Posted on: June 24, 2009 11:56 pm
Three days ago I was stunned to see the Americans in the semifinals in the Confederations Cup. Now they're in the final, but this time, there's no argument -- the USA deserves to be there.
There's no talk about the quirky soccer tie-breaking rules, or how Italy beat the US or how this underachieving bunch probably shouldn't be here. That's gone. And it took the US to beat the number one team in the world to do it. Funny how things turn around in a hurry.
The US came out and played inspired. The put their bodies on the line, they blocked shots, deflected crosses and when they needed to, made the plays to win the game. Jozy Altidore fired home a brilliant shot that Spanish GK Iker Casillas in the 25th and Clint Dempsey added the insurance goal in the 73rd as the US upset top-ranked Spain.
Tim Howard was brilliant in goal. His defense in front of him played hard and most of the 29 shots that Spain took, didn't make it to Tim Howard. The US dug it against a ferocious Spanish attack for most of the second half. They played the final 5 minutes of the game with 10-men thanks to another ridiculous straight red card by the referees, this one to Michael Bradley. Everything led to a 2-0 United States of America victory in South Africa and the USA's first appearance in a final of a major FIFA tournament.
Personally, both teams played well. Casillas got a peice of Altidore's shot, but it still tucked home inside of the far post. Dempsey's goal was just good hustle and a lack of awareness by the Spanish defense. The only mistake was for either team was Dempsey's goal, which should have been cleared and instead Dempsey slid one into a pretty wide open net after a Spanish defender trapped the ball in the 6-yard box instead of clearing. Spain had their chances and the US defense and Tim Howard came up big all day. It's a shocking upset to the realm of soccer.
But was this an upset? According to rankings and histroy, yes, it's an upset. Spain, despite only winning their first major championship recenty, has been a world class team for a long time. The US really has been around for the last 20 years, if that. But, really, both teams are champions of their respective regions (CONCACAF and UEFA) and are major teams in their regions. Spain was on a 35 match unbeaten and 15 match winning streak coming into this game. At the beginning of the week, the US was really just thrilled to be playing in South Africa for two more matches. That's the difference in this two teams -- expectations. Spain should be in the semi-finals. They should beat Iraq, New Zealand and South Africa. They should go to the finals. The US -- it's a learning experience and if they play well, good for them. But why can't the US win? They have expectations to win because they work hard and believe that they can play with and beat anyone in the world.
Honestly, the US soccer team has been trying to live up to expectations from the 2002 World Cup where it went the quarterfinals and lost to eventual runner-up Germany. The bar had been set, and now the mainstream media and the average sports fan expected this to continue. Really, that's unfair, because the diehard fan and the writers who know soccer know how hard it is to be an elite world power in soccer. In 2006, I saw the US play Ghana, Italy and the Czech Republic. They lost two games and tied Italy, who by the way, went on to win the World Cup and that US game was the only game they didn't win.
Now, maybe the expectations will rise again. Maybe, people will care and give attention to a team that, even for one game, proved that they can play with anyone. Because I know that this US team can compete with anyone, but it's winning on the big stage that counts to the mainstream media. The biggest stage right now, is the Confederations Cup and the 2009 CONCACAF Gold Cup next month. That's what the average fan sees. They don't see the international friendlies or the World Cup qualifiers and if they saw that Costa Rica game a few weeks ago, many would have picked the US to go 0-3 and get bounced in the first round in the Confederations Cup.
Forget expectations, forget the naysayers and the haters and the everyone who didn't think the US could do it. You could include me in that discussion, but I'm realistic and the average fan follows the talking heads on TV. Just because I didn't pick the US to make it doesn't mean I didn't think they could do it or wasn't rooting for it. Truthfully, the US did exactly what I thought they would do. They played a good team tough and lost (Italy), they played a good team poorly and lost (Brazil) and they beat a team that presented a tough challenge and was in better form (Egypt, and check out my Confed Cup Power Rankings, because if any team deserved a shot at Spain it was Egypt.)
Here's what counts -- the USA is going to be in the final in a major international soccer tournament for the first time in their history. And everyone in the world just saw they play at their best against a team that hadn't lost a game in two years. And everyone is going to remember this next year in the World Cup, regardless of whether or not the US wins the Confederations Cup final on Sunday. Everyone's going to remember that they got to the final and who they beat to get there. The USA is looking for only one thing in South Africa right now.
It's called respect. It's something that the US soccer team has had very little of on the world stage. Heck, it's something that they've had very little of in their own country. It's something that the US should have earned long ago. Maybe now, the rest of the world can realize that the USA can be a world power in soccer. Maybe now, they realize that the USA is not just a team that dominates its region. Maybe now the rest of the world (and the people of the US as well), can respect that this team for what its done on the field. Because when you've earned respect, you get a reward in soccer. And it's something that is irreplaceable on the field.
It's called doubt. The doubt that comes to walking onto a field with the USA and having your opponets saying to themselves, "It's the USA, we're going to have to be at our best" instead of "It's the USA, this is going to be cake." Because I think that's what Spain did today. They walked through their group matches going undefeated and just thought, this is just another win, let's get ready for Brazil. And the USA came out and hit them in the mouth for 90 minutes. And to their credit, Spain fought back and kept firing just like they did against Iraq, but in my opinion they realized to late that they were in for 90 minutes of a heavyweight soccer match. They realized this at halftime, down 1-0, with the pressure of keeping two world record streaks intact. But the Americans held.
Respect is hard to earn in soccer because of the history of the game. It's been dominated by Europe and South America for a long time but now Africa and the rest of the Americas are catching up. Everyone knows this as well. I'm going to remember how Egypt and South Africa played in this tournament next year during the World Cup. And there's another great thing that comes with respect. It's the next item in the chain.
Respect creates doubt, doubt creates fear. The fear of walking onto the pitch to play another team. I have a feeling I know how the US conquered that fear today. They heard all the news, talking heads and whatnot saying that they didn't deserve to be here. They heard that they were going to get slaughtered by Spain, that they couldn't keep the emotional high from playing Egypt. But they didn't play to the expectations, they did the exact opposite. If they were going to lose, why not play with nothing to lose?
I know the USA can be a top international soccer team. I've seen them play against the best, and win, lose or draw, I know they can compete with anyone. The question is, is the rest of the world ready for the US to be an international power? Because looking at today's results, the answer is no. They aren't. And that's a great thing, because that means the US is gaining respect, and there's doubt creeping into teams about if they're going to beat the US. That means only one thing.
Fear Sam's Army. There's a reason why I've said this at the end of my soccer post the last few weeks. This is it. This whole entry about expectations and respect comes down to that one little sentence. Not the fear of the USA's unofficial cheering section (which is Sam's Army by the way) but of the actual US team. I could have said that "US Soccer Doesn't Quit" or "USA! All the Way!" but that's cheesy and doesn't have any meaning. No international soccer team quits and their fans always want them to win. I want for opposing teams and thier fans to look across the field and see the US team and Sam's Army behind them chanting and supporting their team. I want that doubt to creep into the players and the fans. I want that fear to set in during the game, the fear of losing, or not coming back. Because that's when I know the US has made it as an international power.
Spain knows now. They have seen firsthand what the USA can do on the soccer field and the rest of the world saw them do it. Maybe they need to beat Brazil to have this happen, maybe beating Spain was enough, but the question is, will this game go down as an upset or the emergence of a world class team? Will the rest of the world think that the US can do it again or on any given day one team can beat another? Will I be still be telling the world, and the USA, to Fear Sam's Army at this time next year? Probably, but I know there is one team that I'll never have to say it to again for a long time.
Posted on: June 22, 2009 12:27 pm
Well, the semi-finals are set. The US will take on Spain this Wednesday and Brazil and the hosts South Africa will meet on Thursday to set up the finals and third place game. But, there are four teams that have been eliminated here, where is their place in all of this? Well, how about a quick power ranking of all the teams so far.
1 - Brazil (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group B) - Brazil takes the top spot in our rankings, mainly because of strength of schedule. They annhiliated the Italians 3-0 yesterday, eliminating the Azzurri in stunning fashion. Brazil might not have played consistently throughout this tournament and yes, they were outplayed by Egypt, but they played three incredibly tough games in a tournament setting and after a scary start, played to their normal, dominant form, something that had been lacking in thier CONEMBOL qualifying efforts recently in my opinion.
2 - Spain (3-0-0, 9 pts, 1st Group A) - What else can I say here? Spain handled thier business, nothing more. They played comfortably in front most of their matches, say for the 1-0 win over Iraq. The were favored to win this group and rightfully so, they did what they needed to do and now play the US in the semis. And somewhere I bet the Spanish players are licking their chops, thanking Brazil for taking out the Italians. They can't overlook the US here. 35-match unbeaten and a 15-match winning streak, both records, are on the line.
3 - Egypt (1-0-2, 3 pts, 4th Group B) - Eagle, you can't honestly rank the "worst" team from Group B third overall. Um, yes I can. I can do what ever I want. Egypt came out and outplayed two teams ranked in the top 10 in the FIFA world rankings. Were it not for a late Brazil goal and the Pharohs coming out slightly flat against a pumped up US team, there would be two African teams in the semis. Egypt deserves to be here, there's not a doubt in my mind.
4 - United States (1-0-2, 3 pts, 2nd Group B) - Really, the US could and probably should be lower. But they played Italy tough for 60 minutes, 30 of which they were a man down. That 3-1 loss doesn't do the American's effort justice in my book. They played well when they had too and were able to advance by the skin of their teeth. I just hope this doesn't become a habit for the US team, their last advancement in a major tournament, the '02 World Cup, was lucky as well.
5 - South Africa (1-1-1, 4 pts, 2nd Group A) - I didn't give them much respect at the beginning of this tournament and I'm probably not giving them enough respect now. But South Africa's only victory was against New Zealand, and that's the only reason why they're advancing. I love what the home side has done, but there's not a doubt in my mind that the four teams above them played better opponents and were in better form, including the US, as strange as that sounds. I could put South Africa 4th, ahead of the US, but that would be an injustice. Blame the vuvuzelas.
6 - Iraq (0-1-2, 2 pts, 3rd Group A) - You know what, I like this. Iraq played a solid defensive strategy the whole tournament, played the best out of anyone in their group against Spain. I'm okay with this. Yes, the Iraqis didn't score a goal in the entire tournament. But they only allowed that one goal to Spain. I'm convinced this team can play with anyone and it's a shame that we won't be seeing them in the 2010 World Cup next year. They've already been eliminated in Asian qualifying. Still, this was a fantastic experience for a team that has to play all of it's games on the road.
7 - Italy (1-0-2, 3 pts, 3rd Group B) - This is the team that should be most disappointed right now. They were really out played the entire tournament with the exception of a 30 minute stretch against a 10-man US side. There's no reason to be down 3-0 at halftime in a game where a tie gets you to the next round. Sure, if the Italians won they had a chance to win the group, but they would have needed at least a 4-0 win, and maybe more, to do so. They could have played for a tie, taken a page out of Iraq's book and played 9 guys behind the ball the whole game. Instead, they're crashing and burning. I must note again that I picked them to win it all. Shame on me. This is what happens to teams that I pick to win and greatly underachieve. They go to the doghouse. But sadly, I can't put them last...
8 - New Zealand (0-2-1, 1 pt, 4th Group A) - I like the Kiwis, I really do. But I can't condone a celebration of a draw when you've already been eliminated from the tournament. That's disrespectful in my book, especially since they had just eliminated Iraq in the process. Aside from that, this team did play well in that final match and I can allow them to celebrate a little bit. They have yet to win a game in a major FIFA tournament, so a draw against a very good Iraq team is still a credible part of a nice resume this team is building up. They, like Iraq, didn't score in the tournament and aside from a miserable 5-0 dismantling by Spain, the Kiwis will take a great experience as they try to qualify in 2010.
If you'd like to debate this rankings feel free to comment below. Please be respectful and give insightful reasons to your opinions. I have already been called an idiot more times than I can count and I don't need reminding.
I'll be back with a semi-final preview tomorrow for both games, as well as predictions. Sadly, I'm going to be missing the US-Spain game live due to a doctor's appointment and I'm not DVR'ing the game. Why? Because the only game I didn't DVR was the one against Egypt. That game turned out really well. The other two, um, not so much. Probably will break out the running commentary again for the Brazil-South Africa game, but no guarantees. Until then, feel free to check out the rest of my Confederations Cup entries.
Posted on: June 21, 2009 4:49 pm
That title doesn't give what just happened justice. That title to the average sports fan would suggest that the USA advanced because they beat Egypt 3-0. That's not what happened. The US was at the bottom of the table when this game kicked off. Now, they're in second place with a semi-final coming up against red hot Spain, the number one team in the world. How did it happen?
To quote the ESPN commentators doing the US-Egypt game: They pulled a Houdini.
Really, that explanation is about as good as it's going to get. Aside from the US beating Egypt, Brazil also had to beat Italy and both teams need to win big. Two 3-0 victories later, and the USA and Brazil are advancing to the next round. This is the most bizzare situation I've seen the US soccer team in since they advanced in the '02 World Cup after losing to Poland (South Korea beat Portugal to help the US advance). At the beginning of the day, the USA had a goal differential of -5 and 0 points. Now, they have 3 points, a GD of -2, and beat the Italians on the "goals scored" tiebreaker. (This is contrary to what I thought earlier, where head-to-head decided the tiebreakers. That would have meant Italy would have advanced based on thier 3-1 victory last Monday. Again I am an idiot, never forget this.)
Of course, now the USA has to get by Spain, which would mean ending the worlds longest unbeaten streak and winning streaks at the same time. The winner of that game would play the winner of the Brazil-South Africa final, losers play for third place. And I'd like to give props to the South African team, who I pretty much disreguarded at the beginning of the tournament. Sure, they played in a weak group, but they did what they had to do to advance to the semis.
But this is about the Americans. Stop the talk about firing Bob Bradley and how pathetic the USA's ability to score is. There are much better teams in the world that couldn't beat either Brazil or Italy in a 4-day stretch. The positives from this tournament are this: the US can compete with the best in the world. Sure they didn't look good against Brazil, neither did Italy, in fact, Eygpt was their toughest game, and Brazil won despite playing their poorest game in the tournament. You have to hand it to Egypt though, despite losing to the US today, they outplayed Brazil and beat Italy in this tournament. The US just wanted this game more in the end and found their scoring touch.
I would have liked to have seen the US get to the semis in a little less dramatic fashion, but you have to assume that it was going to come down to the final day. And the US pulled it out, they showed some serious heart and they're playing two more games. And even if the USA loses both of them (the second in the third place game, probably against the hosts, S. Africa), this should still be considered a tremendous positive (scratch that, we should beat S. Africa, but they're at home and the crowd has those annoying trumpet things). The USA has survived the Group of Death. They didn't do that in the last World Cup, didn't even come close.
While there is little time to be celebrating, the US is still playing in South Africa. And let's face it, that wasn't a thought in a lot of people's minds this morning. But the US escaped, and somewhere Harry Houdini is smiling.
Because I doubt even he could have gotten out of that mess.
Posted on: June 17, 2009 10:50 am
Edited on: June 17, 2009 11:55 am
Click Here for the 1st Half Commentary
Welcome back to the second half of Iraq-Spain. The commentary will begin momentarily and the first half is linked above.
Alexis Lalas thinks David Villa should have knocked home that volley in the 36th minute. Kassid was in good position for it and forced the effort wide in my book. I think Spain's free kick in the 41st was the better chance but Kassid dove on top of a loose ball in his 6-yard box. Solid scoreless half from both teams. Iraq very organized defensively and haven't given Spain a ton of chances. I'd like to see Iraq do more on the attacking end, maybe try to break out a counter or two in the second half. They spent most of that half with 9 outfield players behind the ball on defense. We'll be getting underway shortly with the second half
HT - I swear If I see that Old Navy commercial with the "talking" mannequins one more time during this halftime show...
46' - And were off. Spain takes the opening kickoff they're now going left-to-right on the attack. Spain with a nice build-up here, Iraq hasn't seen the ball really to start this half. The ensuing cross is poor and out for a goal kick.
47' - It looked for a moment that Iraq had a clear run at net, but a nice sliding tackle ends that brief hope and Spain clears. It didn't lead to a shot, but that might have been Spain's first scare on the defensive end in this game.
49' - Spain with possession again and a poor clearence leads to a cross by Torres' glancing header can't redirect the ball on net and it's out for a goal kick.
50' - Villa gets an excellent pass from the wing and flies his shot over the bar as the referee blows his whistle. The linesman's flag is up and Villa was offsides. Villa seems to be the more dangerous forward in this game. Maybe Torres should have saved some goals for this game.
52' - Iraq gets a little sloppy on the defensive end and clears it for a corner. It's played short and the cross is headed by Villa but right at Kassid. A collective sigh of relief there as the offsides trap failed miserably.
53' - Foul and a yellow card issued to Marchena. Free kick in a dangerous spot here for Iraq, about 25 yards away from goal.
54' - Iraq takes the free kick, it's a shot but wide of the net and Spain will have a goal kick.
55' - GOOOOOOOOOOOAL!!! David Villa heads a cross from and flicks a header unmarked to the far post and it's 1-0 Spain!
56' - Villa's had several chances so far in this game and he finally put one home. His second goal of the tournament. Spain immeadiately on the attack again and Iraq stonewalls a through ball that could have gotten to either Villa or Torres.
58' - Iraq concedes a corner as one of their players is taken off the field on a stretcher. We'll see how serious that injury is in a second. Spain rifles a hard shot from the top of the box but again Kassid is there. He's been fantastic all game and there wasn't anything he could have done on Villa's header.
60' - SUBSTITUTION - Iraq - Saeed off, Kareed on. Saeed was the player who was just injured so clearly that is a forced change for Iraq.
63' - Iraq with a nice build-up offensively, but the best the can do is fire a shot high over the bar. They're still content to play defense and keep Spain from scoring 5 goals.
65' - Villa tries to hook up with Torres by Kassid comes off his line and Torres effort goes high. That would have been a brilliant goal.
67' - SUBSTITUTION - Spain - Cazorla off, David Silva on. Tactical sub.
69' - Alonso fires a shot towards the far 90 of the goal but it's off target. Not that off target, but still a goal kick.
70' - SUBSTITUTION - Iraq - Mohammed off, Jasim on. Tactical sub.
72' - Iraq gets a corner, and it comes to Fareed Majeed on the back post, but he looked surprised to see the ball and his first touch is poor and right to Spain who clears.
74' - Ball still spending a lot of time on the Iraqi side of the field. Spain continues to control the possession.
74' - SUBSTITUTION - Spain - Villa the goal scorer off, Daniel Guiza on. Tactical sub. Both teams with one sub remaining.
75' - Fifteen minutes left, Villas goal in the 55th minute the difference right now.
76' - Iraq with a nice run down the far sideline but with so many players behind the ball on defense, they don't have enough support on the attack and it's stuffed by Spain.
78' - Spain content with knocking the ball around the Iraqi third of the field. They're building up nicely but will it lead to a chance or will the Iraqi defense stand strong.
79' - A great give-and-go and Mata rips a shot but it's right at Kassid who blocks it down and his defense clears the ball away. Kassid has played a fantastic game so far in goal.
80' - SUBSTITUTION - Iraq - Zahra off, Younis Mahmoud in.
82' - Mata draws a foul as Iraq was trying to maintain possession at midfield. Free kick to Iraq.
82' - SUBSTITUTION - Spain - Xavi off, Sergio Busquets on. Both teams have used all three subs now.
83' - Iraqs free kick leads to open play on the opposite sideline and Spain commits another foul. The free kick is headed clear by Spain and Iraq regains possession as Kassid puts it back up to midfield.
84' - Spain again in possession knocking it around the Iraq third. Ramos crosses it into the box but it's cleared away by Iraq.
85' - Iraq tires to go over the top with a long ball but Casillas is off his line to collect the cross. Five minutes left and Iraq still searching for an eqaulizer.
86' - Spain with several chances ehre and Ramos traps one off his chest and volleys one just over the bar. Torres' kept the ball from going over the endline by flipping it to Matas to keep that play alive.
88' - Mahmoud with a nice effort in the Spanish penalty area as he passes back and Iraq fires one just wide of the net.
89' - Spain right back on the attack as a cross is just in front of Torres who can't get a head on it. Spain in possession again and they earn a corner. Time running out for Iraq here.
90' - The corner is played short and the cross is cleared. Iraq countering!
90' - Iraq searching for an equalizer but they're dribbling too much near the penalty area. They look out of sync on the attack. Three minutes of stoppage time.
90'+2 - Spain just a few minutes from clinching a berth in the semi-finals. Iraq desperately looking for an equalizer. One minute left.
90'+3 - FULL TIME!!! The referee blows the final whistle and this one is over. Spain clinches a berth into the semis by beating a very solid Iraqi team 1-0. Spain had their chances all game but could only put one home, a testiment to the Iraqi defense and keeper Mohammed Kassid. Good tactical game from both sides, but David Villa's header is the difference here in a 1-0 victory.
Posted on: June 17, 2009 10:14 am
Edited on: June 17, 2009 10:53 am
Okay, we're back with CBS's favorite live soccer blog. I'm allowed to say that if I'm the only one right? Whatever, we're LIVE with ESPN2's coverage of the Confederations Cup. Here's the lineups and formations for both teams. I've got this game recording on my DVR so I can rewind at look at all the action.
Spain (4-1-3-2) - Casillias [C] (GK), Marchena, Capdevila, Ramos, Pique, Alonso, Xavi, Cazorla, Mata, Torres, Villa
Iraq (4-5-1) - Kassid (GK), Abbas, Rehema, Majeed, Shaker, Kareem, Saeed, Mohammed, Khalid, Akram [C](YC), Zahra
Spain is riding a 33-match international unbeaten streak including a 13-game win streak. Let's see if Torres can break his hat-trick record for this match, he had one in 17-minutes against New Zealand, a Confederations Cup record.
0' - Kickoff, Iraq takes it wearing white trimed with green. Spain wearing red jerseys with yellow trim and black shorts/socks.
2' - Spain threatening early, but the cross is controlled by Iraq, who is keeping possession in their defensive third rather than clearing it.
4' - Ball spending a lot of time in the midfield, Iraq trying to keep possession and build-up the attack, but they are spending a lot of time with the ball on their defensive half.
5' - Through ball to Torres goes out for a goal kick to Iraq. Taken by GK Kassid right to Spain.
6' - Villa gets the ball in a dangerous position inside the box, but he is swarmed by the defense and loses the ball. He couldn't find an option. Ball cleared away back to Spain but a ball over the top is whistled for offsides.
8' - Ball again spending a lot of time at the mid-field. A good through ball leads to a weak shot on net, which is handled easily by Kassid in net.
9' - Zahra, the lone Iraq striker takes a low ripping shot on net, but Casillias is able to scoop it up without much trouble. Nice to see the Iraqis on the attack.
11' - Foul and a free kick to Spain. Abbas gives up a foul in a dangerous spot, 25 yards away from goal. Capdevila takes it after a touch but it's right into the 4-man Iraqi wall and they maintain possession.
13' - Ball spending a lot of time in the Iraqi half. I don't care if the possession is even so far, that's not something Iraq should be happy with. Torres shoots one but it's well wide of the net.
14' - Spain with some nice build-up here in the Iraqi half, but it's stolen away and the Iraqi counter is on, but only for a moment as it's broken up.
16' - Spain trying to get a cross into the box, but the Iraqi defense is strong as they allow a corner. The inswinger lands on Pique's head but the glancing header is well off-target.
17' - Great through ball over the defense to Torres, but Kassid is off his line to break it up. Fantastic heads up soccer by the keeper there or Torres might have had a goal. By this time against New Zealand, Spain was up 3-0 on the Kiwis.
19' - I'm not going to lie. The trumpet noise-makers that the South African fans are rather annoying. Can't we get some chanting going here?
20' - Another free kick to Spain in the attacking third, this one from 35 yards out is right to Kassid in goal.
22' - For all the possession Spain has had deep in Iraqi territory, they haven't really gotten a true quality chance on net. Iraq seems content to defend for the moment with five defenders back, but I'm not sure I like this strategy.
24' - Again Spain gets the ball deep into Iraq's third of the field and again they have nothing to show for.
25' - Great cross to Villa from the left wing but Villa's volley is of the side netting. There's the first chance for Spain and I'm not sure if Iraq can continue to weather attacks like that.
27' - Iraq trying to create something happen, but a small build up is stone-walled by the Spanish defense. I'm still waiting for Iraq to press more on the attack but they're still sitting back defending.
29' - Abbas is booked for a challenge on Torres. There wasn't much there in my book, but he's had two fouls near the box already and both were sloppy so I can buy the booking here. Free kick leads to open play, Spain controlling.
30' - Cazorla rips a left-footed shot just past the post. Spain follows that with a corner that's played short and leads to a blocked shot that Iraq clears.
32' - Abbas is taken down by Torres as the Iraqi defense tried to work a give-and-go. Spain is getting chances now, you have to think it's just a matter of time here as the first half winds down.
34' - Ramos with a great ball into the box that's cleared for a corner that also is cleared by Iraq but Spain keeps possession. Another deep run and a cut back pass into the box is also stoped by the Iraqis. Great defensive sequence there.
37' - After a lot of midfield play by both teams, Spain fires a shot well wide.
38' - Alonso is booked for a late challenge with a high boot. The free kick is a poor one as the offsides trap works wonders for Spain, catching the Iraq attack off balance there.
40' - Torres draws a foul from Shaker with some nifty ball skills as Torres tried to work his way into the box. The free kick is headed down but covered by the keeper Kassid. A little acting job from the keeper there as well as he makes a graze to the head look like a major concussion for about 30 seconds.
43' - Iraq gets the ball on the attack but can't do anything with the possession and Spain clears. Just a few minutes left in the first half.
44' - Spain gets the ball back on the attack but Alonso's shot is right at Kassid who scoops up the low bouncing shot.
45' - Iraqi defense just trying to get to halftime scoreless here. One minute of stoppage time.
45'+1 - Last chance for Spain here but the cross is cleared away and the referee blows the whistle to end the half. Well played by Iraq to hold the world's number one team scoreless days after they thrashed New Zealand 5-0. I'll be back with the second half in a few minutes.
Click here for the 2nd Half commentary.
Posted on: June 17, 2009 9:46 am
We're less than an hour away from the second matches in Group A in the 2009 Conferderations Cup. I'll have the Live Commentary for the Spain-Iraq contest at the top of the hour but before we get to that, here's a breakdown of the standings. Basically, it's what every team needs to do to have a chance at making the semi-finals. Obviously, winning two games is more or less an automatic lock for at least second place, but aside from Spain, will anyone win two games in Group A. And what about the USA and the Group of Death? Well, hold your horses, I've got half an hour to kill here before the start of the morning game.
Posted on: June 16, 2009 11:25 pm
Sorry for the late post, but since there wasn't any games today, I think everyone lived. I sadly DVR'd the USA-Italy game from Monday and started watching it just as the game was ending. We'll get to that in a second, but first, let's get to the morning game from Group B.
First off, that's a tough red card to give in a competitive tournament game. I've seen similar fouls get called in league play, but rarely international tournaments. As a soccer referee myself, I was mildly disappointed at the call, and the fact that Italy's Fabio Grosso didn't recieve a red card for his elbow on Landon Donovan just minutes later. Straight red cards like Clark's rarely happen. Clark clearly was going for the ball and made the mistake of following through the sliding tackle anyway. It wasn't malicious or intentional and was an easy yellow card, while Grosso's elbow could have denied a scoring chance for Donovan, which by rule is a red card. It's a shame that the referee changed the game dramatically in what had already been a decent game. If the ref keeps that card in his pocket, that might have been a fantastic game.
Here's a breakdown of Donovan's last 10 international goals - 8 PK's, 1 Free Kick, 1 Run-of-play goal. That last one goal means that it happened on something other than a set piece, free kick, etc. That doesn't mean that Donovan isn't a good scorer, but it means one of two things in my book. Either Landon is getting most of the defenses attention, or he's developed into an American David Beckham. What I mean by that is Donovan is a playmaker, but not the prolific scorer that everyone thinks he is. And really, that's not a bad thing. The US is going to need more players to step up, like Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey, especially on the attacking end.
If you DVR'd this game, do me a favor. Go back and see how many crosses this defender blocked out-of-bounds. It was unreal. Oguchi Onyeuw might be the backbone of the American defense, but Specter was probably the best defender on the American backline on Monday.
The New Jersey native has duel citizenship in the US and Italy, where his parents immigrated from. He came on early in the second half and scored a unassisted goal to level the scoring just minutes after he came on as a sub. Rossi stole the ball from the US near midfield and rifled a shot from about 30 yards past US GK Tim Howard. Absolutely a world class shot. Rumor has it that former US coach Bruce Arenas gave up on Rossi during the scouting process and that's why he chose to play for Italy. I'm not buying it because frankly, Italy is the better international team and has better leagues than MLS. If he wanted to play competitve soccer at a high level, Italy isn't a bad place to go. So congrats to the local guy for doubling up his other country. Can't blame him for the USA's loss. Might be able to blame a certain referee though...
Posted on: June 15, 2009 10:54 am
Edited on: June 15, 2009 11:53 am
ESPN2's halftime show with Rece Davis and Alexi Lalas. We get a look at the Brazilian goals with ESPN's Axis feature. And I'm reminded that I won't be watching USA-Italy game at 2:30 PM. I'm not bitter or anything. Back with the 2nd Half in a few minutes.