I want to send a shout out to Jarrett @ TriSoccerFan for putting together today’s World Cup Party at Cary’s Fox and Hound. Every wall with space on it had widescreen projection TVs – there was not a bad seat in the house. We packed the whole family in the van and headed out in time to catch the Ghana v Czech Republic match. Ghana pulled off the upset of the Cup so far in my opinion as they controlled the match and held the Czech Republic scoreless.
Needless to say, when the final whistle sounded, the pub erupted as Ghana had just thrown Group E wide open with their 2-0 win. Tense wasn’t the word as the USMNT took the field, and did they ever. They clearly controlled the tempo of the match and had Italy nervous. Even after a clear defensive mistake allowed Italy to score, the US stayed focused and did not seem to miss a step. Then the ref decided to go card happy.
Yellow cards came flying for marginal fouls. The expulsion of de Rossi (Italy) was clearly called for. You don’t elbow someone in the face 2 yards away from the referee and expect to get away with it. But after that, all hell broke loose. Mastroeni (US) hit the ankle, but not with his lead foot. He clearly seemed to try to pull back on the tackle and at most a yellow should have been showed. As for Pope getting two yellows, that had everyone scratching their heads.
So did we all want a win – yes. But the US played the match of their lives, holding Italy 1-1 playing a man down. Then to put the ball into the net with 9 men on the field was amazing. No team has ever scored a goal in the World Cup with 9 men. We came THAT close. Of course, this was the one call the ref seemed to get right. I’ll catch hell for saying it, but there was no question the US player screened Buffon. He had to lift his foot out of the path of the ball and was clearly offside. And man did the pub we were in explode when that ball went into the net.
But that referee Larrionda was absolutely horrible. He just couldn’t stop blowing the whistle. Every time things got exciting, he’d blow play dead over an obvious dive. And there’s no way the US played so dirty that they deserved 24 fouls vs. Italy’s 13.
So did we want the win? Of course. But we’ll take the tie, even if Italy scored our point. Could Arena have subbed in a 3rd time? Sure. But it was clear he was hoping to hold the tie with the skill he had on field and hopefully the US would get a breakaway on an Italian mistake (and we had a few good chances).
The US clearly got their heads straight and came to play. They controlled early and struck often, even if no shot was officially on goal.
So now things get interesting. Ghana is dangerous. We need to win and win big to assure we move ahead. We’re already down in goal differential. If Italy beats the Czech’s and we beat Ghana, we’re in like flint. If the Czech’s win or draw and we beat Ghana, it’ll be a tie down to goal differential and right now we’re losing that matchup.
US fans should be very happy with how the team played. They showed the world that match #1 was a fluke. Now they need to rest up and get ready for a tough Ghana team coming off the win of their lives. We all can breath a sigh of relief. The incredible team Bruce Arena has been talking about for so long showed up to play and proved to everyone that they can play on the world stage.
Of course if we do pull off 2nd place in our group, we all know who will likely be waiting for us.