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World Cup – Eliminations, Day 1

The Round of 16 starts today …

Uruguay 2 – South Korea 1

This was a really fun game to watch!  Uruguay played a very disciplined defense, although South Korea managed to make some chances.  The Koreans got behind on 8′ when their goalie failed to deal with a very reachable cross and it ended up on the foot of Luis Suarez, who put in the easy chance. They kept fighting, and got the equalizer an hour later when a Korean free kick from was not well cleared, allowing Lee Chong Yung a free header which he scored. Luis Suarez scored IMHO the goal of the tournament so far when he picked up the remains of a Uruguay corner on the left corner of the box, made a couple of moves, ended up just inside the box, and curled a beautiful strike into the far corner of the goal.  Korea kept pressing, but that is how it ended.

USA 1 – Ghana 2 (OT)

Man oh man, did this loss hurt. Clearly, the USA had not come back from the high after the Algerian stoppage time win.  They started flat, and gave up a silly goal early. On 10′, Ricardo Clark gave up the ball at half, Kevin Prince-Boateng picked it up and advanced unmolested the 18, where he popped a left footed strike past USA keeper Tim Howard on the near post. .  Silly turnover, silly defense, silly goalkeeping.  The USA struggled getting the ball past midfield for the next 20 minutes, before Bob Bradley figured out that Ricardo Clark shouldn’t have been started and replaced him with Maurice Edu. Then things perked up, although no scoring.

At halftime, Robbie Findley was replaced with Benny Feilhaber, and then things really got going.  The USA was the better team through the second half .. the outstanding Ghana keeper Richard Kingson was in my opinion man of the match.  The USA got the equalizer on a nicely taken Landon Donovan PK earned when Clint Dempsey got clear in the penalty area and Jonathan Mensah took him out. So the regular time ended with the score tied at 1.

Extra time opened the way the game did. A Ghana long ball was nicely picked up by 20 year old Asamoah Gyan, who blew straight between the US central defenders and beat Howard cleanly. The next 27 minutes was spent in the Ghana half, but with no result.  So again, Ghana eliminates the USA.

This game was a microcosm of the USA World Cup. The USA was a better team than Ghana, but the result went against them. Coach Bob Bradley picked a team poorly suited to the opponent, defensive lapses resulted in soft goals, poor first touches gave away promising opportunities, and Bradley’s options at the end were limited by his having to use substitutions to fix selection problems.

But the biggest problem is that the USA was not up to snuff technically.  Donovan is the only USA player who can consistently finish.  Over and over again, excellent opportunities were squandered because of a poor first touch .. Jozy Altidore had three himself. Possession after possession was given away because of an inability to protect the ball, or a pass that wasn’t good enough. Until that is fixed, the USA has plateaued.

Ghana and Uruguay play on Friday for a spot semi-final spot. My expectation is that Uruguay will hammer Ghana.

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