Bravo Ghana, as USA football comes of age

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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.
Almost.

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4 thoughts on “Bravo Ghana, as USA football comes of age”

  1. Amen to getting John back. Bruce could do worse than sign up Donovan, too — I like what his eyes show me is in his soul!
    I kept thinking Cote d’Ivoire were on the verge of doing something potentially spectacular. They kept getting close. Watch out for them in 2014.
    Don’t get me wrong — if Uruguay take home the Cup, that’s fine with me. Not my first choice but still a healthy development.

  2. There’s a compelling argument for opening the door a little wider to Africa and Asia because of the rapid development of the game and their international teams over the last decade. Egypt the African Nations champions on the last two occasions didn’t even qualify for this WC which is a real shame. For far too long there have been European nations turning up and adding nothing to the competition. It’s been the same this time round. Even awful European teams have had their scalps; Slovakia and Serbia.

    Having said that, the Ghanaian success over the US has masked a pretty poor display from the likes of Cameroun, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire.

    I’d be happy if the Brucester could just get John back permanently!

  3. It’s the nature of the competition though. Teams need to settle and the group games give them the chance to do that. If it had been straight knock out from the start, Spain would be out and a turgid Switzerland would be through. Either the USA or England would be out (could be by 4.45 this afternoon) and France might have put Uruguay out.
    There’s a very good piece in The Observer by the always excellent Paul Wilson which makes a case for reduced European allocations and extra South/Central American and Asian teams. Difficult to argue with that.
    Loved Ghana last night. The Brucester should sign ’em all on!!!!

  4. During the game yesterday my wife said “He just looks mad to me!” about Landon Donovan. I have to agree with my good lady as well as the Sixer. It’s all in the eyes Bill. The windows to the soul.

    I agree, though that LD is a very good player and he proved that during his short stay with Everton. It is indeed a shame that “our lads” from Paraguay are playing Japan. Those countries so often described as “the lesser nations” are provding the most interesting and exciting part of the World Cup. It’s why I never want Brazil to win it. What would be the point? The English have always rooted for the underdog, but the underdogs and those who came to “make up the numbers” have their own agenda. That’s why it was so disappointing to see the Italians fall by the wayside in the manner they did the other night. Its great to see the big guns falling but it really should be with a better team than that.

    I’d love to see the Black Stars progress but my head says that Uruguay will come out on top in this one, probably because I’ve been tipping the, to do well since the start.

    For the first time since the tournament started there was real spark. FIFA need to take a serious look at how these group games are fizzling out by the last match of the round robin. Simultaneous kick off times haven’t had the intended impact.

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