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Winners and Losers Day 8: Surprise, Disappointment, and Controversy

June 18, 2010

From a neutral perspective, this was far and away the best day of the World Cup. However, the high level of play has been, and rightfully so, been overshadowed by the low level of refereeing. Every team that was “supposed” to win didn’t. Everyone’s new favorite to win the World Cup, Germany, looked anemic on offense, failing to even score on a penalty kick. The United States started poorly again, giving up two first-half goals before rallying to tie and appear to win, but poor refereeing reared its ugly head again. As disappointing the United States was, the English are disappointed that much and more. They could not muster any semblance of an attack, much less scoring chances against a tactically superior Algerian side. Today will more than likely be a wake-up calls to other “supposed” favorites like the Netherlands, Brazil, and Argentina. You can’t expect to show up and win on talent alone. Ask Joachim Low, Bob Bradley, or Fabio Capello. The winners and losers after the jump.

Winners:

Serbia – Serbia keeps their World Cup run alive with a hard fought 1-0 victory today. They took full advantage of Miroslave Klose’s questionable soft red card, Milan Jovanovic scoring the game’s lone goal minutes later. And Serbia’s Vladimir Stojkovic came up with a big save on a Germany penalty kick to preserve the game. They can advance with a win against Australia, depending on the other two remaining group matches (Ghana-Australia and Ghana-Germany).

Michael Bradley’s Late-Game Heroics – In qualifying, Bradley scored two goals including one late in the second half to preserve a 2-0 victory at home against Mexico. Down 2-0 to Costa Rica, Bradley scored America’s first of two goals to draw, finishing atop CONCACAF. Needing three goals to get through to the semi-finals of the Confederations Cup, he scored the second of three America goals against Egypt to set up the historical Spain matchup. Not to be outdone: down a goal today, Bradley made one of his patented runs and finished yet again in thrilling fashion to draw even with Slovenia.

Bob Bradley’s Reputation – While the U.S. started terribly, the tactical adjustments made by Bradley quickly paid off in the 2nd half; the move to what appeared to be a 3-4-3 formation focused on scoring resulted in tons of scoring opportunities. The substitution of Maurice Edu stabilized the midfield and limited space for Slovenia to attack and counter-attack. The key will be finding the right combination and tactics at the start of the game because you can only come back so many times.

England and Algeria Goalkeeping – After goalkeeping gaffes by England’s Robert Green and Algeria’s Faouzi Chaouchi in their first games, both sides’ backups stepped up en route to a scoreless draw. Starting in his first ever international match, Algeria’s Rais M’Bolhi played confidently, making five saves and commanding a fine defensive effort for the Algerians.

Group C Drama – Nobody is eliminated and everyone has something to play for. The U.S. fought back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to force a 2-2 draw. Algeria played a flawless match to draw even with a disappointing English side. To sum up the scenarios: Slovenia wins and they’re in, England wins and they’re in, the U.S. win they’re in, and if anything else happens, all hell will break loose.

Ghana – After Serbia’s 1-0 victory over Germany in yet another physical contest, Ghana moves to the driver’s seat of the group–at least for now. With a win against Australia, they will move three points ahead of both Serbia and Germany, and would only need a draw in their third game against Germany to finish atop Group D.

Losers:

Koman Coulibaly – Mali’s “Sleepy Eyes” was a disgrace. He never had control of the U.S.-Slovenia match. A phantom handball card cost Robbie Findley his second yellow of the tournament, ruling him out against Algeria. But that wasn’t even his worst decision of the day. He ¬†called someone (maybe Maurice Edu?) for a foul on what would have been the game-winning goal. Not only was there no such foul, if anything, there should have been a call on at least three Slovenian players who wrapped up Americans in the box. Maybe FIFA will do all 32 countries a favor and rule him out of the tournament… indefinitely.

Miroslav Klose – He showed the form from his 2006 World Cup in the Australia game, but showed the form of his disappointing 2009-2010 Bayern Munich campaign today. Disappointed today and was never really a factor, other than earning a yellow and then a soft red card for his team. Serbia took advantage scoring soon thereafter, but Germany then settled down and had chance to draw even, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

Lukas Podolski – Just as we praised Podolski’s efforts in the Australia game, we must now criticize his efforts in today’s game. He had seven shots with none of them coming on goal. And when he had a golden opportunity to draw Germany even in the match, he missed a penalty kick. Keep in mind Germany has not missed a penalty kick since 1974. Germany will likely win against Ghana just to advance to the Round of 16.

Slovenia – They had the United States on the ropes. Like England, they jumped on the U.S. early and when the U.S. pushed forward, they counter-attacked to perfection. Unfortunately, for the World Cup’s tiniest nation, their mental toughness mirrored their physical toughness, blowing a 2-0 lead. To ensure their advancement to the knockout stages, they have to defeat England or draw and hope the tiebreaker goes in their favor.

England’s Offense – They’ve scored one goal through two matches and that was early in the first game. At one time tonight, they had three out and out strikers on the pitch and couldn’t create anything. Wayne Rooney resembled the bum from the Nike commercial. They’re playing not to lose and not to win. And their fans have turned on them, reigning down a sea of boos at the end of the Algeria match. They can salvage their World Cup campaign in the next match, but who’s to say they will?

Jamie Carragher – With England already facing an injury crisis at center-back, Carragher’s yellow card means England will be playing their 4th choice center back (probably Matthew Upson) with a shaky John Terry. That means that a defense that hasn’t looked very settled yet will be further unsettled by changes.

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