Friday, July 2, 2010

The End of the African Dream, Hup Holland!

Slovenia may have been the ones wearing Charlie Brown's shirt, but Ghana and all of Africa must feel like the football was pulled out from under it. Ghana's fantastic chance to knock out Uruguay in the final minute of extra time and become the first African nation to advance to the semifinals, in Africa's own World Cup, was thwarted when Uruguay's Luis Suarez did the only thing he could to prevent a goal, hitting the ball away with his hand, and then Ghana hero Asamoah Gyan missed the penalty shot. In the shootout, the original masters of the World Cup were mentally tougher and had a better goalkeeper. I had made it through most of the game rooting for Uruguay because I like their flag and their improbably glorious World Cup legacy (1930 and 1950 champions), and because of bitterness towards Ghana for knocking out the US two Cups in a row and being bad sports in the final minutes the other day. But at the very end I could only support Uruguay as easier pickings for the Netherlands, who should now be the favorites to win the World Cup because of the easier path. Uruguay has limped over the finish line and into the top four, where the best they can hope for is probably an upset victory in the third place game. Now we'll see if South Africa gets behind the Dutch...

I never saw Brazil play as well as they did in the first half this morning (my World Cup memory is short, which is why I consult the Internet for my facts and stats, and in 2002 I left for the wilds of Alaska during the quarterfinals). Robinho's goal was too easy. But the machine fell apart as the second half progressed. The Dutch played well and got a bit lucky with the own goal. Surrounded by Dutchmen and Dutchgirls in orange in Mackey's Pub in DC, I experienced the second most-ecstatic vibe of the Cup, after the USA's last-minute victory against Algeria to win the group. The Netherlands are my favorite team left - I actually like the German team better but I'd rather see a new country win the World Cup - and conveniently they are my pick to win the Cup in my only bracket which involves money.

Germany-Argentina at the Biergarten tomorrow. Given the way both teams have been playing, this might be the match of the tournament.

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