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Saturday, June 12, 2010

England-USA : Christmas Comes Early for the Yanks

Thanks to feeling ill today, I was able to stay at home and O.D on rugby and soccer. I caught France get totally steamrolled by the Springboks from Cape Town, in a serious bit of payback from the beat-down that France put on South Africa in Toulouse back in the fall. I caught part of South Korea beating Greece and Argentina beat Nigeria. I took a nap after the Argentina win and then tuned into England and the USA in their first group game from the FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

Given the remote location of Rustenburg, it's amazing too many just how many English and American fans made the trip. The match had a great ambiance.

On paper, England-USA should be a total mismatch. England has field players who are legitimate stars and  who have sublime skills, like Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney and Frank Lampard. In the buildup to this game, the American press focused a lot on the "Miracle on Grass" in Belo Horziente, Brazil in the 1950 World Cup, where a rag-tag bunch of semi-professionals stunned a star-studded England side, 1-0. American soccer has come a long way since then-but even the most ardent American fan would be delusional to think that we have as much talent as the English.

It was Stevie G. who gave England a very early 1-0 lead with a typically lethal finish from the Liverpool captain.  England looked  very dangerous when they had the ball in deep early on. The US defense held firm the rest of the match. Tim Howard was fantastic in goal, and Oguchi Onweyu was a force in the central defense.

One of the great paradoxes of the two teams is that England, in spite of it's star power, has had a lot of question marks at goalkeeper since Peter Shilton played for England in the 1990 World Cup. If you look at most of the clubs in the English Premiership, the majority of the starting goalkeepers are not English. The US, on the other hand, have several goalkeepers plying their trade in England. The other thing that the US has going for it, is what they make lack in star-power, they make up in cohesion. It's a team that is better than the sum of it's parts.

In the 40th minute, Clint Dempsey, a Texan who earns his paycheck playing for Fulham in England, hit a low squibber from about 20 yards out that should have been an easy stop for a youth level player...the ball was fumbled and bundled into goal by West Ham keeper Robert Green...who probably wished that the South African soil would have swallowed him up. To be fair to Green, he did make a really nice save on Jozy Altidore late in the game, when the dud with Hull City left Jamie Carragher in his dust, and was able to save the ball with a little help from his right post. I can only just imagine the English press sharpening its knives to savage Robert Green. There are times like this I am glad that I am a nurse and not a high-profile athlete. Thank God I don't have somebody from the Sun or Daily Telegraph waiting to rake me over the coals after a bad shift at the hospital.

In the end, a 1-1 draw was a better result for the US, who had to exorcise some demons from a poor performance in Germany 4 years ago. For England, they should be able to shake this off and qualify for the second round. For the US, they will go from being a heavy underdog against England to being favored against Algeria and Slovenia...will they be able to deal with that pressure? The other question for England will be if England coach Fabio Capello puts Green back in goal for England in their next game against Algeria.


  1. You must have been pretty happy about this ND. It's looking good.
    What do you think of those vuvu horns though?

  2. Hi Ferdy! I think a 1-1 draw was a fair result. To be honest, the Vuvuzelas don't really bother me...although in reading different accounts of the games, they seem to bother the European fans more than those of us here in the US.