Wednesday, June 30, 2010
USA in the World Cup: Final Thoughts for 2010
I am sad about the USA's early exit (I consider it early.) from the World Cup. Watching the game against Ghana, the US was clearly the better team. Things just didn't come together for them in the end and that wasn't helped by the shameless time wasting by the Ghana team. So my last post about the US in the World Cup is not about the goals scored or not scored or scored then disallowed, but instead about the men on the US team. I think I can say, even without my American bias, that the US men's soccer team was the most sportsmanlike and classy team to play in the World Cup this year.
Let's look at a couple of examples of what NOT to do in a World Cup. Screaming at your coach until you get thrown off the team is a good example. How about refusing to practice in protest of a player being sent home? Sure, because when your country is counting on you to play well so you can win games so you can do well in the World Cup, as you have historically proven you can do in the past, it's a great idea to not practice, right? Ridonculous. Add to that that the same team's coach refused to shake hands with the coach of the team that won the match and you get the award for Worst World Cup Attitude. That's an official thing. I'm mailing the trophy to France any day now.
Dives are no stranger to the World Cup, either. I remember being furious with Christiano Ronaldo in 2006 for falling down and screaming in agony, any time an opposing player came near him. This year, Ronaldo couldn't pull it out for Portugal against Spain, but at least he wasn't falling over at the slightest breeze in his direction. And, sure, there have been many dives this World Cup. But the beautiful thing is that you haven't seen them from the US team. You have, however, seen the US players get beat up quite a bit and not really whine about it much. Case in point: Clint Dempsey gets elbowed in the face, has a really bad bloody lip, and when the refs did nothing, he wiped his face and kept taking shots on goal. Clint Dempsey got particularly beat up this World Cup, actually. He took tackle after tackle, including some pretty nasty fouls, and he kept playing, and playing well. He looked amazing against Ghana! And let's not forget that "off sides" goal against Algeria. Totally on side, but whatever. Let's move on. The point is that the USA didn't dive and whine and hold their faces for no reason while pounding on the ground demanding a foul.
If you need another example of annoying conduct on the pitch, check out Ghana at the end of the US v Ghana extra time. Sure, any team in that position would be praying for the clock to run down, but these players took it too far. They were falling over left and right, lying on the ground, writhing in pain, and generally wasting as much time as possible. My favorite moment of time-wasting shenanigans was when a player for Ghana sprawled on the ground for as long as it took for a ref to notice him and stop game play, then he continued to lie there being "examined" by the med staff, then was carried off the pitch in a stretcher, only to get off the stretcher, by himself, the moment is was set on the sidelines. It's a miracle! I'm so glad those 3 minutes of play time were taken away from my team's players so that this guy could make such a miraculous recovery. The US players were visibly upset by all of this, and who could blame them? I was furious and the announcers weren't happy, either. Finally, the refs started telling the toppled-over Ghana players to quit, but that didn't stop them. Then there was the Ghana substitution that was for the player furthest away from the sideline. And the player walked over. Slowly. So. Very. Slowly. When he finally got there, the other player slowly walked on. It was infuriating! And we didn't get enough extra time to compensate for all those "injuries."
My final note on the USA v Ghana game is that the US outplayed Ghana for all but 2 minutes of that match. The other day I heard someone say the US got lucky when Donovan scored in the 91st minute. My reply to that was that Algeria got lucky that that game wasn't 9 to 0. But, this is how it goes with soccer, and so we have four more years to get pumped up for Brazil. (And my trip to the World Cup! We're going!)
So, even though the team has already left South Africa and Landon Donovan was kicking soccer balls at moving taxis on Letterman last night, I am very proud of the way my country was represented in the 2010 World Cup. The US players didn't dive, they didn't give up when they got bad calls, they fought every minute of play (Remember Tim Howard up on the offense? Chills!), and they didn't whine or blame things on other teams or referees. They were a class act the whole time.
I'm going to do another post to address my thoughts on American reaction to the World Cup, so stay tuned for that!