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Weekly Roundtable: June 27th Edition

June 28, 2010

So after skipping a week, the roundtables are back with a post-Group Stage edition.

What surprised you the most about the Group Stage?

Role Player: New Zealand. I also think they deserve a shout out, even though they were eliminated, because they did not lose a match.

Captain Robert Hatch: Japan and South Korea. They had done nothing on foreign soil prior to this tournament, much less advancing to the knockout stages and they did. While Japan may soon join South Korea as teams going home, it was a surprisingly good showing for them and it doesn’t hurt to stick to the North Koreans either.

In Arsene We Trust: Germany. All we heard about were the injuries to the German squad, and how they were done. But they have a young team, and they play a very fluid and attractive brand of football. But more importantly, they didn’t crumble when the pressure set in. After a disappointing loss to Serbia, they held their nerve and edged out Ghana in a tight game. I would expect this team to do well in the knockout stages (they are still Germany after all).

Hand of God: The US. In a group where some were thinking we were going to be eating England’s scraps trying to get out of the group we ended up on top of it with a favorable match-up with Ghana. The fact that we took a steaming crap on that opportunity is another post entirely.

Lila Zidane: The Lack of Goals scored. With such emphasis from the Goalkeepers on Adidas’ new ball, I expected there to be high scoring matches throughout the first round. Instead, the ball mostly affected shooters’ ability to keep the ball on goal. Very few balls were scored on free kicks or from long distance.

What disappointed you the most?

Role Player: France.

Captain Robert Hatch: France and Italy both disappointed, but it’s France. And it’s not very close. It’s become a national scandal involving the outgoing manager Raymond Domanech, the president, the prime minister, the minister of sport, and the players themselves that helped cause it all.

In Arsene We Trust: Italy. I know I wrote an article damning them before the tournament, but not even I really expected them to falter so early. Their performances were abysmal, the tactics were off, and the wrong players were used. It was quite simply a disaster, and one that came from a lack of talent (both in terms of coaching and players) rather than internal turmoil.

Hand of God: Unlike my fellow bloggers I was not disappointed by Italy or France. I was happily surprised both countries brought shame and dishonor to their families and homes. I was disappointed the most by Australia. I was a constant defender of them after the Germany debacle and they had a strong draw against Ghana and a nice win over Serbia. Without the Cahill red card they hold Germany to 2 goals and without the late Serbia goal they move on over Ghana. And at this point Ghana is my least favorite team, ever.

Lila Zidane: I have to say that England disappointed me most. While I was truly happy that the US scored a draw with the Three Lions, I enjoy many of their players and expected to see fireworks later in the first round from Rooney, Gerrard, and Lampard.  That match with Algeria was just a dreadful thing to see for even the most forgiving of football fans.  They truly limped out of the first round.

Who is your player of the tournament so far?

Captain Robert Hatch: I know he hasn’t scored, but it’s been Lionel Messi. He creates opportunities for himself and opportunities for the other talented players, particularly Gonzalo Higuain who already has three goals himself. He also creates space for them to work and, in my opinion, the best player is the one who makes everyone around him better. I know that’s cliché, but it’s true, especially at this level.

In Arsene We Trust: Mesut Ozil. He simply makes Germany a better, more dangerous team. His role is such that often times he is not picked up by an opposing player until after he has received the ball, but his movement is what makes him so dangerous. He floats into very dangerous positions, working incredibly well off of Miroslav Klose’s movement up top. More than that, he (and the German team as a whole really) is unselfish. On both of Mueller’s goals today he played a significant role (the first with a decoy run through the middle, the second by waiting and assisting Mueller), and he has already scored twice in the tournament so far. Did I mention he is only 21?

Role Player: Ya, it’s got to be Messi (see: Captain Robert Hatch).

Hand of God: Agreed, It has to be Messi. Best player in the world playing at his best. Just as an honorable mention I’ll throw Honda’s name in the ring. He has been absolutely spectacular and his assist late in the game against Denmark is the best in the tournament so far. I’ll be watching him during Japan’s match with Paraguay.

Lila Zidane: No arguments here…Messi’s proving to be the best player in the world.  Immediately I thought of choosing David Villa for this award, as 2 of his 3 goals are currently contenders for the best in the World Cup. but I just can’t justify doing so when he missed the goal on a penalty kick against Honduras.

What nation will walk away as World Cup Champions?

Role Player: I still hate this question. Spain.

Captain Robert Hatch: The Argentine players are drinking the Diego Maradona kool-aid and they’re hitting on all cylinders even when they rested some starters and mixed things up in their final group match. Also they avoid Brazil and the Netherlands until the final match. I still think Spain and England will find a way to collapse down the stretch.

In Arsene We Trust: I really don’t think Spain has it in them to last the distance any more. But I also think Brazil is more vulnerable to goals than they appear. In other words, the tournament is still wide open. But, if I’m forced to answer this question, I’m thinking Germany. They haven’t quite lived up to their full potential yet, but I think they will.

Hand of God: USA! USA! USA! oh wait… I thought you meant 2014. This year its Argentina in a landslide.

Lila Zidane: I predicted Argentina and really see no reason to change my prediction. Except that I’m going to. I’m going with Spain because they have a bit of an easier path. If they get past Portugal(who I think will struggle to score), they have a freebie against the Japan/Paraguay winner before the Semis. Argentina has three really tough ones in a row no matter who wins. Somewhere along the way, They’ll stumble.

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School of Hard Knock(out)s: Lessons We Need to Learn

June 27, 2010

It has been a wild roller coaster ride for the USMNT. There have been highs, lows, and everything in between. But now the dust has settled, and we are out. We certainly weren’t a disappointment, but we also didn’t live up to our full potential. That means it is time to do some soul searching. In four years when we (hopefully) make the sojourn to Brazil, Landon Donovan will be 32 and Clint Dempsey will be 31. I still think they will be in the squad, but by then they won’t be the focal point of it. So what lessons can we take forward from this World Cup? Read more…

Day 15 – One to forget

June 26, 2010

What a day.  I mean that in the most dejected and disappointed way possible.  Round of 16 tomorrow.  Its almost like the teams that played today were so ready for it they tried everything they could to be at home in front of the television when it starts.

Winners:

Nobody – Shortly after we had a day where there were no losers we have a day where there were no winners. Two scoreless draws, poor play, and teams doomed from the start. The Ivory Coast’s 3 – 0 victory over North Korea was meaningless and the the Spanish victory was marred by boring keep away following the needless red card. Thank the Soccer Gods for the round of 16 where ties are not acceptable and courage is rewarded.

Losers:

Claudio Bravo – He had no business going that far out from the goal. Had he stayed put and kept Chile’s morale from sinking, the game may have had an entirely different outcome.

Anyone who watched the Portugal vs. Brazil game – What a snooze-fest. ESPN Gamecast commentary degraded to discussion of books and food. That’s how boring the game was.

Europe – Congratulations to the six European teams that made it this far. you are the survivors. Just four years ago 10 European squads made it through to the group stage. This year more teams made it from the Americas (7: USA, Mexico, and 5 South American teams) than from Europe. I wish I had a statistician on staff because I would bet that is the first time in a long time that has happened.

Looking Towards the Round of 16

June 25, 2010

Breakdown of the 16 surviving squads

  • 2 teams from CONCACAF-Mexico and the United States
  • 2 teams from Asia-Japan and South Korea
  • 5 teams from South America-Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay
  • 6 teams from Europe-England, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, and Spain
  • 1 team from Africa-Ghana

Tidbits

-Italy was the only 1 of the 7 “seeded” teams did not proceed to Round of 16

-South Africa is the first host country to not to proceed to the round of 16

-Cameroon and North Korea finished tied for last place overall(though Cameroon scored more total goals)

Best Round of 16 Matchups: Germany vs. England and Spain vs. Portugal

Worst Round of 16 Matchups: South Korea vs. Uruguay and Paraguay vs. Japan(Really….it doesn’t matter who wins this game)

Predictions

Hardest Quarter of the Bracket: Germany, Argentina, Mexico, England

Easiest Quarter of the Bracket: South Korea , Uruguay, USA, Ghana

Likely Semifinalists: USA, Brazil, Argentina, Spain

2nd Most Likely Semifinalists: Uruguay, Netherlands, Germany, Portugal

Winners and Losers Day 14

June 25, 2010

So what if I might have used vaguely ambiguous language that gave me a lot of leeway, I predicted this whole Italy debacle, right here. So what if I was wrong about Portugal and Argentina (at least so far)? 1 out of 3 ain’t bad baby. It is probably better than Alexi Lalas could manage. Winners and Losers after the jump.

Read more…

Winners and Losers Day USA

June 23, 2010

Oh, what a glorious day it was. Surely it had to have been the most dramatic day of the tournament so far, even more dramatic than the faint possibility of a stunning upset by South Africa to charge into the round of 16. There was everything, early goals, late goals, multiple goals, and drama everywhere across the pitch. Possibly two of the most hotly contested groups were on display today, and every goal meant something, with every team having a decent chance of advancing. Read on to see our winners and losers. Read more…

I’m Hooked on A Feeling

June 23, 2010

Story after the jump… Read more…