Monday, June 19, 2006

Don't buy into U.S. hype

Take this and frame it because you will probably never see this again.

This is me writing about soccer.

But ignoring the world’s biggest sporting event, the World Cup, would not only be ignorant on my part, but for once, the United States team is making some noise overseas.

After an improbable 1-1 tie with the Italians, the Americans have a chance to advance to the round of 16 for the first time in their history.

Let’s face it though, it’s not going to happen. This is a nice lovey-dovey story, but the soccer gods will not allow the U.S. to advance.

To advance, they must beat an upstart Ghana team who beat the mighty Czech Republic, 2-0 on Saturday, and needs Italy to beat that same Czech team.

A tall task for sure, but anything is possible. I just don’t see it happening.

The Czech Republic beat the U.S., 3-0, in Group E’s opening game.

The Czechs, ranked #2 in the world by FIFA in May, are kicking themselves after Saturday’s loss, because a win would have cemented their spot in the round of 16.

And although Italy is a great team, it’s hard to imagine a team as good as the Czechs being shown the door after two straight losses.

For that game to even matter, the U.S. must take care of business Thursday morning against Ghana.

Everyone has bought into this revolution of sorts in U.S. soccer. The consensus is that this team is different than the previous embarrassments in 1998 and 2002. They’re more talented, and can compete with their European counterparts.

That’s just not the case.

These European teams are better than the U.S. team top to bottom, and it’s showed so far.

U.S. head coach Bruce Arena does have a right to be angry, because the officiating in Saturday’s game was horrible.

Official Jorge Larrionda from Uruguay made some absent-minded calls on the United States’ Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope, which undoubtedly changed the complexion of the game.

Mastroeni received a red card late in the 1st half, and Pope was ejected early in the 2nd half for receiving his second yellow card, forcing the U.S. to play a man down virtually the entire half.

The Mastroeni red card was widely believed to be a make-up call from Italian Daniele De Rossi’s ejection 28 minutes into the game, when he elbowed U.S. forward Brian McBride.

I’m struggling to understand why a make-up call would be appropriate after De Rossi clearly earned his red card, whereas Mastroeni should have merely received a yellow card for his actions.

Whatever may be the case, the U.S. finally earned a point, and should feel lucky in doing so.

Their score was tallied off the foot of Cristian Zaccardo, who, in an attempt to clear the ball, netted an own goal. This tied the score and closed the scoring on an exciting game.

So as we look towards Thursday, where it will be decided if the U.S. lives to play another day, through another team’s destiny or their own, we can be sure of one thing:

The rest of the world is still superior to us in soccer.

No comments: