As the second week of this mesmerizing World Cup draws to a close, it’s a good time to assess the current standings and issue warnings to those teams that hope to advance to the round of 16.
Group G has lived up to its “Group of Death” moniker with two teams with 1 point, and the other two with 4 apiece – none with a clean sheet 6. The US side beat Ghana, who then tied Germany, the same team that squashed Portugal in their opener, 4-nil. Portugal then salvaged a miraculous, last second 2-2 draw against the resilient Americans. And so it stands that all teams remain in contention to advance to the knockout round, although the US and Germany sides can control their destinies while Portugal and Ghana must have help.
Ghana – like the US – held one goal advantages over their more decorated opponents in Germany and Portugal respectively, only to surrender equalizers after tasting victory. As has been the case throughout this Cup, momentum shifted wildly as teams pressed the attack and countered with abandon. All 4 goals in the Germany-Ghana match were scored in a 20-minute span in the hotly contested second half. In the US-Portugal tilt, Portugal was gifted an early strike, but the US clawed their way back with 2nd half scores, putting Portugal on the brink of elimination before Cristiano Ronaldo and Varela teamed up to deny the Americans an early promotion to the Round of 16. Alexi Lalas and Steve McManaman provide their post-mortem List of Grievances, and Roberto Martinez breaks down the breakdown in agonizing detail.
Both the US and Portugal blew scoring chances, but the US appeared to have the better play after ceding the early goal. The ragged US side was lucky to defeat Ghana in their opener, but against Portugal they were far more cohesive in earning a bitter, last-second draw. Portugal – thoroughly dismantled by Germany -never reached a level of play that indicated an elite status. Ultimately, the US controlled the match and their destiny entering Thursday’s final day of group play against Germany, with the discussion turning to whether a draw is in the works between Juergen Klinsmnn and Joachim Loew rather than the US putting a hammerlock on the next round by knocking out the vaunted Portuguese 11.
Cheers to Jermaine Jones for his bending laser beam at 64′, Graham Zusi for always being in the scoring plays, Fabian Johnson for providing spark with his runs, and Clint Dempsey for doing what he does: finish plays in the net.
Jeers to Michael Bradley and the 3 Stooges prevent defense that was busy marking open grass instead of the fresh-legged Varela on his mad dash toward World Cup glory with the latest goal scored in stoppage time. Ever.
The CabinMan’s final gripe: A Yellow Card to Michael Bradley
Bradley’s laissez faire touch on that last possession undermined 90-ish minutes of grim determination. He gave no resistance. None. All this talk of gentleman draws would be moot had he only controlled the ball long enough to pooch kick it into the far corner. We’ve seen this movie before: CR “007” eludes the death trap in the end with 7 seconds left in stoppage time… “Ronaldo. Cristiano Ronaldo.” Fin.