South Korea 2-0 Greece
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria
England 1-1 USA
Note: It looks like FIFA and YouTube have joined forces to remove and block all World Cup highlight videos from being shared, which is fucking stupid. I will keep looking for embeddable clips, but we may stay text heavy in the meantime. Apologies and stay tuned…
First, let me just say: WOO HOOOOO! Okay.
Day two at the 2010 FIFA World Cup got under way bright and early in New York City (and far earlier on the West Coast) as South Korea took on Greece in Port Elizabeth at 7:30 AM EST. Reports of soft ticket sales were verified at this match, with thousands of empty seats visible through the stadium, which is a real shame, because South Korea came to play and were all action, taking it to Greece, whose usual tactic of playing tight, defensive football was ruined in the 7th minute when South Korean defender Lee Jung-Soo latched on to the end of a free kick and buried the ball in the back of the net.
It was the perfect start for South Korea and for the neutral observer; Greece, forced to chase a goal immediately, was unable to stay in their shell and with South Korea dominating the midfield and able to turn sloppy Greek passing into instant and dangerous counter attacks, the game quickly turned into a one-sided affair. South Korea were all action; organized, efficient in their passing and always up for a run onto the end of a pass, they controlled play until Park Ji-Sung stole the ball in midfield and made a great run to goal, finishing with style and putting the game our of Greece’s reach.
The game was a lot of fun; wide open, free flowing football that gave South Korea a real chance to qualify from Group B. Greece, the 2004 European Champions, are appearing in only their second World Cup, and they remain goalless at the Tournament. Here’s hoping South Korea make it through the Group stages; they are a real pleasure to watch.
After a short break, Maradona’s Argentina side took the field against an under-manned Nigeria side; without their midfield boss Jon Obi Mikel (out of the Tournament due to a late injury) to help keep possession, win some balls and launch the counter attack, Nigeria were short of attacking midfield options and it showed. Fortunately for them, they were playing against Juan Sebastian Veron in midfield who, despite the blathering praise for his performance and ability from the media, was simply awful. I’ll go on the record right now; despite the electricity of Lionel Messi, who should have scored five or six goals on the night had Nigerian keeper Vincent Enyeama not played out of his mind, Argentina will get steamrolled in the later stages of this tournament with Veron pulling the strings. He is well past it, and despite a great 50-yard pass to Messi in the first half (and the corner that led to Gabriel Heinze’s spectacular goal), Veron was a shadow of the self he never truly was. Any Argentina supporter in his right mind has to ask how in the name of all that is holy Esteban Cambiasso is not in this team; Veron gave the ball away constantly, playing far too slow for the team’s style and putting his teammates into constant jeopardy with 50-50 balls that seemed to have no purpose. Maybe Maradona can’t afford cable TV or a satellite dish to watch Inter Milan, or maybe he’s just pissed Inter knocked Messi’s Barcelona out of the Champions League, but either way, Veron is not driving this team to the final and, if Messi can be stopped (as he was, miraculously, tonight), Argentina are in trouble at the first sign of world class midfield competition.
Still, they walked out comfortable 1-0 winners on Gabriel Heinze’s staggering, thunderous header off of a 6th minute Veron corner kick.
Argentina 1-0 Nigeria (Gabriel Heinze)
After that, it was Messi vs Enyeama all night long, with the Nigerian keeper pulling off a string of tremendous saves to keep Messi and Gonzalo Higuain off of the score sheet. It didn’t help Messi’s cause that he was usually receiving the ball deeper in his own half than usual; at Barcelona, Messi has Xavi, Busquets, Touré and Iniesta behind him, constantly feeding him the ball in attacking positions. Tonight, Messi made a lot of longer runs with Carlos Tevez, Veron and an invisible Angel Di Maria providing him nowhere near the same support and service. Despite the deeper play making role in the hole behind Higuain, Messi was still everything you’d expect of him. I can’t wait to watch him against the lumbering Greek defense on June 22; he is going to blow right past them. The result sets up a corker between Argentina and South Korea for supremacy in Group B on June 17th. That match has gone from must-see to a possible best match of the Group stages as the action will be fast and furious.
For the USA vs England match, I fulfilled my promise to myself and caught the game with a large group of friends and visiting family at Loki Lounge, one of the NY Times’ top rated bars for World Cup viewing and a mere 20 drunken paces from my front door. I was there in 2006, fueled by excitement and the sense of promise engendered during the USA’s great run in 2002, only to watch the team slaughtered 3-0 by the Czech Republic. If 2006 was pure heartbreak, 2010’s opening match featured one of the great draws of all time, one which will live in infamy for generations of fans to come. The ability of the team to grind out a professional 1-1 draw is not to be underestimated and this result will stay in my heart for a long, long time to come. This was a huge night for the USA.
Let me start by sending my condolences to Robert Green; England will qualify and all will be forgiven but holy fucking shit that was the worst goal keeping blunder I’ve ever seen in my life. Green is quality, a huge shot stopper for West Ham and someone who should simply move on from this match and give his all when he can, but his gift to the USA on a weak Clint Dempsey attempt from 25 yards was the difference in the match.
Do you smell that? That’s the smell of hot, wet ink being spilled in England, crucifying the West Ham keeper and the manager who started him. When I say it is a once in a lifetime blunder, I mean it; I am only thankful that my team was on the positive end of it for once. It is going to be a long six days in the England camp.
The Shot: USA’s Clint Dempsey
The Save…D’oh!: Robert Green’s Blunder Will be Remembered Forever
I love my team but I’ll say it; the USA were gifted a 1-1 draw tonight, but the blunder aside, the result was well earned by holding England scoreless for 86 minutes after (my) Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard scored a super goal in the fourth minute to put England ahead. The USA kept their shape and poise and had only a few dangerous chances while spending most of their energy trying to contain the English, who had plenty of space to attack and very few ideas on how to score. It was only a few crucial Tim Howard saves that kept the USA in the match, and I can only think of this as a miracle draw, a concept which may sound very unsexy to the casual observer but which is a MASSIVE result for Team USA.
Ummm.. Bootleg Version Of Dempsey’s Goal: Enjoy It While It Lasts! (Thank you “link to us goal”)
During most of the match, I was speechless and couldn’t breathe; hoping against hope that Bob Bradley’s choice to start Robbie Findley up top alongside Jozy Altidore wouldn’t haunt the manager; it didn’t, but Findley was not the defense stretching difference maker that Bradley was hoping he might be. Ashley Cole and Glenn Johnson eat Robbie Findley’s for breakfast, and while the striker had plenty of pace, he had no end product and no real service; Dempsey’s blunder-inducing shot aside, only Jozy Altidore’s brilliant move in the late stages of the game caused Green any trouble, and the England keeper’s terrific save, which he pushed off the crossbar, secured a point for England.
In terms of analysis, I was very impressed with Ricardo Clark who– despite being burned by Steven Gerrard on the England goal– got his head in back in the game and made several important tackles and passes in the midfield. Steve Cherundolo was always magnificent, a great call by Bradley to allow his pace and poise to help dominate on the right wing. For all of the worry about Oguchi Onyewu, his performance was top notch as well– the back four allowed England to threaten too many times, but the great play of Tim Howard always bailed us out in the end; it’s no way to live, but against England, happy to take it. England’s ability in the midfield and on the wings forced Michael Bradley to play so deep in support of Clark that he sucked Landon Donovan back with him, not allowing Donovan to get into too many dangerous positions at all and stifling our counter attack by forcing Donovan into a recessed midfield position. The USA was not able to structure an attack for almost the entire night; only Altidore’s individual play on the left wing, blowing past my boy Jamie Carragher (ouch!), got us into a dangerous goal scoring position, but fair play; the team spent all of its energy trying to neutralize the England attack and never really chased the game, allowing England to come to them and responding with terrific poise and a few crucial saves when the need arose. Well done, USA; you earned a huge point tonight. This type of performance is a massive step forward for the team. The next two matches promise greener pastures and here’s hoping we can capitalize.
For all of my joy at a draw, England were always on the front foot and able to cause problems for the USA; we didn’t create much havoc and while we held our own, it was the brilliance of Tim Howard and the bounce of the ball here and there– created by pressure sure, but still–that allowed the USA the result which they earned and which, fair fucking play. I can’t see this England team lifting the trophy this time around, nor will the USA beat the world, but this was a great result in a heart-stopping game. Onwards and upwards; I feel great about the USA’s chances to progress in the tournament and a draw between Algeria and Slovenia tomorrow would be icing on the cake! May it be so!
Sorry, Had To.
Up Next: Day Three (whew!)