Tag Archives: Group C

United States recover to rescue a point

The United States recovered from a 2-0 deficit at half-time to draw 2-2 with group leaders Slovenia. Despite a result which potentially salvages their hopes of reaching the Round of 16 the United States will have every reason to bemoan the result as they were incorrectly denied a late winner by Malian referee Koman Coulibaly.

The 22nd match of this summer’s World Cup got off to a heated start. Clint Dempsey and Ljubjankic challenged for a header in the centre of the pitch just seconds after the referee’s whistle. Fulham’s Dempsey caught the Slovenian striker with his elbow and provoked an furious reaction Slovenia’s players.

The United States failed to mount a sustained attacking threat against England but a terrific pass from Michael Bradley showed a new ambition from the United States. Bradley found Robbie Findley in space on the left, who looked up in search of a target for his cross. Jozy Altidore was unmarked in the middle but Findley’s cross was blocked by the Slovenian right-back.

Auxerre’s Valter Birsa launched a brilliant cross towards Milivoje Novakovic who   moved in front of defender Jay DeMerit. Novakovic could not make the crucial touch as the game began to open up.

Birsa had impressed in the World Cup thus far and opened the scoring with a terrific goal from outside the area. His left footed, curling effort beat Tim Howard, who appeared to be unsighted by his defenders. It was a breathtaking goal and Slovenia appeared to be good value for their early advantage.

Landon Donovan threatened to bring the United States back into this game. His quick feet were causing the Slovenian central defence problems but he was unable to find a teammate when he needed to.

Donovan was involved against just minutes later as he sent a lofted cross towards the far post. Dempsey rose to head goalwards but unfortunately for the Fulham midfielder the ball just bounced off the top of his crown.

Jose Francisco Torres, who was brought into the starting line-up in place of the more defensive Ricardo Clark, whipped a fierce free kick in from the right. Handandovic , whose club form had seen him become an object of interest for Bayern München ,   palmed the shot away at full stretch. The resulting corner brought a chance for Jay DeMerit who attacked the ball well but saw his header land wide of the target.

Robbie Findley was constantly finding himself in dangerous positions but had yet to  take advantage of his unrivalled pace. Findley played a terrible pass towards Jozy Altidore around the penalty spot where a chipped pass towards Donovan or Dempsey at the back post would have been the better option. From the corner, the ball struck Robbie Findley in the face and he was wrongly awarded a yellow card. The card ruling him out of the United States’ final group match with Algeria.

The United States nearly had an equaliser in the 39th minute. Clint Dempsey dribbled deep into the Slovenian penalty before rolling a pass across goal. Miso Brecko swiftly cleared the ball off the line as Donovan prepared to apply the easiest of finishes.

Slovenia scored a second goal just moments later against the run of play. USA caught on the break. Zlatan Ljubijankic taking advantage of terrible positioning by Oguchi Onyewu to beat the offside trap and slot the ball under Tim Howard, who had perhaps tried to close down the Gent striker too quickly.

Slovenia were on the threshold of a truly remarkable achievement. They are the fifth-smallest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup and just forty-five minutes stood between them and a place in the last sixteen.

Bob Bradley wasted no time in changing his side. Benny Feilhaber and Maurice Edu were introduced at half-time in place of Francisco Torres and Robbie Findley respectively.

The United States were boosted immediately almost immediately. Record goalscorer Landon Donovan beat the offside trap and approached the goal from the byline, he thought about laying it off before lashing it high just inside the far post with Samir Handandovic unable to react.

The United States got a free kick minutes later as the vocal US support in Ellis Park sparked to life. Donovan’s delivery was perfect once again. Dempsey missed his header and Oguchi Onyewu, hungry to reprieve himself for his earlier mistake, slid towards the ball but it proved to be just out of his reach.

The match was poised, as the cliché goes, on a knife-edge.

The Americans would need to maintain their intensity if they were to mount a successful comeback. It was surprising to see the USMNT players increasingly look to wards Tim Howard to punt the ball aimlessly down the field as their predominant form of creating chances.

The defensive set-up of Slovenia threatened to confound the United States. They were awarded a free-kick following a handball by substitute Maurice Edu. Birsa, whose delivery had been so effective in the first half, continued to offer challenges for the Tim Howard and the American defence to deal with.

The Americans’ play did not seem urgent enough considering the situation they were in. A rare move of short passing saw Benny Feilhaber in possession just outside the Slovenian penalty area. His weak shot dribbled wide with just 25 minutes to go.

Marko Suler was fortunate not to be on the receiving end of a red card after he grappled Jozy Altidore to the ground as the Hull City striker chased down a Landon Donovan pass just outside the penalty area. Altidore appeared to be through on goal and the ever feisty Donovan was infumed by the decision.

Slovenia had begun to lose their discipline, perhaps burdened by a sense of anxiety as they drew ever nearer to the Round of 16.

The United States’ lack of urgency was proving to be their undoing. They needed to find Dempsey and Donovan to increase the tempo and really threaten Slovenia.

However, the Americans would find an equaliser with just seven minutes remaining of normal time.  Landon Donovan fired a searching long ball towards the penalty area. The imposing frame of Jozy Altidore rose above Brecko to head into the path of Michael Bradley’s late run into the box. The Borussia Mönchengladbach midfielder slid  forward and poked the ball into the goal with Handandovic in no position to save it. Bradley’s goal sparked joyous scenes from the thousands of American fans in attendance at Ellis Park and an even more ecstatic celebration from his father, the coach, Bob Bradley.

The goal gave rise to an interesting dynamic. Would the United States continue to search for an unlikely winning goal, would Slovenia collapse under the pressure?

Perhaps the most contentious refereeing decision yet seen at this World Cup arrived in the 88th minute. Altidore was awarded a free kick after being held back by Jokic.. Donovan stepped forward purposefully to take. The MLS star delivered another excellent free-kick across the six-yard box. Maurice Edu was the first to react and prodded into the unguarded left of the net. Referee Koman Coulibaly, who was erratic throughout, disallowed the goal and awarded a free kick to a grateful Slovenia. Replays failed to show any wrongdoing on the part of the United States’ players and perhaps even suggested that a penalty should have been awarded as Brecko and Jovic wrestled Altidore and Bradley.

Nevertheless, the United States’ recovery gives them 2 points and presents them with a terrific chance to qualify for the next round against Algeria. Slovenia will rue allowing the United States to come back but will also be thankful that Malian referee wrongly disallowed Edu’s goal. Matjaz Kek’s side still sit atop Group C at least until England play the Algerians in Cape Town this evening.


The ‘Special Relationship’

United States v England.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated fixture in the history of US Soccer. Almost everyone in the United States has an opinion on this game and ESPN expect record ratings for the game. The US public have good reason to be excited by the prospect of the fixture against England. Bob Bradley, while often criticised by some elements of USMNT’s fans, has silently gone about building upon the work of predecessor Bruce Arena and created the best American football team ever.

England enter the World Cup with renewed optimism. They breezed through qualification, are helmed by Fabio Capello and boast three of the best players in the world in the form of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. The harrowing nature of the injury suffered by captain Rio Ferdinand has brought Ledley King into the starting XI. While King and Terry are undoubtedly very talented central defenders, they have been prone to errors this past season. They will need to be fully focused on the task of dealing with a United States’ line of forwards which comes bearing many speedy individuals.

The goalkeeper question has dogged Fabio Capello in the weeks leading up to the kick-off. With each of Joe Hart, David James and incumbent Robert Green rumoured to be ahead in the pecking order at some stage. It is strange for Capello to be uncertain, perhaps he is not and that the mystery is just created in the media. In any case, this position is one where the United States holds a significant advantage. The unheralded Tim Howard has become one of the most athletic and reliable goalkeepers in the Premier League and his understudies Marcus Hahnemann and Brad Guzan are both capable replacements.

For all of the reassurance brought by Howard, the United States defence will be severely tested by England’s attacking quartet. If Capello does as expected and names Heskey, Lennon, Gerrard and Rooney then the United States will need to retain discipline and patience but also be ruthless when necessary. The questionable temperament of Wayne Rooney when he plays for England has come under scrutiny since the friendly against the Platinum Stars, with many suggesting that the United States’ players should attempt to rile the 24 year old Manchester United star. Oguchi Onyewu was unconvincing in his performance against Australia and is yet to complete a full ninety minutes since sustaining an injury at AC Milan nine months ago. Onyewu is a dominating presence and if he is fully fit, as Bradley assures us, then the US may have reason to believe that they can keep England’s attacking options in check.

Fabio Capello’s outburst against intrusive photographers recently was seen by some as a sign that the pressures of being an England coach at a World Cup was finally taking its toll. While I do not agree that Fabio Capello has lost his trademark composure, I do believe that this England side is under pressure to perform against the US. The Three Lions were handed a favourable draw in Group C and are expected to progress with maximum points. Failure to do so could lead to a troublesome Round of 16 fixture against their traditional nemesis Germany and more potential horrors awaiting further into the knockout stages. If England are to reach the World Cup Final for the first time since their triumph in 1966 it is imperative that they beat the United States and top Group C.

USMNT will have other ideas. For so long they have been regarded as something of an oddity, an overachieving side from a nation that is not in touch with the game of football. Now, boosted by a legion of supporters unfathomable even four years ago, the United States will attempt to set about a run into the deeper stages of the tournament.

There is much riding on this game for both sides, failure for either side may have damaging ramifications for their World Cup ambitions.


The United States Men’s National Team (or USMNT) have long been chided internationally. Often seen as the domain of elementary school children, football has so far failed to capture the imagination of the American people. In Europe and Latin America, observers have scoffed at the American ‘soccer’ and what is perceived to be an inferior league where fading stars end their careers in obscurity.

No such accusations can be levelled at the United States as it approaches this summer’s FIFA World Cup. Football is, however gradually, increasing in popularity. US Soccer, the sport’s governing body in the United States have invested considerable amounts of capital and effort in the promotion of the game across the nation and in improving an already formidable infrastructure. There has been a concerted attempt to forget the sorry memories of USA ’94.

The last decade has been particularly fruitful for the national side. An unprecedented Quarter-Finals berth was reached in 2002 and since then the quality of American footballer has improved immeasurably. The Landon Donovan led side impressed on the way to the Confederations Cup Final just last year, beating European Champions Spain and taking a two goal lead against the eventual winners Brazil in the final.

The team itself is built on solidity rather than flair but in Donovan they have the creative acumen to cause problems for any side. Aided by Premier League players Jozy Altidore, Stuart Holden and Clint Dempsey as well as Glasgow Rangers’ Damarcus Beasley, Donovan is key to the offensive intent of the side.

Michael Bradley, 22, one of the youngest members of the squad should play a box to box role for the United States. A dexterous and perceptive midfielder, Bradley has the capability to change games for his side as he has for Borussia Mönchengladbach in the Bundesliga.

In defence, Oguchi Onyewu cuts an imposing figure in the centre of the back four and dominated forwards at the Confederations Cup, so much so that he was signed to a three-year contract at AC Milan. Onyewu hasn’t had many opportunities to impress at Milan, partially due to a ruptured tendon which he is currently recovering from. The fullbacks, Spector, Bornstein and Pearce are of varying experience but will be tested by the wingers in Group C. Between the posts, goalkeeper Tim Howard has emerged as one of the better ‘keepers in the Premier League with Everton following a spell of mixed fortunes at Manchester United.

World Cup Finals History

Surprisingly strong. The United States have qualified for eight FIFA World Cups, the last five consecutively. In the inaugural World Cup, 1930, the United States won its first match 3-0 over Belgium, following it up with another 3-0 this time against Paraguay. The two victories brought the United States to the World Cup Semi-Finals, still their best record.

Despite their performance in that tournament, the United States’ greatest World Cup moment came in 1950. After suffering a 3-1 humbling by Spain, the USA played an England side which included Tom Finney, Stan Mortensen and Alf Ramsey. The semi-professionals of the United States mortified the seasoned stars of England, beating them 1-0 in what is still considered one of the greatest upsets in football history.

It was forty years until the USMNT would play in the World Cup again at Italia ’90. They lost all three of their matches easily but were safe in the knowledge that they would have a chance to atone in four years time when the United States would host the 1994 World Cup.
Perhaps the most enduring memory of the United States in USA ’94 is that of Alexi Lalas and his Highland-esque hairstyle. The tournament itself is not remembered fondly by fans but marked the return of the United States to the Second Round, courtesy of the ill-fated Carlos Escobar and his own goal.
After an ignominious 1998 campaign, the USA reached the Quarter Finals in 2002 after a memorable 3-2 victory over Portugal in the Group Stage and a 2-0 win over border-rivals Mexico in the Second Round.

The Coach: Bob Bradley.

Father of the aforementioned midfielder Michael Bradley, Bob has followed Bruce Arena with distinction since 2006. Bradley has long been involved in the coaching side of football in the United States, having managed Ohio University at the age of 22. Since then, Bradley has managed in Major League Soccer at Chicago Fire, the MetroStars and Chivas USA with varying success.His appointment in 2006 as caretaker coach disappointed the football community in the United States, who had hoped that Jurgen Klinsmann would be Arena’s successor.

The fans will have had little to complain about since then as he has overseen the introduction of many young players into his side and engineered a glorifying 2007 Gold Cup venture as well as the recent run in the Confederations Cup.

Star Player
: Landon Donovan.

Record goalscorer for USMNT, the always outspoken Donovan has courted media interest in his Major League Soccer career, a prime example being his berating of David Beckham’s prolonged loan spell to AC Milan. Donovan himself was the subject of a similar deal to Europe’s leagues.His spell at Everton was an undoubted success, putting to rest any lingering doubts about his ability.

Regarded as one of the greatest American footballers of all time, Donovan starred at the 2002 World Cup where he was named Young Player of the Tournament. He plays as an attacking midfielder or just behind the striker, from this position he has managed a commendable haul of 42 goals for his country.

One to watch: Charlie Davies.

There are many reasons to award Davies with this honour, his incredible fortitude and resilience in returning from a life-threatening injury being just one of them. In October 2009, Davies suffered multiple injuries including a lacerated bladder, fractured tibia, femur and a fractured elbow. A long road to recovery was launched with his club FC Sochaux in Ligue where he is now in full training once again.

He is gifted with blistering agility and pace and will serve as a perfect foil to Jozy Altidore should the two resume their pairing that proved so effective in the Confederations Cup.


The Desert Foxes

Algeria, the Fennecs or ‘Desert Foxes’, qualified for this summer’s World Cup after a long qualification campaign that took in three matches against bitter rivals Egypt. In the final match of the group qualification stage, Algeria faced their North African rivals in Cairo with Egypt needing to win by three goals to qualify or at least two to force a playoff. Tension between the two nations date back to Nasser’s influence on the Algerian Civil War following independence from France. Football once again brought out this historical rivalry when Algeria’s team bus was attacked in Cairo, with three members of the Algerian side injured. The clashes in the ancient city led to a major diplomatic incident. To make things worse, Egpyt forced a playoff with a 2-0 victory.
The playoff took place in Omdurman, Sudan amid unerring tension, with violence spreading across North Africa and France where Algerian immigrants clashed with police. The atmosphere surrounding the contest was mirrored on the pitch, with little football of any quality being played until Anthem Yahia’s 40th minute volley put Algeria into the World Cup Finals.

The Fennecs enjoyed a mixed Cup of African Nations, suffering heavy defeats to both Malawi and Egypt in the semi-final. They did manage to eliminate a much-fancied Cote d’Ivoire side in the Quarter-Final, beating the Elephants 3-2 after extra time.

They feature in Group C alongside Slovenia, the United States and England. Realistically they shouldn’t trouble Fabio Capello’s side but a good result or two will see them challenge the other sides in their group for the second spot.
World Cup Finals History: Algeria have qualified for two World Cups prior to 2010. The ‘golden generation’ of Algeria qualified for two consecutive tournaments in 1982 and 1986. It was at the 1982 World Cup that Algeria achieved the greatest result in their history, beating holders West Germany 2-1 in Gijón. Their elimination from the tournament is considered one of the most deplorable moments ever seen at the World Cup. Austria and West Germany appeared to enter into a spoken agreement and played out a 1-0 victory for West Germany which saw both sides progress on goal difference.
1986 was a less impressive outing for Algeria as they managed to score only a single goal, the equaliser against Northern Ireland as they finished bottom of their group with 1 point.
Coach: Rabah Saâdane.
Saâdane has a long history of international management and is currently in his fifth spell of managing Algeria since originally taking the position in 1981. The 63 year old ha
s also coached Yemen and teams in Algeria’s domestic league. This will be his second World Cup in charge of the Fennecs, having already coached at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. He is renowned for his composure on the touchline, save for the memorable elimination from CAN 2004 at the hands of Morocco, when he burst into tears.
Star Player: Madjid Bougherra. The Glasgow Rangers centreback has enjoyed a productive season at Ibrox, helping them to the Scottish title. He was named on the Team of the Tournament at this year’s CAN and Rangers’ Player of the Season for 2009. His effective, stern style of defending has earned him the endearment of the fans at Rangers and links to a lucrative move to Barcelona or Liverpool. He should prove a difficult obstacle to negate for the forwards in Group C.
One to watch: Karim Ziani. The electrifying Ziani, born in France but qualifying for Algeria via his parents, is

rently playing in the Bundesliga for Wolfsburg. His versatility and pace has seen him play on both wings as well as a creative central midfielder. The tumultuous temper he possesses can both inspire his team or alienate him from it, as has been the case at Wolfsburg where he has been out of favour recently following a training ground altercation with a teammate. If he can maintain his composure and focus on qualifying from the group, there is no reason why he cannot enjoy a productive World Cup.