Tag Archives: USA

Technology debate rekindled in wake of questionable decisions

Two World Cup matches, two flashpoints. The widespread acclaim that greeted the referees at the outset of the 2010 World Cup has well and truly evaporated by now.

This World Cup has seen its share of controversial decisions. Having come back from a two goal deficit, the United States were wrongly denied a winner by referee Koman Coulibaly. The Malian official ruled out Michael Bradley’s late goal for a foul. Video technology would have revealed that no infringement took place in the Slovenian penalty area.

Kaká, one of the stars of world football, was dismissed for an apparent elbow against Côte d’Ivoire. Television replays revealed that Sebastien Lannoy was deceived by the Ivorian winger, Kader Keita. Kaká was suspended as a result of the incorrect decision.

The events of Sunday, June 27 will be impossible to forget for fans of England and Mexico. Frank Lampard’s legitimate goal against Germany, which may have had a profound effect on the outcome, was not given. A simple television replay would have given the referee the information required to make an informed decision. Goal-line technology has long been advocated by a large number of managers at both club and international level. A system similar to the famous Hawkeye technology  used in cricket and tennis matches could be utilised to great effect by FIFA. For some, the solutions are even simpler. Mark Ogden, The Daily Telegraph’s Northern Football Correspondent, shared a rudimentary, yet effective, idea via his Twitter page.

“Sandpit behind the line. If the ball is in, it will stop dead and won’t bounce. Simple.”

The suggestion initially seems laughable. On second look, it appears more sensible than ridiculous. In any case, it marks a marked improvement on incorrect or unfair decisions.

Sepp Blatter’s repeated rejection of calls for television replays are folly. Blatter, who once remarked that “we must never stop the match with videos or monitors to look at what has happened”, is clearly not a fan of other sports. Almost every other major sport has some form of “video referee”. In American football, coaches are given flags. In cases where a questionable decision is made by a the referees or umpires, the coach may throw one of his limited number of challenge flags onto the field and call for the referee’s decision to be ‘sent to the booth’. The match referee then consults the video replay and reevaluates his previous decision.

The apparent infallibility of referees in association football is misguided. As Carlos Tevez wheeled away in jubilation at having scored the opening goal in the Round of 16 match against Mexico, replays on the scoreboard at Soccer City showed how the Argentine was offside when Lionel Messi played the crucial assist to him. The fans, players, coaching staff and officials were instantly given access to a view at what had actually occurred. Mexico’s players were particularly incensed. They, rightly, angrily confronted Roberto Rosetti and his assistant. Having seen their mistake, the officials should have been given the authority to reverse the  decision. They were unable to do this. Mexico, demoralised by the goal, promptly conceded a second through a defensive error which may or may not have been the result of a lapse in concentration stemming from the earlier refereeing error.

The safety and welfare of referees is threatened by their inability to correct their mistakes. Referees have been targeted by tabloid campaigns and, far more worryingly, death threats. In the interest of fairness and in the interest of safety for their referees, FIFA must take positive action towards implementing corrective technology no matter what form that may take.

Advertisements

Asamoah Gyan takes Ghana to the Quarter Finals

Ghana 2-1 United States

The United States’ dramatic World Cup adventure was brought to an end in Rustenberg this evening. Bob Bradley’s gritty side came back from a goal down to force the game into extra-time. Asamoah Gyan, who had scored twice in the Group Stage, was once again the hero for the Black Stars as his half volley just minutes into the first period of extra-time was to prove the decisive goal.

Ghana arrived in Rustenberg on a bus bearing the slogan “The Hope of Africa”. The sole remaining representatives of the continent enjoyed the majority of the support at the Royal Bafokeng Stadium, with many South African fans wearing the shirts of their beloved Bafana Bafana painting their faces in the colours of the Black Stars.

They will have been overjoyed to see Ghana take the lead early on. Kevin-Prince Boateng, so influential to Ghana’s progress thusfar, burst down the left on to Kwadwo Asamoah’s pass and unleashed a low drive past Tim Howard at the near post. The concession of yet another early goal will have surely tested the resolve of the United States but they had proven their resilience time and again in this competition.

Ghana were comfortable in their lead for the remained of the first half as the United States struggled to keep possession in midfield. Goalkeeper Richard Kingson, a reserve at Wigan Athletic in the Premier League, prevented Robbie Findley from equalising. Kingson was unimpressive in earlier games against Serbia and Australia but was far more reassuring this evening.

Kingson produced another fine save just minutes into the second half. Benny Feilhaber, brought on as a substitute for Robbie Findley, was played through by Jozy Altidore but failed to beat Kingson with a left-footed dink.

Ghana were tiring and the United States capitalised after some excellent play from Clint Dempsey. Dempsey found himself isolated on the right but managed to squirm past John Mensah before being brought down in the penalty area by Jonathan. The ever-reliable Landon Donovan equalised emphatically from the penalty.

The United States failed to add to Donovan’s goal, however, despite perhaps being the better side in the second half. The full-time whistle will have come as welcome relief for the Black Stars, who appeared beleaguered by the physicality of the Bob Bradley’s side.

Asamoah Gyan undid the positive play of the United States in the opening minutes of extra-time. The Stade Rennais striker latched on to a hopeful long pass from André Ayew and outmuscled Carlos Bocanegra. Gyan finished superbly, scoring his third goal of the tournament by powering a shot past Tim Howard.

The goal seemed to shatter the confidence of the American players. Any hopes of another dramatic recovery were misplaced. The reenergised Ghanians asserted superiority over the United States throughout extra-time with outstanding performances coming from Kwadwo Asamoah, John Mensah and the goalkeeper Richard Kingson.

It’s Not Easy Being Green

United States 1-1 England

The United States earned a fortunate draw against an underwhelming England in the opening game of Group C. The major talking point will inevitably be the crucial mistake by Robert Green. Green, currently of West Ham United, spilled Clint Dempsey’s tame effort into the net against the run of play. The mishap by Green will not be easy viewing for any football fan and, undoubtedly, will live long in the memory. Many observers in the British press were quick to scorn the goalkeeper while others chose to focus on coach Fabio Capello’s insistence on withholding the identity of England’s starting goalkeeper for so long.  Regardless, even had Green not mishandled Dempsey’s speculative effort, a draw was perhaps a fair result and not disastrous to the ambitions of either side. It is certain that autopsies will run in the British press until Capello’s side entertain the possibility of redemption against Algeria on June 18th.

It had all started so well for England. England’s new captain Steven Gerrard opening the scoring with a neat finish after the midfielder had exchanged passes with Emile Heskey.

England soon withdrew into a false sense of security and a resurgent United States nearly forced an equaliser when Landon Donovan’s searching cross was nearly met by Jozy Altidore.

THE moment arrived five minutes before the interval. Clint Dempsey, in a relatively unthreatening position was drawn into shooting early by his markers and unleashed what looked to be a forlorn effort goalwards. However, in a moment of  weakness from Robert Green, the ball ended up nestled in the back of the net. The Fulham midfielder could hardly believe his luck as he pointed skyward thankfully.

The second half exhibited another forgettable display by Capello’s side. Their consternation evident as possession was needlessly given away as long shunts upfield from Terry and Carragher were returned easily by the American defence. For a player who had just recovered from a nine month absence through injury, Oguchi Onyewu was terrific. His physicality overwhelmed Wayne Rooney, who was unusually ineffective. The AC Milan defender should take pride in his display of aggressive defending as his compatriots and he suffocated every English venture towards Tim Howard’s goal.

Howard himself was in fine form. The Everton goalkeeper had progressed into one of the Premier League’s most reliable shot-stoppers this past season and reproduced his performance levels here despite sustaining an injury to his right shoulder.

His counterpart Robert Green went some way towards redeeming himself when he pushed Jozy Altidore’s effort on to the post. The ineffectuality of the re-called Jamie Carragher will be yet another matter of concern for Fabio Capello on an evening where much of what he thought to be secure was exposed by a robust United States.

For England, the match against Algeria cannot come soon enough. It is almost guaranteed that Capello will make changes to his starting eleven, perhaps starting with his goalkeeper. It has been said that Joe Hart’s performances at training have been far superior to those of his colleagues but his glaring lack of experience has been decisive in keeping him from a place in goal to date. Should Capello continue to hold Hart’s inexperience against him, the only other option is David James, himself no stranger to goalkeeping errors.

Whoever starts in goal for England against Algeria will require better protection than that which was afforded to Robert Green tonight. The withdrawal of Ledley King at half-time saw the introduction of Jamie Carragher. Carragher’s subsequent display will have done little to allay the fears of the English public who have seen him deteriorate from one of the Premier League’s outstanding centre-halves into a bumbling, slouching shadow of his former self. His partner in defence, John Terry, was equally poor. The wayward long passing from the former captain indicative of a player who, like Carragher, has undergone a rapid reversal in his fortunes on the field in recent times.

The result in Rustenberg must serve as a wake-up call for this England squad if they are to pose any threat to sides in the latter stages. The criticism often levelled at England is that they are one-dimensional. Tonight seemed to be a damning confirmation of that notion. Nevertheless, England will look to rebound against an unfancied Algeria side in Cape Town on June 18th.

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.

England squad announced

There was no great fanfare to the announcement of England’s 23 man squad tasked with ending 34 years of hurt. Instead, the identities of the unlucky seven to be dropped from the provisional squad were disclosed in farcical fashion via Twitter.

The final 23 was subject to much speculation and rumours over the past week but as the situation became clearer it emerged that Fabio Capello had named the oldest ever England squad for a World Cup finals.

The most deliberated action of the day was the omission of Arsenal winger Theo Walcott. Capello’s decision to leave out Walcott came as a surprise despite Walcott’s indifferent season for Arsenal. The 21 year old, who was surprisingly included in the 2006 squad was devastated to learn that he would not be making the trip to South Africa. In a statement released after the announcement he said, “I am very disappointed not to be included in the squad going out to South Africa, but completely respect Mr Capello’s decision. I would like to wish the team the best of luck and hope they have a really successful tournament.”

Elsewhere, Ledley King trumped his Tottenham colleague Michael Dawson for the final defensive berth. While Stephen Warnock got the better of Leighton Baines in the struggle to be Ashley Cole’s understudy.

The squad in full:

Goalkeepers: Robert Green (West Ham United), Joe Hart (Manchester City), David James (Portsmouth)

Defenders: Rio Ferdinand (Manchester United), John Terry (Chelsea), Ashley Cole (Chelsea), Glen Johnson (Liverpool), Jamie Carragher (Liverpool), Stephen Warnock (Aston Villa), Ledley King (Tottenham Hotspur), Matthew Upson (West Ham United)

Midfielders: Frank Lampard (Chelsea), Steven Gerrard (Liverpool), Aaron Lennon (Tottenham Hotspur), Michael Carrick (Manchester United), Gareth Barry (Manchester City), Joe Cole (Chelsea), Shaun Wright-Phillips (Manchester City), James Milner (Aston Villa)

Strikers: Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Jermain Defoe (Tottenham Hotspur), Peter Crouch (Tottenham Hotspur), Emile Heskey (Aston Villa)

Guest Blog: The Lowdown on Slovenia

In his latest squad profile veteran blogger and journalist with DCU’s College View, Niall Farrell details a talented and ambitious Slovenian squad,  a team making their second finals appearance in three attempts.

Slovenia

“Relative unknowns” is the term normally used to refer to the Slovenian national team. In a team which relies on mostly players from the lesser lights in the English, German and Italian leagues, household names are few and far between.

Underneath this relative anonymity lies a team with a strong spine. Quality, diligence and perseverance are the attributes which define this Slovenian team.

With a population of just under two million, Slovenia are one of the smaller nations to have qualified for the 2010 World Cup.

Slovenia were the sole unseeded team to emerge from the UEFA playoff system, defeating a strong Russian team after beating the Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland to second spot (behind Slovakia in first).

Off-the-pitch problems have dogged Slovenia’s preparation, as a row over tournament bonuses threatens to escalate.

Organisation is key in the Slovenian camp, with coach Matjas Kek prizing a strong work ethic in his team. Normally Slovenia play with a flat 4-4-2 formation, with strikers Dedic and Novakovic forming an effective partnership up front. Dedic will commonly drift off to just behind Novakovic, creating space for his strike partner.

The aforementioned Dedic and Novakovic, of Bochum and Koln respectively, form the fulcrum of the Slovenian threat.

West Brom’s Robert Koren is used as an attacking central midfielder, with holding midfielder Aleksandr Radosavljevic often deployed alongside Koren.

Winger Valter Birsa is highly rated in Ligue 1 with Auxerre and poses a real threat down the left flank.

The other flank is usually occupied by Wisla Krakow’s Andraz Kirm, although the right side of midfield will be contested by both Mirnes Sisic of Larissa and Dalibor Stefanovic of Vitess Arnhem.

The defensive effort is coordinated by the excellent Samir Handanovic in goal. Handanovic has cemented his place as No.1 at Udinese in recent years and marshals his defence with authority.

Handanovic’s deputy will be his cousin Jasmin, who also plays in Italy with Mantova.

Bostjan Cesar of Grenoble is the leading centre-back in the Slovene back four and is partnered by either Matej Mavric of Koblenz or Marko Suler of Gent.

Miso Brecko is regarded as one of the most underrated full backs in the Bundesliga and will start at left back. Bojan Jokic has impressed while on loan at Chievo this season and should start on the other flank.

With a solid spine and capable backup in reserve, Slovenia are confident going into a difficult group.

England are favourites to top Group C, but the feeling in Slovenia is that they could challenge the USA and Algeria for the runner-up spot.

World Cup History

Slovenia have qualified for a World Cup just once since independence, in 2002. Their trip to Japan and Korea was characterised by dissent, as star player Zlatko Zahovic famously rowed with coach Srecko Katanec.

Zahovic was sent home by Katanec after Slovenia were defeated by Spain in their fist match.

Slovenia lost narrowly to South Africa and then to Paraguay  before returning home.

Slovenia failed to qualify in 2006, but the qualification for the 2010 tournament is being heralded by some as a swansong for the Slovenian “Golden Age’ of football.

The Coach

Matjas Kek had a distiguished playing career, both domestically with Maribor and in Austria with GAK Linz and Spittal/Drau.

Kek began his managerial career in 2000 with Maribor. In his time with The Violets, Kek won three Slovenian league titles and one Slovenian Cup before departing in 2006.

Before taking charge of the Slovenian national team in 2007, Kek managed the national under-15 and under-16 sides.

Star Player

Milivoje Novakovic

Novakovic is the third-highest international goalscorer in Slovenian history, with fourteen goals in thirty-seven appearances.

Currently with Koln in Germany, Novakovic earned his reputation as a ruthless goalscorer in Die Geißböcke’s promotion-winning season in 2008 when he netted twenty goals.

Previously to 2008, Novakovic was with Bulgaria’s Litex Lovech and several Austrian sides.

Novakovic was captain of Koln in 2008/2009 and scored another sixteen goals in their first season back in the Budesliga.

This season, Novakovic was involved in a dispute with Koln coach Zvonimir Soldo, but still starred as they finished thirteenth in the league.

One To Watch

Rene Krhin

Regarded as the ‘next big thing’ in Slovenian football, Krhin has broke into the Inter Milan first-team this season.

Krhin is a holding midfielder whose distribution and effective use of possession has been singled out for praise by Jose Mourinho.

Krhin may not play every match for Slovenia, but his inclusion in the Slovenian squad is a signal of things to come from this young midfielder.

Preliminary Squad:

Goalkeepers: Samir Handanovic (Udinese), Jasmin Handanovic (Mantova), Aleksander Seliga (Sparta Rotterdam), Jan Koprivec (Maribor).

Defenders: Bojan Jokic (Chievo), Marko Suler (Ghent), Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble), Branko Ilic (Lokomotiv Moscow), Matej Mavric (Koblenz), Dejan Kelhar (Cercle Brugge), Elvedin Dzinic (Maribor), Miso Brecko (Cologne), Aleksandar Rajcevic (Koper), Suad Filekovic (Maribor).

Midfielders: Andraz Kirm (Wisla Krakow), Andrej Komac (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Rene Krhin (Internazionale), Mirnes Sisic (Giannina), Darjan Matic (Rapid Bucharest), Dare Vrsic (Koper), Dalibor Stevanovic (Vitesse Arnhem), Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion), Aleksander Radosavljevic (Larissa), Valter Birsa (Auxerre).

Strikers: Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne), Zlatko Dedic (VfL Bochum), Zlatan Ljubijankic (Ghent), Nejc Pecnik (Nacional), Miran Burgic (AIK), Tim Matavz (Groningen).

USMNT


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.