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Tuesday, June 17, 2014


USA just won a gutsy, hard fought, to the wire game against Ghana in the World Cup.  Ghana has beaten us in the last two World Cups, but this time we took the lead and held it for the vast majority of the game.  Ghana tied up in the 82nd minute and it looked like all hope was lost, but we instantly counterattacked and scored another goal, bringing us back into the lead again before the ending whistle blew.  It was a fantastic result and a fantastic performance, especially considering our team was plagued with unlucky injuries that kept popping up out of the blue and forcing us to play without our starters.

In 1930, the USA got 3rd place in the first World Cup, but this World Cup was a rather pathetic affair, with only four teams from Europe even bothering to participate.  Since the World Cup as of yet didn't have any prestige, the US basically managed to get in without competing with anyone serious from beginning to end.  You can only talk about US soccer success in the modern era, when they had to face serious competition just to qualify for the World Cup, much less do well in the actual tournament.

Since the USA started playing in the modern World Cup in 1990, we've only won 5 games.  Today was our fifth win.  That's just how rare victory is for our squad.  Because it's vengeance for all our losses to Ghana previously, it might just be our sweetest victory yet of the five.  We are now in a good position to advance to the next round just by beating or tying Portugal in our next game.  Even if we lose to Portugal, we could probably squeak through with a win or tie against Germany in game 3.  Odds are we're getting into the round of 16, which is extremely exciting for a team like ours, which generally gets exactly nowhere.

The World Cup is already fun because USA won.  But there are other features that have made this World Cup better than previous versions.  Goal-line technology has been installed so that referees can no longer unfairly call a goal, or not call a goal, when a goal has actually been scored.  This is a minor issue versus erroneous penalty kick charges or offsides calls, but every step to make the game fairer helps.

After the first game, the referees have generally gotten their calls right, even when the decisions were tough to make.  But what's even better is the almost record number of goals being scored, the dramatic number of comeback wins from behind, the underdog Netherlands completely blowing away Spain 5-1 with beautiful skills on full display, Italy's indomitable defense squeezing out a 2-1 win over England, and Germany utterly destroying Portugal 4-0 in their first game.  It's obvious there are a lot of monsters in this tournament, and that inevitably some very good soccer teams are going to meet each other on the pitch for some extraordinarily high-level games in the later stages.

Japan simply did not play well, so its loss to Ivory Coast was inevitable.  Hopefully they'll do better next game, because they embarrassed themselves their first time out.  They had basically no possession of the ball throughout the game, and allowed their lead to evaporate from 1-0 to trailing behind 1-2 in the course of just 100 seconds.

Here's hoping Russia does well tomorrow, as another stick in the eye of the west that is fans of unilateral referendums in Kosovo but not Crimea.  Until the west stops hypocritically demonizing Russia on every little issue, I'm going to be their biggest fan, for the simple sake of justice.  Between the USA, Japan and Russia, I'm bound to always have something to cheer about.

Many people complained about Brazil's hosting of the World Cup, but as far as I can tell they've done an excellent job as hosts and all the whining was much ado about nothing.  Brazil is hosting a great World Cup which is conveniently right in line with American time zones for watching live.  If you hvaen't started yet, now's the time to start watching the world's greatest sporting event.

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