Spoilt for choice, Salut! Sunderland has three writers lined up to share their thoughts on yesterday’s games, and the new phase of the World Cup more generally. Let’s start with Bill Taylor‘s eulogy to an absorbing encounter between Ghana and the USA …
If England and Germany play half as well today as the United States and Ghana played yesterday, it’ll be a very good game.
Yesterday’s was a GREAT game, the best of the tournament so far. Compare and contrast with Friday’s debacle between Portugal and Brazil, where a goalless draw gave both sides what they wanted, and the game later in the day when Spain and Chile realized, 20 minutes from full time, that they were fairly safely through to the last 16. They dropped any pretence of constructive football and just kicked the ball about among themselves. Fans? What fans?
Yes, there was far more at stake for Ghana and the USA. yesterday – a place in the quarter-finals. But every indication I’ve seen up to now is that there could have been nothing up for grabs and neither side would have played with any less commitment and energy.
The U.S.A. have proved, once and for all, that they’re no longer the mugs of international football. They may call it soccer – as, indeed, do I most of the time – but they have the talent, the skills, the dedication and the hunger to win. When was the last time, with a free kick close to the end of a game, that you saw the goalkeeper come up the field to add his weight to a last-ditch attack?
Tim Howard did just that.
Most of the Americans’ names don’t trip as blithely off the tongue as the likes of Messi, Rooney, Torres and Ronaldo:
Cherundolo, Altidore, Bradley, Bocanegra. . . who are these people?
Howard may play for Everton but Landon Donovan plays for Los Angeles Galaxy, for god’s sake. (Without him, the visiting Galaxy played a draw against Toronto FC last night, devoid of either goals or pleasure.) Pete Sixsmith thinks Donovan’s weird, in some unspecified way, and a crybaby.
Me? I think the guy’s a hero. I know he’s a damned good footballer.
But his team was beaten yesterday by a better, more-balanced side, as solid in defence as they were lightning fast in attack. A side with hardly a discernible weakness, unless it’s goalkeeper Kingston’s tendency to bobble the ball a bit when he catches it. But he gets the job done.
It’s hard to believe that Stephen Appiah didn’t even have a club for two years. (Yeah, I know. That means he was Appiah alone.)
So, cynicism on Friday, 100-per-cent effort and wonderful football yesterday. Jeremy Robson wrote here on Friday that a New Order is emerging.
Ain’t it the truth?
The super-powers and their superstars are no longer quite as super, quite as powerful. They’ve let it be known that they can be beaten, shown up, shamed.
This has been a good World Cup, for the early surprises along. There have been so many impressive teams in South Africa, rising to the occasion and playing above themselves. To name just a few – Switzerland. Australia. South Korea. North Korea… who, if they got some proper
exposure to international football, could turn into a force to be reckoned with.
Bafana Bafana, the hosting side. Algeria. New Zealand… a country that doesn’t even have a professional league. The Kiwis play amateur football the way Bishop Auckland used to play amateur football.
Some media commentators have expressed regret that Germany is playing England today and Spain is up against Portugal on Tuesday because it means two of the “top” sides will be eliminated before the quarter finals.
As if they had a right to be there!
Me, I’m sorry that Paraguay and Japan are squaring off on Tuesday. I’d rather Paraguay was taking on Spain and Japan was up against Portugal. I think they’d both be in with a good chance of making the last eight. As it is, one of them will be on a plane home and that’ll make things a little less interesting.
The Netherlands finally woke up in their match against Japan but before that they sleepwalked through their games. Even so, Japan were fast and inventive. I think Paraguay will beat the Japanese but it won’t be an easy game. And the Netherlands will find Slovakia hard to crack.
Argentina should have the mastery of Mexico. Maybe. But Brazil versus Chile? I love the Brazilian fans but Chile could shut them down.
“Top” teams, so-called. Falling by the wayside.
And Ghana? I wouldn’t bet on anyone beating Ghana if they can maintain yesterday’s form.
I’m going right out on a limb (and, yes, that’s a saw in my hand) and saying it may well be Ghana in the final. I think the Black Stars will beat Uruguay in the quarters on Friday and by then their tails will be up (as they love to say on TV) so high that they’ll dance their way through the semis.
Who will they meet in the final? I hope it’s Paraguay. It wouldn’t surprise me. I think that could be a game almost as entertaining and exciting as yesterday’s.