Every World Cup, a referee covers himself in such disgrace that you have to wonder not only how he made it into the Tournament but whether or not he should be allowed to ever see the field again in any official capacity. It is an old story. But to see two in one day? And one of them against my beloved Team USA? It’s just unbearable. But first cunts first; with his performance at today’s Germany vs Serbia match, Spanish referee Alberto Undiano has written his name in the book of World Cup infamy. I knew Group D would be physical and I ever went so far as to predict it would be the Group that saw the most cards in the Tournament, but I never dreamed that it would all come in one match; nine yellow cards, one of them an undeserved second yellow that turned red? Undiano was an absolute disgrace. I have no rooting interest for Germany or for Serbia, but I do like physical, attacking football and Undiano simply sucked the life out of this match when in the 36th minute, he produced his sixth card of the match, a second for German striker Miroslav Klose on an otherwise innocuous challenge, and condemned Germany to playing with ten men with 54 minutes to play. Moments later, the striker (and recent Liverpool signing) Milan Jovanovic pushed the ball in from a nodded down header by Nikola Zigic and Serbia were up 1-0. Germany threatened and when Nemanja Vidic handled the ball in the area, the ref justly awarded a penalty for the Germans. But Lukas Podolski stepped to the spot (instead of Bastian Schweinsteiger, who should be on penalties for Germany) and pushed it to the right, directly into the dive of Serbian keeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who made a terrific save and preserved Serbia’s famous victory.
Undiano Makes Himself The Star (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev)
If Australia can beat Ghana (and while that seems unlikely, Australia now have it all to play for), this Group will be level on points, which would set up a thrilling day on Wednesday, June 23rd, when the teams enter the final round. Hear that sound? That is the sound of Group D exploding into little pieces.
After a short interval, Team USA came out against tiny Slovenia and proceeded to shit themselves; Two Slovenian goals provided the bookends to a really atrocious first half by the USA, who showed no shape or patience on the ball at all. It is very interesting; I can’t imagine why Bob Bradley decided to start the game in a 4-4-2 knowing full well that a loss would send the USA out, but his decision to start Robbie Findley up top again, after his much-vaunted “pace” provided no end product against England, was a real mistake. The USA seemed stretched the entire half and both goals were conceded on a counter attack; the first a beautiful 20 yard shot from a completely unmarked Valter Birsa proved that Francisco Torres and Michael Bradley, who were pressed far upfield, not really showing any creative presence and unable to track back to mark Birsa, may have been the wrong combination. Of course, Onyewu might have taken three or four steps forward to actually mark the player as well; Birsa found the perfect spot in between the USA formation and made no mistake. Torres did force a save from Slovenian keeper Samir Handanovic and Dempsey’s cross to Landon Donovan was cleared only an inch from the goal line, but those half chances aside, the USA lacked any venom until, on a classic counterattack, Zlatan Ljubijankic found himself onside alone on goal, slotting the ball past Tim Howard and putting Slovenia up 2-0. Daunting.
Incredibly Annoying: The Slovenian Team Dance
I am not sure what happened in the USA locker room during half time, but I do know what happened just after; Bob Bradley made an incredibly smart decision, one that he should have made from the outset– he subbed out Torres and Findley and replaced them with Benny Feilhaber, who played in midfield, pushing Dempsey up top, and Maurice Edu, whose defensive mindset allowed Michael Bradley the freedom to push forward. Hello formation we should have been playing all along; it took Landon Donovan all of two and a half minutes to score a crushing goal. Heading in on the right wing, Donovan’s defender slipped, putting him along on goal and when Handanovic stayed on his line, Donovan smashed the ball into the top of the net, putting the USA within one goal at 2-1.
The USA pressed the entire second half and, with Feilhaber supporting Bradley going forward and Donovan slotted up top, they finally drew level when, in the 82nd minute Altidore nodded Donovan’s sweeping ball onto an onrushing Michael Bradley, who finished brilliantly into the top of the net to make it 2-2.
The USA were back in it and battling all the way until, on an 86th minute free kick, referee Koman Coulibaly wrote his name in USA soccer history, blowing dead a sure-fire USA match winning goal from Maurice Edu on “a foul in the box.” Which didn’t exist.
Find The Foul: Edu’s Match Winner Is Stolen
Suffer Again: Edu 3-2, Ripped Away
Studio Breakdown With The Legendary Steve McManaman and
Giant Asshole Commentator Alexi Lalas
The match ended 2-2 keeping American hopes alive for advancing, but we should have had a win and 3 points; maybe now that our nation has entered the realm of countries unjustly punished by shitty officials and terrible calls, we will finally embrace the game in the same meaningful way that we embrace all underdogs who get cheated– with vitriolic outrage at the unfairness of it all. That’s soccer, but that’s not us; it hurts to see the team punished when they did nothing wrong– it brings up something primal in us, like when we are unfairly punished in junior high school or when we see criminals get off for crimes for which they are clearly guilty. Team USA is already climbing a mountain to gain respect and when they’ve justly earned it, it hurts to have some fucking douche bag from Mali take it away without as much as a comment after the match.
In the day’s final match, England, who were absolute shit, drew 0-0 with Algeria. The less said about this shithouse of a match the better, but England had the better of the chances, playing Emile Heskey (horrifically bad) and Wayne Rooney (awful) up top and bringing Garreth Barry into the side in holding midfield (why? it’s fucking Algeria man!), only to find Steven Gerrard on last year’s club form (dour) and the rest of the team bereft of ideas. Here is a picture from the game.
So Lonely (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
So, what does it all mean? Slovenia are top with 4 points (should be three) and a +1 goal differential, The USA sits second in Group with 2 points (should be first with 4 points), a zero goal differential and 3 goals scored. England, in third, are on 2 points, a zero goal differential and 1 goal scored. Algeria are on 1 point, a -1 goal differential and no goals scored. So, doing the math; If the USA win, they are in the knockout stages. If England and Slovenia tie and the USA vs Algeria match is tie, and if England score less than 2 goals more than the USA we are in. If England beat Slovenia and the USA wins and we score more than England, we win the group. If Slovenia beat England, they win the Group and USA advances with a draw. If today’s draw with England means anything, it means the Algeria are no fucking joke, and The USA must be on the top of their game to advance. If they play like they did in the second half of today’s match, and if tactically, we set out to win this match, we might just pull this off. We should be pulling for an England win or draw and a USA win by a wider margin than England, which would see us top the Group on goal differential and avoid the Group D winner, which could be fucking anyone at this point. Either way, Maurice Edu’s disallowed goal will be a huge difference maker and looms large for the USA as we look to get out of a wide open Group C. Win and we’re in; this is what sport in the USA is all about.
What a fucking day… Where was a good ref when we needed one?
Up Next: Day Nine