Another unfocused blog today. With so much going on, I want to comment on all of it! As anyone who's seen me when cookies are around the house, I am unable to exercise self-control. There's alot here, but like a warm plate of Toll House, it's ALL good stuff.
First, a lot of people asking what the US needs to happen in Wednesday's games for them to qualify for the knockout round.
Call it "What to root for":
-USA wins, Slovenia wins. USA advances as 2nd place.
-USA wins, Slovenia loss. USA advances. Likely as 1st place, unless England scores 2 MORE goals than USA does.
-USA wins, Slovenia ties. USA advances. Tiebreakers executed for who wins first and who wins second. First tiebreaker is goal differential. Slovenia owns that now, but if USA win and Slovenia tie, that will be at least even and possibly in USA favor.
-USA looses, USA out no matter what happens in England-Slovenia game
-USA ties, England wins. USA out. Slovenia and England advance.
-USA ties, Slovenia wins. USA advances as second qualifier.
- USA ties, England-Slovenia tie. USA likely advances, unless England scores 2 MORE goals than USA.
There you have it. Select the above section, print section and keep it handy so you know what results to root on tomorrow when you sneak a peek at the office. I have many more thoughts on tomorrow's games below.
WHAS11.com user jminer1 asks in the comment section of my South America blog yesterday: "who you think would be in the final match, would it be a perennial powerhouse such as Germany, Brazil, Spain, or maybe someone like the Netherlands?"
I guess now that I've had a chance to see everyone play at least twice, a prediction is a fair request at this point. First thing I'm going to do is not pick against history. A European side has never won outside of Europe, I don't think this will change. As discussed below, I'm not convinced Spain makes it out of the group stage, and if they do, Brazil may await in the round of 16.
Italy has a history of gutting out decisions in tight games, and I favor them over the other European sides due to this toughness. They won't win though.
I'm going with Brazil. They can defend and attack. They have a top keeper. I slot Argentina, Netherlands, Italy, Uruguay behind them. Count Germany, Portugal and England as possible shockers. In my opinion the winner will come from that group, but I wouldn't take that Brazil pick to your local bookmaker, this has been a tight cup and the difference among the entire 16 will be razor thin.
Some Notes From Tuesday's Games:
-I'm gonna take another shot at analyzing an attacking run. The Suarez run on the Uruguay goal was beautiful. Actually the entirety of the attack was. Forlon a wonderful pass up the wing into space to Cavani who sends a one touch cross to the top of the six- far post. While the ball is in the air Suarez (who has 53 goals in 60 games for club and country this season!) Starts his run at the near post, turning the Mexican defender and holding the keeper Perez, then cuts hard for the far post and the ball. A gorgeous run, followed with a gorgeous header, headed down right on the line. No chance for Perez, and the goal of the tournament in my mind so far.
-Uruguay keeps a clean sheet for the entire group stage. Suarez, Forlon and the attack have gotten a lot of attention, but the defense is what's made a believer of me that this team can make a deep run.
-There was a 30 minute window when South Africa took a 2-0 lead over France and Uruguay scored to make it 1-0 over Mexico, where many were seeing a USA Confed. Cup like final day comeback for the hosts South Africa. France was down to 10 men and playing like they had one foot on the plane home. South Africa had caught a few breaks and certainly seemed possible, if not probable, for one or two more goals. In the 51st minute Mphena was played in alone for South Africa, struck it past the keeper, but couldn't get it to bend back into the goal. You had the feeling the hosts CUp run had just clanged off the post and Mexico would advance. 18 minutes later, France scored their only goal of the tourney, and the Cup was over for South Africa.
-Argentina looks strong. In a game which meant little to them, but a lot to Greece, Argentina were lightly challenged on their way to a 2-0 victory.
-This left the winner of Nigeria-South Korea as the second qualifier for Group B. Nigeria had the better of the chances, but South Korea proved just plucky enough to score twice and avoid having the Eagles finish some really good opportunities (including a 5 yard empty net opportunity missed by Aiyegbeni) to advance with the 2-2 tie.
- Watching two games at once is very difficult. I am a remote control master, but it was hard to see everything I wanted to see today. Molly Malone's tomorrow morning should make this easier.
Previewing Tomorrow's big 10:00AM Games:
-Many in the national media have rightfully been questioning the US slow starts and ESPN writer Jeff Carlisle quotes star Landon Donovan as saying the US was "too tentative" to start against Slovenia. He goes on to quote Head Coach Bob Bradley as saying, "It's frustrating when you go through a stretch when it seems like, in the feeling out process of the game, you find yourself behind too often."
So the players and coach see the problem, and the results back up the media's questioning. Reading the above quotes it's simple to see why the team is tentative early on. Why is there a need for a feeling out process, particularly when the US is thought to be the stronger side, such as when they play Algeria tomorrow morning? They are apparently coached to feel out the opposition, rather than impose their will on the opponent.
I understand the temptation to "feel out" the other team, but also think that the mindset of "let's take it to these guys." (like they did to open the second half the other night) would yield superior results.
-Altidore may be ill. I think this is a potential problem for the US. Altidore may have found a way to make a difference and assert himself during the second half last Friday. With Findley suspended due to yellow accumulation, that leaves just Edson Buddle (Findley's likely replacement) and super-sup Herculez Gomes as truly healthy strikers. Sure Dempsey can play there, but this team has consistently shown to be at their best when he plays midfield.
-I am not very familiar with Algeria, but from what I understand, the US is a tough match up for them. The reports are their backs are not as tough as the Slovenia backs and their best player happens to play on the side of the field that has been most sure defensively for the USA.
-Algeria is likely to open up their game plan from what we saw Friday against England, since they will need 3 points to advance, but they have only given the one goal thus far. The Slovenia goal against Algeria is widely considered the second largest goalkeeper mistake of the tournament. No points if you know who had the first.
-So what do I think will happen? I think the USA will come out aggressive, but struggle to find the net as other Algeria opponents have. Eventually they will crack, and the US will find more space as the game wears down. Tim Howard will finally get his clean sheet: USA 3 Algeria 0.
- In the other game, something will have to give with the England goalscorers. 0 goals since the 4th minute of their first game. I find it hard to believe Slovenia can hold a determined England down, and even harder to believe England will concede a goal (which other have not done outside of the Green fiasco). After sweaty times and worry, England win 2-0 and claim second in the group.
And if I'm right about tomorrow, all's well that ends well despite the controversy, worry and rabble both from the US and our brothers in England.
Before I go, to quickly finish yesterday's thought on what to watch for in the third games of group stage.
Group H: Spain-Chile; Switzerland Honduras (Friday 2:30PM) World #1 Spain is not out of the woods yet despite yesterday's dominating 2-0 win over Honduras. They sit in a second place tie behind the group's South American team Chile. Spain holds the tiebreakers, and are more than capable of defeating Chile and winning the group. BUT Switzerland with whom they are currently tied with points-wise play group minnow Wondrous. It is probable they will finish with 6 points as well. then what? Tie-breakers. Goal differential, Goals scored- that's what to watch for in this group.