Holy cow. I’ll spare you all the hyperbole that will naturally come given the circumstances. I hope now that we’ve all had a little time to digest the fact that the USMNT has finally beaten their Ghanaian nemeses, we can look forward to the rest of the tournament. Without a doubt, the win was crucial for the USA’s hopes of advancing to the knockout round, but at the end of the day, it’s just one game.
Feel free to skip down if you don’t care about the absolute yawner between Iran and Nigeria or Germany’s resounding thrashing of 10-man Portugal, but for the soccer fans among us who do, here are our musings on Monday’s games.
Iran vs. Nigeria
We’ll keep this short here because this game didn’t really deserve much of our attention.
The Super Eagles played well in two-thirds of the field but not so much in the final third (which is where, you know, they usually score the goals). Iran was content to sit back and let Nigeria play through balls that did not really amount to anything. On set pieces and corners, Nigeria failed to send good balls into the box, allowing the Iranians to clear their lines. Bosnia and Herzegovina also looked impressive in defeat against Argentina on Sunday, so it will be a stiff challenge for the Nigerians to escape Group F in the 2nd position, a sure disappointment for the African nation. — Nick Barton
Germany vs. Portugal
I’m aware Portugal went down to 10 men on Pepe’s red card and lost key pieces Fábio Coentrão and Hugo Almeida to injury during the game, but this just shows how good the Germans can be. One penalty. One header off a corner kick. One failed Portuguese clearance from Bruno Alves that gave Thomas Müller a shot from inside the box. And one cleaned up deflection off the Portuguese keeper. Four goals. The rest of Group G has good reason to fear this German side. American fans can only hope that Germany will not need any points from their match in Recife to move on. — Carl Yedor
And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for.
I still haven’t caught my breath. Wow. Okay. I’ll start with this: you never know what you’re going to get with the USMNT. The Yanks haven’t played a World Cup game that was decided by more than one goal since the 2006 opener in Gelsenkirchen, Germany against the Czech Republic. That’s a run of seven straight games in which fans have had to endure 90 minutes of angst. It’s time we get a rest, don’t ya think? Against the Germans, Portugal showed how they react when going down early, and I think that has to be in the back of Jurgen Klinsmann’s mind in training this week. I don’t know about you, but I have this weird feeling. It’s only June and yet I find myself asking—“Is it Sunday yet?”
I’ve been saying it ever since the groups were drawn in December. Of the U.S.’s three Group G opponents, Ghana physically matches up best against them, followed by Germany, and then Portugal. Portugal demonstrated their willingness to absorb pressure and hope for the counter-attack against what looked to be a far superior German squad on Monday. It didn’t work, but on Sunday, the Americans must be careful not to fall into the trap the Germans so perfectly avoided. Cristiano Ronaldo will outrun every last player on this team, there is no doubt in my mind. — Matt Bell
Entering the tournament, the consensus was that this unit would be the most likely to cost the U.S. a chance to advance in the tourney. Tonight, however, I thought the back line erased some – and only some – of those doubts, particularly centrally. Geoff Cameron went the full 90 and was the stalwart, dealing capably with nearly everything the Ghanaians threw at him. Matt Besler and John Brooks split the game at the other center half, with both looking somewhat shaky clearing and managing the ball, as per usual. What can’t be omitted, of course, is the momentous goal Brooks tallied in the 86th minute. The look on Brooks’s face – “I’ll never forget this moment” – is surely seared in the minds of millions of American fans, and with good reason.
The fullbacks were a little less commendable. Fab Johnson’s hustle play did set up the Zusi-Brooks connection on the game-winning corner. He was unable to get too far forward today, though, and he was beaten by Andre Ayew’s off ball run in the 82nd minute. Overall, it was a far cry from the tantalizing flash shown by the German-American in the second send-off series game against Turkey.
On the other side, DaMarcus Beasley seems to be taking the most flak from supporters. Agreed – this was not the makeshift back’s best performance, with some nervy on ball moments helped little by a clear physical disadvantage against the opposing Black Stars. But he seemed to be helped little by his immediate teammates Jones and Besler, which helps to explain the torrential downpour of Ghanaian service coming from his side (although that may have been part of the game plan). In the end, both outside backs will look to improve greatly against Portugal. — Peter Barston
All in all, this was a good start for the USA. It may not have been pretty, but it was certainly gritty. And the last time the USA met Portugal in the group stage, this happened. On to the next one.
Images courtesy of Getty Images, The Telegraph, Sydney Morning Herald, The New York Times, and The Daily Mail
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