The Party’s Getting Good

By Andrew L. Dixon, III, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: June 17, 2010

MIAMI (BASN)The 2010 FIFA World Cup is full effect. Already there’s been some interesting talking points, a couple of gaffes and one big time upset. As my brother DJ Quest says, let’s get to it.
USA: Good enough against England, robbed against Slovenia
The US have it all to do on the final match day of the group phase against Algeria after drawing 1-1 and 2-2 against Slovenia.

US didn’t play particularly well on offense but defensively they gave a composed, organized performance and gladly accepted the early Christmas gift from England goalkeeper Robert Green to claim a 1-1 tie in their Group C opening match.

The US fell behind very early to a Steven Gerrard goal off a quick feed from Emile Heskey. But the US slowly found their way back into the match and tied the match when Green parried Clint Dempsey’s speculative 25 yard shot into the net.

The US absorbed pressure from England in the second half and got solid games from Michael Bradley and Ricardo Clark in the midfield and especially Jay Demerit, Oguchi (please stop asking about my knee) Onyewu in central defense and Tim Howard in goal who stopped a point blank efforts from Heskey and Shawn Wright-Philips in the second half.

Most importantly, Wayne Rooney was a non-factor in the match.

Jose Altidore had a chance to win it for the US after abusing Jamie Carragher on left side and swooping in on goal but his near post shot was saved onto the post bar by Green.

In all the US had enough credible offense to keep England at bay but were unable to keep the England goal under any sustained pressure. In all a deserved 1-1 draw and now the US turns its attention to group leading Slovenia, 1-0 winners over Algeria.

The US were favored against Slovenia but an uneven beginning and some moments of indecision put the US on a 2-0 hole by half time. Valter Birsa opened the scoring in the 13′ with an absolute bullet into the upper left hand corner. The US’ inability to string passes together and develop a rhythm allowed Slovenia to dictate play.

The US began to pressure in the latter stages of the first half with Jose Torres forcing a save on a free kick and Donovan having a certain goal cleared off the line. Soon thereafter Slovenia struck again with Zlatan Ljubijankic beating an indecisive offside trap to slot home for 2-0. The US got right to business in the second half. Donovan took advantage of a Slovenia defender’s mistake to go walk in on goal and almost take the goal keeper’s head off with his strike and it was 2-1.

The US kept the pressure on and got the equalizer when Jozy Altidore headed a ball across the box to an onrushing Michael Bradley. Bradley slid in with the finish and the US was level. The controversy came a few minutes later when the Donovan hit a free kick into the box. Halftime substitute Maurice Edu drilled home the “winner” only to see it waived off for a foul.

Replays failed to show what foul actually occurred, but did show several Slovenia defenders mugging Americans in the box. In the end the US fought back for a 2-2 draw and need to beat Algeria to ensure progression to the Round of 16

Arise Africa
This may be the African World Cup but the African sides haven’t fared well.
Only one team had claimed a victory (Ghana 1-0 over Serbia via an 84th minute penalty kick) South Africa looks to be on their way out after losing 3-0 on Wednesday to Uruguay while Nigeria needs to win its final group stage match and get a ton of help as after a goal keeping error and a stupid red card by Sani Kaita did them in against a weak Greek team.

As for the rest? Cote D’Ivoire’s course is uncertain with the injury to their captain, Didier Drogba. Algeria was uninspiring in their loss against Slovenia, suffered the other goal keeping error and face a suddenly motivated England next. Traditional African power Cameroon was disappointing in their opening match against Japan.

The South African crowds want to get behind and African side. Which will step up?
The Ball
In the run-in to the start of the tournament saw a lot of complaints about the official World Cup ball. Named JABULANI, meaning ‘celebration’ in Zulu, the ball has been the subject of criticism by goal keepers who say the ball moves too much and players who say they have difficulty controlling it.
This writer notes that goal keepers complain oh, um…every four years about the ball moving. Yet I didn’t hear Tim Howard complaining. Nor did I see any bellyaching from Lionel Messi who was manuevering through Nigerian defenders like water through a sieve or Vincent Eneyama who turned in a superb performance in goal for Nigeria stoning Messi at every turn.

The Germans didn’t seem to have any problems controlling the ball in their 4-0 demolition of Australia although, to be fair, they did use the ball in the Bundesliga this past season. Heck even Robert Green could have used that excuse but simply put his hand up and said, “My bad.”

Look it’s round, it rolls, it’s got air. Just play…
The Horns
Nothing and I mean NOTHING has become as polarizing as the vuvuzelas, the loud plastic horns that have been the constant backdrop of every match. Either you hate it like the pundits, the broadcasters, casual fans and Rick Reilly or it doesn’t bother you because you’ve watched enough matches from Mexico and are concentrating on the matches.
There has been talk about banning them from stadiums or fierce defense of their use by locals. People have complained about not hearing crowds singing while others marvel when their volume increases in anticipation of a big moment.

Either way, they’ll be talked about throughout the tournament and beyond…

The Matches
The first group stage matches saw most teams trying not to make a mistake and as a result, there were a lot of defense, a lot of patience and a lot of draws. So full marks to Germany who scored early and often against Australia and S. Korea who dominated Greece.

Brazil’s match against a packed N. Korea defense was an exercise in patience before the brilliance of Maicon set Brazil free. Spain, on the other hand couldn’t solve Switzerland and were on the wrong end of the biggest upset thus far in the tournament.

Look for things to open as the 2nd group stage matches get under way. France are already checking reservations back to Paris after deservedly losing to Mexico

The Goals
Diego Forlan’s first goal against South Africa, even if deflected, was still well struck. Tshabalala’s wonder strike on the break against Mexico was a brilliant rocket into the upper right 90. But Maicon’s goal against N. Korea, struck at an impossible angle is the goal of the tournament thus far.

Stay tuned, the party’s just about to get interesting…