World Cup: U.S. Madness!

The U.S. had their final match of group play this morning at 9am my time. I recorded the game as I was at work and just finished watching it now. SPOILER ALERT: If you do not want to know what happened, please stop reading.

A quick summary of how the World Cup works for the uninitiated. There are 32 teams in the World Cup, split into 8 groups with 4 teams in each group. Each team plays the other 3 teams in their group and the two teams who finish with the most points in their group advance to the knockout rounds (win or go home). A team gets 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw (tie) and 0 points for a loss. In the event of ties after the group stage, goal differential becomes important. That means if two teams are tied with 5 points, the team with the best goal differential (number of goals scored – goals given up) advances.

In Group C, the U.S. was sitting in a tie for 2nd place with England, each team with 2 points and trailing the group leader Slovenia who had 4 points. The U.S. was playing Algeria, who was sitting alone at the bottom of the group with 1 point, while England played Slovenia. If the U.S. won, they advanced no matter what happened in the England game. But if the U.S. only managed a draw, they would need a draw in the England game and hope they would surpass the English in goal differential in order to advance.

The U.S. is notorious for bad starts and giving up early goals. That did not happen today. They came out much more prepared and more aggressive offensively. There was a very good scoring chance for Algeria when a strike from outside the box hit the crossbar, but no damage was done. The U.S. generated most of the scoring chances in the first half and in the 21st minute this happened:

In case you do not understand what happened there, the goal was disallowed for an offsides call that replays showed was wrong. So, the half ended scoreless.

The second half saw an even more dominant performance by the U.S., and yet, despite numerous chances, they could not find the back of the net. Meanwhile, England had a 1-0 lead over Slovenia which meant that the U.S. had to win the game in order to advance, or hope that Slovenia scored and earned a draw against the English. A draw would leave them one point behind Slovenia for the 2nd spot and two points behind England.

The game progressed and that 90th minute kept getting closer and despite their valiant efforts, the U.S. just could not net a goal. Then the 90th minute came and despite the referee tacking four additional minutes, the game was still scoreless and England was about to win. It would seem that it was not to be for the U.S., who now suddenly found themselves in danger of losing to an Algerian squad playing back and taking advantage of U.S. aggressiveness to try and score on the counterattack.

Algeria controlled the ball to start the extra time and attacked the U.S. defense, getting a shot on goalie Tim Howard. Howard stopped the shot and got the ball out quickly to Landon Donovan on the wing to start a U.S. attack, which led to this:

Incredible!! Improbable!! No word does justice to what you just saw. Adding to the weight of that was the fact that the U.S. had never even earned a point in any 3rd match of group play in a World Cup, and the goal not only gave the U.S. the victory, but it won them the group. Just amazing!

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