World Cup 2010 (Day 15): The Waiting is the Hardest Part …

… Yes, there were four games in the 2010 FIFA World Cup yesterday, and yes there was some intrigue in Group H at least as to which two of Chile, Spain, and Switzerland were going to advance to the last 16. That was settled in the afternoon as Spain downed Chile, 2-1, while Switzerland couldn’t put anything together against a drab Honduran side in a 0-0 draw. Spain wins the group and Chile advances.

A couple quick Group H thoughts:

* David Villa’s goal might not be considered all that given he scored into an empty net, but from how far out he hit it, and the angle he had to navigate in order to score, it’s a pretty strike. On the other hand, I don’t know what the hell Chile goalkeeper Claudio Bravo was thinking charging out as far as he did when the Spain player chasing down the ball was at least somewhat marked. Even if Fernando Torres got to that ball first vs. the defender, I’m not sure how threatening he would have been.

* I didn’t like Torres’ reaction to the heel clip he received in the run-up to Spain’s second goal, scored by Andrés Iniesta. It seemed a bit much. But given that he was subbed off in the 55th minute, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. This time.

* Spain are still a very dangerous team in this tournament, but I’m not sure yet that they are at the level we’ve seen from other contenders here.

* All five South American teams that started this tournament reached the last 16. Four of the five won their groups.

In Group G, the much anticipated Brazil-Portugal match was an awful disappointment, ending 0-0, and provding little to no entertainment whatsoever. Portugal’s wall of defense did a great job blocking shot after Brazil shot, but when the whole team is between Brazil and the goal, that’s going to happen. It would have been good to see more flair from both teams yesterday.

* Ivory Coast needed something like 235 goals against North Korea and managed just 3, which made my prognostication look good, but wasn’t enough to keep them in the tournament. They were a disappointment, though in the end, I’m not sure the result of Brazil and Portugal moving on is really all that surprising.

Well … I … don’t know what happened …

OK, enough of yesterday.

There’s a game today that as a t-shirt once read, is kind of a big deal.

USA-Ghana, 2:30 p.m. Eastern time, ABC. I, other fans, and media folk have spent the last 72 hours or so pondering a dream scenario for the United States – a draw that could legitimately see them reach the semifinals of this World Cup, something not done since this tournament was a very different beast back in 1930. Ghana, however, cannot be discounted, and most of these American players only need look back four years to understand that.

But other than a great deal of passion and emotion in the 1-1 draw with Italy during the 2006 FIFA World Cup, that US team was far from showing you the determination and heart that this 2010 group has. But determination and heart are only going to get the US so far. Other things have to happen for the US to go beyond what we’ve all imagined in our heads and dreamed in our sleep, and win this game to reach the quarterfinals.

* Defending. Yes, I know the US posted a shutout against Algeria, but Algeria haven’t scored a goal since I think 1974. Today’s assignment will be more difficult, if Ghana decides to make it so. If Ghana slip into their bad habit of simply rifling shots from 30-40 yards that don’t much concern US goalkeeper Tim Howard, it could be an easy day. But the US must be tighter in its marking to try and frustrate Ghana’s attack, and force them into that mode of firing from miles away.

* I still think an early goal would be critical. They managed without one against Algeria, only to be saved late by Landon Donovan. But if chances go unconverted early today, I’d be worried about frustration rolling into the US team, as well, with players thinkng, “Oh no, not this [bleep] again.” This is especially true, I think, for Clint Dempsey. An early strike for him would be great to put aside his misses vs. Algeria.

* Hopefully, when the US does score today, it actually counts!

* Many feel the Americans are favored in this match, and they need to play like a favored team would. Control the ball, control the game. Dictate the tempo and don’t let Ghana decide how the US is going to play. The US talent is strong enough that if the above happens, the chances should be there and they should win.

* None of which will keep from being a nervous wreck a few minutes before gametime, but that’s life right now – and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Meanwhile, South Korea and Uruguay kick off at 10 a.m. The winners of today’s two matches meet at 2:30 p.m. Friday.

Uruguay 2-1 South Korea

* I can’t go against the South American contingent in this spot.

United States 2-1 Ghana
* It won’t be as comfortable as I know we’d all like, but would this team do it any other way?

Friday’s Record: 3-1.
Tournament Record: 25-23.


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