Archive for the ‘Soccer’ Category

Pretoria, South Africa-

This is a script not even Hollywood could write.

The United States is going to the round of 16.

But man was it close to not happening.

In the 6th minute Algeria forward Rafik Djebbour nearly gave Algeria the early lead when he rocketed a shot on goal that struck the crossbar.

US midfielder Clint Dempsey appeared to give the US the lead in the 21st minute, but the goal was disallowed, though replays showed Dempsey was in fact onsides. It was another good USA goal incorrectly disallowed, the first of course being Maurice Edu’s should-be winning goal vs. Slovenia.

However this time there was over an hour left in the game, as opposed to a potential game-winning goal capping off an amazing comeback.

At any rate, the score remained 0-0, though that would not be the only chance the US would have.

The US kept the pedal to the metal all throughout the game, and hand a handful of chances before the half. Perhaps more importantly, the US was able to keep the Algerians off of the board as well.

The second half began and there were more missed chances for the Americans. While they were caught by the Algeria counter rush a number of times, although (fortunately for the US) Algeria was not able to capitalize on their chances.

Near the end of the match Algeria’s lack of discipline, which the announcers noted at the beginning of the match, began to show.

4 minutes of stoppage time were given and in the 91st minute, US Goalkeeper Tim Howard made a save on an Algerian shot and, with an incredible throw, launched the ball down the field to a running Landon Donovan who connected with Jozy Altidore, who was able to get the ball to Clint Dempsey who was stuffed by goalkeeper Rais Bolihi.

However, Bolihi was not able to control the rebound, which went right to Landon Donovan who, from about 6 yards away, sent the ball into the corner of the net to give the us the lead with just minutes left to play.

Algerian defender Antar Yahia picked up his second yellow resulting in a red card and Yahia being sent off, although it didn’t really matter at that point.

The final whistle blew and with this win the US not only advanced to the round of 16 (along with England, who defeated Slovenia), but, by virtue of goal differential, the United Stated won the group and will play the runner-up of Group D in the Round of 16 on Saturday (2:30 et, ABC).

Johannesburg, South Africa-

The score might have only been 2-0, but Spain dominated Honduras to gain 3 much-needed points heading into the final match of group play.

Granted, they were playing Honduras, who were the decided underdogs going into the match. Despite being heavily favored, this was not a match to be taken lightly by the Spaniards. They were upset 1-0 by Switzerland in their opening match, and were in desperate need of 3 points.

David Villa got things started when he dribbled around 3 different players in the 17th minute to make the score 1-0 Spain. The score could have been much higher given all of Spain’s chances, but the score remained 1-0 at the half.

The second half got underway, and Spain picked up right where they left off and in the 51st minute, David Villa struck again, this time getting a slight deflection from the defender, sending the ball into the back of the net to give Spain a 2-0 lead. Villa narrowly missed out on a hat trick after Spain was awarded a penalty kick. Though he had the goalkeeper beat, he missed the net and Spain stuck to a 2-0 lead, one of many missed opportunities for the Spaniards.

Though there were plenty of missed chances, Spain managed to hold on for the 2-0 win and 3 big points. Spain can secure a spot in the round of 16 with a win over Chile on Friday (2:30 et, ESPN)

Johannesburg, South Africa-

This game was crucial for the United States if they had any hopes for advancing to the round of 16. They could not advance, nor could they be eliminated, but coming out of this game without any points was not an option.

Not to mention, the US was favored going into this match.

Once the game started, the US certainly didn’t seem like favorites. In the 13th minute, Slovenia midfielder Valter Birsa fired a shot on net that sailed over the head of Tim Howard, who was caught too far out of the net, and into the top corner of the goal to give the Slovenians a 1-0 lead.

As was the case against England, back on June 12th, the Americans found themselves in a 1-0 deficit early in the game. Granted, there were still 77 minutes (plus stoppage time) left in the game.

Despite a slow start, the US did begin to show some signs of life in the first half, and they did have some chances.

But just as the Americans came to life, the Slovenians went on the offensive and in the 42nd minute, forward Zlatan Ljubijankic beat Tim Howard after threading the US defense to give Slovenia a 2-0 lead. (Ljubijankic initially appeared to be offsides, but replays showed that he was, in fact, onsides.)

The whistle blew, ending what was easily the worst half of soccer the US has played this World Cup. Changes were going to have to be made, and they were.

Out went Robbie Findley (who will miss the next match after he was given a yellow card, his second of the World Cup, after he was called for an intentional handball. (The ball actually hit him in the face – more about the officiating later)) and in came Benny Fielhaber. Also coming out was Francisco Torres (not to be confused with Spain’s Fernando Torres) and in came Maurice Edu.

Almost immediately, the US started the second half like a whole new team. In the 48 th minute, Landon Donovan dribbled down the field and, from almost the side of the net, blasted a shot into the top of the net to give the US some life.

The Americans were far from finished.

In the 80th minute, Bob Bradley used his final substitution and out came defender Oguchi Onyewu. In his place came Hercules Gomez, perhaps in an attempt to generate more offense for the US.

In the 82nd minute, Michael Bradley, son of US Coach Bob Bradley, was on the receiving end of a tip from Jozy Altidore and buried it into the upper right of the goal to, not only tie the game, but also gave the US a much-needed point, provided they could hold off the Slovenians for the remainder of the game.

The 86th minute wound up being the most memorable minute of the game.

The US was awarded a free kick and Landon Donovan sent the ball into a crowd of players, each player jostling for position as the ball was in the air. Maurice Edu appeared to connect on a great volley from Donovan to give the Americans a 3-2 lead and 3 much-needed points.

However referee Koman Coulibaly (of Mali) blew the whistle after the ball was kicked, although there was not a single replay that showed any penalty against the US. They did show Carlos Bocanegra being held slightly above the shoulders and pulled down and Michael Bradley in a full-on bear hug.  At any rate,  the call was against the US.

What was the call? Nobody knows, Coulibaly never said what the foul was for. He said that he stated what the foul was for when he filled out the match report following the game.

The score remained 2-2 and Slovenia came with one last attempt, which wound up in the hands of Tim Howard, and the game ended in a 2-2 tie.

As for the controversal call, the end of the game was just the beginning of the backlash.

Analyst, and former US team member Alexi Lalas probably said it best: “This ref had a stinker today, from start to finish.” According to a report on SportsCenter, FIFA is going to evaluate this game and could possibly exclude Koman Coulibaly from the remainder of the World Cup.

It may (or may not) sound harsh, but FIFA does have standards for their officials.

At any rate, the US will take on Algeria, who battled to a scoreless draw with England today, on Wednesday (10 am et, ESPN) and, with a win, can punch their ticket to the round of 16 (without having to have any other scenarios take place.)

Spain stunned by Switzerland 1-0

Posted: June 16, 2010 in Soccer

Durban, South Africa-

Many (myself included) believe that this is the year for Spain to finally hoist the World Cup, something “La Furia Roja” has yet to do it its national soccer team’s history.

Having said that, Spain did not get off to the start that they were hoping for. Rather than coming out of their opening match against Switzerland with 3 points, as was expected, Spanish players and fans alike were left shaking their heads, wondering what went wrong.

The two teams came out strong, though it was mostly a match up of Spain’s pass-happy offense against the defensive-minded Swiss. While Spain did make the defense look like Swiss cheese at some points, they were unable to solve Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio and the score remained 0-0 at halftime.

In the 52nd minute, Swiss midfielder Gelson Fernandes beat Iker Casillas after Casillas came out of his net to block the pass, sending shock throughout Durban (and the rest of the world for that matter).

Spain unleashed a fury of shots on Diego Benaglio, but nothing could get by him, not even a screamer off of the foot of Xabi Alonso that caught the crossbar.

The Swiss did not allow a single goal in the last World Cup back in 2006 (they lost to Ukraine in the round of 16 in a penalty shootout.) so it was not much of a surprise that their defense was going to be one of the keys of the match.

For Spain, this was the second straight year they were upset in a FIFA tournament, losing in the semi-finals of last year’s Confederation’s Cup, also held in South Africa, to the United States. “La Furia Roja” will look to rebound against Honduras on Monday (2:30 et, ESPN). The Swiss will face Chile, also on Monday (10 am et, ESPN).

People around the world are aware of North Korea, both geographically and, more so, politically.

However, little is known about North Korea’s National Soccer Team, who is playing in their first FIFA World Cup since 1966.

But just who exactly is the North Korean National Soccer Team?

The world got a pretty good glimpse of the North Koreans on Tuesday when they took to the field against no. 1 ranked and frequent World Cup favorite Brazil to open group play in Group G, this year’s “group of death” (along with Portugal and the Ivory Coast.)

One North Korean that stood out was 26 year-old striker Jong Tae-Se. Jong, who was born in Japan to a South Korean mother, and attended a North Korean school (located in Japan). Many consider Jong, also known as “The People’s Rooney” (a reference to England striker Wayne Rooney), the most well-known North Korean in the world (after North Korean leader Kim-Jung-Il).

Jong’s pride in his country was most evident when he was seen openly crying  during the playing of the North Korean National Anthem.

While it is unlikely that North Korea will advance beyond group play, due simply to the difficulty of the countries that are in their group (Brazil, Portugal, and the Ivory Coast), their World Cup Journey will make for quite an interesting story.

Unfortunately for the North Koreans, their journey does not get much easier. They will take on Portugal on Monday (7 am et. on ESPN), and will be eliminated with a loss to the Portuguese.

Rustenburg, South Africa-

The US and England fought to a 1-1 draw on Saturday at Royal Bafokeng Stadium.

This was easily one of the most anticipated matches in the World Cup and easily the most anticipated match up among American soccer fans alike.

That being said, the match did not start out the way the Americans were hoping it would. In the 4th minute, England’s Stephen Gerrard beat US Goalkeeper Tim Howard to give the English the all – important first goal of the match.

Speaking of Goalkeepers, England manager Fabio Capello did not name a starting keeper until hours before the match, electing to go with Robert Green over veteran David James and young Joe Hart.

The 40th minute saw one of the most unforgettable moments of the World Cup. US Midfielder Clint Dempsey fired a shot from a few yards behind the penalty area which bounced off of Green’s hands and trickled across the goal line.

This was not the fault of the slightly wet conditions, or the ball (which has come under criticism, mostly from goalkeepers), this was simply a goalkeeper’s error, and the look on Robert Green’s face proved it.

While the teams appeared to be shifting to a more defensive approach in the 2nd half, there were still plenty of offensive chances for both teams. However, both teams goalkeepers stood tall and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.

Both teams came out of this game with a point, though they are currently tied in second in Group C behind Slovenia, who earned 3 points after defeating Algeria by a score of 1-0.

The US will take on Slovenia on Friday June 18th (coverage starts at 9:30 am on ESPN) and England takes on Algeria the same day at 2:30 eastern time (Also on ESPN).