post-equalizer. Not sure if the nerves of the initial World Cup match makes sense for this trend to continue, or we just have a bizarre first eight games.

Side note – We have seen the best celebration of the tournament just a few games in. Thank you Pablo Armero and the Colombian National Team.

Standard
World Cup Analysis

Who Doesn’t Love the Socceroos?

I absolutely love how Tim Cahill appeared to be the most feared aerial striker on the planet. He is 5 foot 10 inches and 34 years of age. Still, each Socceroo cross that came about, I thought for sure he would win the header. Most of the time, he did. Why are Australians so loveable? If you haven’t heard Cahill talk before, he is quite a great human. He seems to be an honest, hard-working, humble guy. I believe he interviewed with the Men In Blazers at one point. Either way, Australia will fight to the end in this group stage… but sadly, they will likely end up going home without a point. Honestly, without Cahill’s goal to change the game, it looked like this match would get out of control. As someone who generally hopes for a good match-up, I was scared after the first 25 minutes. After Cahill’s goal, the Aussies played inspiring football. They had a few chances to tie the game up. However, I was glad to see Beausejour as the man to put the match away for the Chileans. He gave the Chile side a spark late and masterfully struck his goal. Plus, how can you not root for a man who immediately turns around shocked, breaking out into tears basically, after scoring a World Cup goal. That’s what this whole blog is about. Image

 

Standard