World Cup Redux: Group C Where Art Thou, Referees Ruled Sunday Routs

27 June 2010

Germany's goalkeeper Manuel Neuer tries to save a shot by Frank Lampard. (Credit Image: © DPA/ZUMApress.com)
Now that the knockout stages have arrived at the World Cup, we may have more talking points than we did for all of the group games combined. The problem is some of them, despite valid points, would not have mattered when the full time whistle blew.

Luis Suarez Is That Damn Good
Uruguay's 2-1 win over South Korea was about one man: Luis Suarez. The Ajax player, who has scored 77 goals in all club competitions for his side over the last two years, has been severely overlooked because some feel the Dutch league isn't up to a caliber worthy of validating those numbers. I hope this World Cup has made them realize he's the special player that many have felt he has been for the better part of three years. What's scary is that he's only twenty-three. What's even scarier is that he's only going to get better.
His two goals on Saturday showed both sides to his game. On the opener, his run to the far post was proof positive he doesn't give up on anything. Yes, the South Korean defense thought that keeper Jung Sung-Ryong was going to easily save a centering ball from Diego Forlan, but that's their own fault. Suarez's greatest quality is he is a man who doesn't give up. In his mind, that opener was nothing more than a gift he was going to take complete advantage of. With the goal mouth completely empty, it was an easy toe poke into the net.
His second goal was everything we love about football. In fairness, the corner kick it came from was not a good one. However, Uruguay's work to keep the ball in the box was. When the ball ended up at Suarez's feet, it only took him two moves to do all he needed to. The first move baffled and turned Cho Yong-Hyung and Kim Jung-Woo, and the second set him up in position for a curling spot far post. The keeper was never going to save the ball, and could only watch helplessly as the ball went into the back of the net.
While some will say that he had a quiet second half, he did well tracking back in defense, and waited for his chance to strike. That to me is the sign of a player that deserves more attention and credit than what he's got already.

The United States Followed the Same Script, but Ghana Had it Memorized
Even if it still sucks a day after the fact, the United States were always second best in their round of sixteen game with Ghana. What could be even more frustrating about it was how the US followed the same script in all four games of this World Cup.
With Ghana's pace, any simple mistake was going to be punished in the worst way possible. It didn't take them long to punish their first. With Ricardo Clark's pathetic pass, Ghana only had to recite the lines from the same opening minutes to the previous three games. One pass to Kevin Prince-Boateng and he made Tim Howard pay for being weighted on the wrong foot. The only thing that could have been better about it was the near post strike.
Sure the United States may have been hopeful in searching for an equalizer, but it was more wishful thinking than hope. Yes, the US did pull an equalizer back on a perfectly legitimate penalty, but watching the match, it was obvious they were never going to score in open play. Not one chance the US put on target was a serious threat. When your best opportunity comes when Jozy Altidore is falling on his butt, I'm sorry but you don't deserve to win inside the ninety minutes.
When you watch the opening minutes of extra time, it appeared the United States back line reset their mental clock to 0:00, not 90:00. Their defending was worse then it was when the match started, and the only man on the pitch who deserved a goal got his just reward. On a simple long ball that Carlos Bocanegra should have dealt with, Asamoah Gyan beat him to it, beat off the weak shoulder to shoulder challenge Bocanegra put on the Ghanaian body, and then beat Tim Howard with one powerful effort he wouldn't have saved. With the United States dead legged, even after the inclusion of Herculez Gomez, they could only muster a half chance off a corner kick in the first extra time.
In my opinion, now isn't the time to dwell on the future of where the US National Team goes from here. I think now is more a time of reflection. In the short time I have reflected on the performance, Bob Bradley did the most he could with the talent he had. As for Ghana, their match with Uruguay will be an entertaining one to watch, as Ghana tries to break down Uruguay's counter attacking defensive style.


The Referees Got Bailed Out of Bad Calls, But the Results Were Never a Doubt
Let's just call it as was on Sunday: the refereeing was beyond shocking. Frank Lampard had a perfectly good goal not given, and Argentina were given a Carlos Tevez opener that was a full three yards offside. However, when you look at both balances of play over the ninety minutes, there was nothing that told me that the results would be different even if those results were reversed.
In the opening match on Sunday, Germany were the deserved winners. England only had one five minute stretch in the first half where they were the better side. During that time period, they did get Matthew Upson's header and the controversial Frank Lampard goal that wasn't given, but they did not have the fight in the second half to make Germany pay. It was only a matter of time before Germany retook the upper hand, and when they got two goals in three minutes, England gave up fighting.
To be blunt, this was not a case of comeuppance from 1966, this was just a mentally weak England side that did not have a clue how to deal with adversity. It showed on the third German goal when only two England defenders could get back off a free kick before Thomas Mueller scored. It showed on the fourth goal when Gareth Barry was the only one that attempted to get back and try to defend Germany from getting in the. If you show no desire to fight back when things don't go your way, you don't deserve to make the quarterfinals of the World Cup.
As for Mexico, their already mentally weak nature showed quickly when Argentina's opener from Carlos Tevez was allowed to stand in the twenty-sixth. They spent way too much time arguing with the linesmen about the call, and not only picked up a quick yellow card after the restart, but allowed Argentina to get a second goal seven minutes later.
Mexico's attack, as it had for the entire tournament, lacked any teeth. While they did pull one back with nineteen minutes to go, I put it more to Argentina checking out on the game. However, once Mexico did score, Argentina's focus returned and the game played out rather tamely.
If there was anything to be learned from Sunday, it was that if you don't have the mental fortitude to handle crap that may come your way, you deserve no sympathy about the bad calls that come your way. England and Mexico both deserved to go out, regardless if the referees screwed up as badly as they did.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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