Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup, Day 3

When Clint Dempsey's shot slipped through Robert Green's hands yesterday, the American ran down the field pointing his fingers and his eyes to the heavens. With good reason - America's draw against England can't really be attributed to an impressive performance by its strikers or midfielders, and the less said about the defenders the better. Chalk it up to a combination of divine intervention or luck, whatever you prefer, and Tim Howard's top-notch goal-keeping. The draw was a fine result for Team USA. England, who I believed was one of four or five teams that could win the Cup (Spain, Brazil, the Netherlands, England, maybe Argentina), did not look bad but nor did they look like champions.

Germany, on the other hand, just made a statement. Given that their goalkeeper had committed suicide last year and that their next-choice goalie and captain Michael Ballack were out of this Cup, I predicted Germany, along with fellow European powers Italy and France, was headed towards a disappointing Cup, even a first-round knockout in Group D, which looked decently tough before today. But after today's results Germany and Ghana have momentum, Germany looks like a contender, Ghana looks like it might be Africa's great hope, Serbia looks haunted by the prospect of second consecutive bad Cup performance, and you can stick a fork in Australia's ass and turn them over, they're done, with their best player red-carded out of the last two group games.

Little Slovenia is next up for the Americans. When I was shopping for jerseys I considered them, as their mountain outline is either one of the coolest jerseys in the tournament or a bit too Charlie Brown. But Slovenia gear was off-limits because they're in my team's group. I see a US victory and the US and England both in the Round of 16, with England more likely to finish first on goal differential or America drawing one of its two remaining opponents. Then Germany would be a scary opponent, but we'll see how they play in their next two games. Ghana is capable of beating them, and from the qualifiers, you would think Serbia able as well.

And then there's Greece, who I had picked as my second-favorite team in the Cup, based on my Greek roots and the present situation of the country (this job is flexible, last year it was held by home team Germany). I picked them for the semifinals on a whim, but now I don't think they're going to make it out of the group. They were easily outclassed by South Korea yesterday. Which means they're playing for respect, and against history. I've found many interesting nuggets of information in the Goldman Sachs World Cup 2010 and Economics report. One of which is that only one team has played a full six games in the World Cup without winning at least a draw. But Slovenia, Greece, and New Zealand could all have joined El Salvador in this ignominious record by the end of this World Cup. With its victory, Slovenia has more than a snowball's chance in hell of actually advancing to the second round ahead of the United States or England. But Greece and New Zealand could yet match the record. Greece, additionally, has lost four games, and never scored a goal, with 12 goals against it. Only Zaire, which was outscored 14-0 in its one Cup, has a more lopsided history. El Salvador's goal differential is 1-22. To escape ignominy, Greece must beat or draw mighty Argentina or Africa's largest county, Nigeria, which has a very good keeper. So good luck Greece, you'll need it.

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