Sunday, I was ready to celebrate the U.S. advancing to the next stage of the World Cup. I was watching USA-Portugal at my favorite local, managing to get seats at the bar because I’m overly punctual and anxious. Portgual was looking if not worse for wear, at least potentially beatable. I was surrounded by perhaps a hundred rabid and drunk-since-brunch USA fans, a group that was made more fun by the addition of about ten unafraid Portugal fans.
It’s always more fun watching your side win when fans of the opposing side are nearby. Because schadenfreude.
Then Portugal score that first early goal against an uneasy U.S. side that was playing a new and uncomfortable formation* and all I could think was, “Okay, whatever, I’ll take the fucking draw.”
Then the U.S. came ahead, and I was ready. Ready to celebrate, ready to be relieved that the Group of Death was done. That Germany, despite their dominance (if weak backfield) wouldn’t even be a factor. We all were. Then the referee added five minutes** and this shit happened:
The whistle blew just seconds after, and we all left the bar. A night that could have been full of reverie turned to dejection. But, we drew! That’s all I wanted; that’s all we needed. But, dammit, now Germany was the wildcard, we all thought. If we drew, we’d all advance. That’s what mattered.
The good news: We advanced! But the bad news.
Were it not for Pepe being an idiot and getting himself a red card, we probably would not have advanced.
It was easy to think of Germany as the wild card in our group, but turns out, despite some hardships versus a strong-attacking Ghana side, they were definitely the dominant squad in the group. However, Portugal was nearly as good. Turns out, though, that Portugal was the wild card.
Team USA advances because despite being tied for points with Portugal (thanks to a lucky win against Ghana), Portugal lost huge against Germany. And Portugal lost huge to Germany because Pepe was a fucking idiot and left them one man down for most of the match.
However, as we saw Sunday, and some of us saw today, Portugal with a full team is a fucking tsunami. CR7 will get you when you’re not looking, and you’re often not looking because Eder or Nani are about to put the ball the net. Basically, this:
But, thank our lucky stars Pepe was a fucking idiot whose antics let Germany score a ton of them in the first match.
This is all not to say the U.S. doesn’t deserve to advance. They’ve played some inspired soccer, even in today’s loss. If you watched the first half of the match and thought the U.S. didn’t have a chance of winning it all, then we had to have watched different matches. Strong passing, a defensive formation that was like unto a da Vinci drawing, and hard tackles, steals and runs were enough to make you believe.
It’s easy to say that Bradley seemed a little off, until you realize that it was fucking pouring almost the entire time and the pitch was almost flooded. I’d like to see how you handle the quick touches a center midfielder needs to handle in those conditions. Germany had the same troubles, but their play didn’t depend on the center of midfield as strongly. They also sucked on defense.
But, despite an incredible U.S. defense, Germany’s offense managed to let one through, which seemed inevitable due to Germany maintaining possession of the ball on the U.S. side for most of the second half. That it was only one is a major testament to the back line and His High Holiness Timothy Howard.***
However, it’s hard to celebrate this achievement after losing the match. We were this close to advancing by winning, on a Sunday evening, and instead, we advance despite losing, at two o’clock in the goddamn afternoon while we’re at stupid work.
I’d like to think that had we won, I’d have just walked out the front door and into the nearest bar, ordered a double shot of Jim Beam, and removed my shirt, but I doubt it. I am, after all, kind of an adult, and I need my job to pay the rent.
Doesn’t matter, though. We play next week, probably against Belgium. The final test of whether fried potatoes should be dipped in mayonnaise or ketchup. I’ll give you a hint: one of those is fucking disgusting.
* Still don’t know why the fuck Klinsmann thought a 4-5-1 was a good idea. I’m glad we finally settled into a more comfortable (and better fitting the personnel) 4-2-3-1.
** Has anybody figured out why so many matches have been getting so much stoppage time in this tournament? I mean, before this year, I’m not sure I’ve seen a handful of 5s in the hundreds of matches I’ve watched.
*** Despite not having the international superstars that many of the strongest teams have, we have a embarrassment of riches in the goal. As a Villa supporter, I can say that Brad Guzan, who’s along for the ride but will see exactly zero minutes of play, is nearly every bit as good as Howard, who is probably the best goalie in the world. Again, as a Villan, I’d love to see Guzan play a bit, but of course he won’t. However, Howard is 35, so this might be his last World Cup. Just know that Guzan is ready.
I didn’t even get into the refereeing, which was just terrible. Not sure if it was the conditions, or the particular ref, but the calls were in general terrible. It was evident right away, when in the opening minutes, a German player fouled a U.S. shirt, and the ref stopped play, even though Jermaine Jones had the fucking ball and was about to run up the field with it. Some of the bad calls also went to Germany, to be a little fair, but only to cover up the fact that he obviously had been paid off by Germany and turned around and bet the money on Germany.
I leave you with this, because it’s awesome and Dempsey’s been a hell of a captain of this squad: