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World Cup Diary

THE DECIDER

GAMES 41, GROUP E, JUNE 22, 2006 --NUREMBERG
GHANA 2, UNITED STATES 1
FINAL
GAMES 42, GROUP E, JUNE 22, 2006 --HAMBURG
CZECH REPUBLIC 0, ITALY 2
FINAL

By way of warm-up, and if you haven't read it already, here's the run-down on today's game...

Unbelievable how these Americans can manage to spoil a game before it starts. The ESPN copmmentators just let us know that before the game the American team looked at a picture from a Marine unit in Iraq, and hear the Marines' message ("go get 'em") by way of inspiration. "They don;t need to be told what's on the line," the idiotic commentator said. What is on the line, god damn it, more than a game? And why make an imbecilic, Eddie-Johnson-like military connection again--from Iraq, of all places? Jesus, no matter how hard you want to root for the Americans, they do their darndest to make it tasteless. Let's just get these damn games going.

Luca Toni not playing for Italy today! (Bad news for Italy, good news for Ghana and the United States.)

Here we go... Both US and Ghana slow out of the gate.

4... Uneventful first few minutes, Ghana controlling, foul by the great Michael Essien, who just got himself a yellow--and a boot out of the next game. Once again we have overzealous refereeing. A yellow on Essien for a slightly more lusty tackle than usual? (Alessandro Nesta just did the same to Pavel Nedved's ankle in the other game, and got away with just a free kick).

7... Good battling by the US, but the ref just handed the US' Eddie Lewis a yellow. This is verging on bullshit. Ridiculous. Assinine. On the ref's part.

The Czechs are playing harder in the other game, showing up Italy's lack of verve. Or calculations.

Free Kick Ghana outside US box... Nada. US now reasserting control. But this is not yet the game the Americans want to play. They control, but they give away too, and the Ghanaians just counter-attacked with Essien leading the way. He lobbed the ball too far into the American side. US controls briefly again, but again a turn-over to the Black Stars.

12... Brian McBride just took an unmarked run into the penalty box, but he was half a step behind a well-placed cross: he too realized too late the opportunity hanging for him there.

The Czechs just got themselves their best chance, but Milan Baros shot it into the side of the goal's net.

The Americans are still not showing the kind of force they need to be to win this game, even if they score first. Remember: a draw would be useless for the United States, though it could favor Ghana depending on the outcome of the other game. Now it's Ghana on the ball. US briefly a man short as Eddie Lewis had a bleeder.

18...Ghana still on the ball. American through balls into the Black Stars' area are finding either the green grass of Nuremberg or the red shirts of Ghana. And now the off-side flag on a Donovan run. The line-judge is blind.

20... Ghana just built an attack all the way into the box, header bumped out, Ghana corner kick. Pressure on the Americans.

The Czechs continue to press their attacks and finding the Italian penalty box. The Italians are not on their game--not that they have been much, in 2006.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GHANA... UNQUESTIONABLE, A HUGE US MISTAKE IN THEIR BACKFIELD, A TURN-OVER, AND HAMINU DRAMAN TOOK ADVANTAGE, 1-0 GHANA!

And the Americans lose Claudio Reyna to a stretcher on top of it all.

Meanwhile Italy loses its best defender as Alessandro Nesta has to leave the field with a groin injury. It's terrible news for Italy, great news for the Czechs, if they maintain their attacks, BUT ITALY JUST SCORED GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Off a corner kick, scored by Marcoi Materazzi, the very sub brought in to replace Alessandro!

The Americans are not taking advantage of squat, and GHANA ALMOST HAD THEMSELVES ANOTHER GOAL that just skimmed wide: Keller in goal is as flat-footed as Barthez. This is not the American team that played Italy, but the one that crumbled before the Czechs. They have virtually nothing today.

 

30... And again Ghana on the ball, though forcing the ball past the goal line. Keller goal kick. The Americans are slumbering through this game, they're flirting with disgrace, and they deserve being on the back-end of the score line at this point. They haven't earned themselves even so much as the crowd's respect.

Ridiculous display by the Americans. Where's their caffeine? Where's their inspiration? So much for pre-game slobbering over pictures of Marines.

Well, maybe we can see a parallel result here: just as the Czechs controlled the match until the Italy goal, maybe the Americans can do the same. And anyway for all the possessions and the goals, this is still a game of turn-arounds. Italy is controlling its match right now. The Americans just need to find their way into the match and hold on. Plenty of time.

37... An American free kick on the far side, right outside the box, but well saved by the Black Star keeper. Corner US, cleared well and into a Ghana counter-attack. Now building again. Unraveled, and it's back on the Americans' boot.

38... Briefly, anyway. The best the Americans can do is play pass-and-lose in the Ghanian zone between the midfield line and the edge of the penalty box. They're not penetrating. They're not even that accurate with their long distance shots.

39... Eddie Lewis just managed a good fast run all the way down, the cxross was behind two sliding Americans doing some synchronized swimming with two Ghanians on the grass. Another American attack is broken up easily. But are we seeing those signs of life we've been begging for?

40... Claudio Reyna is out. Not a bad loss. He's been useless. Get big-mouth but golden-booted Eddie Johnson in there! No chance.

41... Ghana with a free kick at the edge of the box, in front of US goal. Shot wide.

42... Ghana smothers every American attempt. Claudio Reyna on the sideline has the face of a frustrated rhino: he speaks for his whole team's performance so far. COME ON AMERICANS. At least make a game of this

AND THEY DO! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL US!

What a wonderful run, Beasley winning the ball out of a scrum of three Ghanians, running down the near wing at full blast, finding Dempsey keeping pace with him on his way into the box, a perfect pass, one slamming touchm and the Americans have their equalizer and their honor back. They're on it, back into the Ghanian side. Excellent, excellent , and how timely just before the half!

shit!

PENALTY KICK FOR GHANA! A PUSH INSIDE THE BOX! WE'RE IN INJURY TIME, THIS IS RIDICULOUS, THERE'S NO SHOVE, THERE'S A HEADER! BUT HERE IT COMES...

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL GHANA!

 

Our referee by the way is Benito Archundia of Mexico, on the circuit since 1994. Not so: that's the guy referreing the Italy-Czech match. Our referee is German.

It's Half-time, and over in the Italy-Czech game, the Czechs will play their second half down a man: Jan Polak was sent off.

Second half... if Eddie Johnson isn't in, the Senate should immediately begin impeachment proceedings against Bruce Arena.

48... Michael Essien took a tumble, used up two minutes of the second half. Se we see the Ghanian strategy already: burn the clock by all means necessary (speaking of which, I wonder who Malcolm X would be rooting for if he were watching this game. We now know where Kofi stands with "his boys," thanks to Dave.)

51... Wait. I forgot. The US Senate underwent a voluntary self-emasculation in 2001. No proceedings, even as Bruce Arena gets away with football's equivalent of crimes against... And another Ghanaian down in the penalty box as the US squares off for its second successive corner. The first was a dud of slips and slides, the second...a scrumbling clear and counter-attack by Ghana.

55... AND A DIVING SAVE BY KELLER! Bad news for the US: That shot was taken by Amoah, whose foot is as lethal as any Montana Minuteman missile. The problem for the Americans: their missiles are slumbering as icily as those missiles in Montana's ICBM fields. And her I go with the military analogies (all means necessary...)

58... Dempsey with a cross, effective enough but right in the hands of the Ghana keeper. I don;t recall seeing white shirts anywhere near the ball.

59... This is what conservatism has done to the United States. You're seeing it in this game. Nothing daring. Nothing foward. Nothing progressive. And the team's best hope held back to warm the bench. But we finally hear that Eddie Johnson is up and warming. Jesus Chris, Allah and all the saints from here to Shinto's skies: what the fuck took Arena so long?

60... Eddie is in. He loses his first battle.

Over in Hamburg, Italy almost went up 2-0 on a corner kick, and lost yet another top-shelf player (Milan Baros) to tired legs The Italians are doing their part. The Americans are juet getting away with luck..

The Americans almost conceded yet another goal over her4e too.

64... The crowd was energized more than the American team by Eddie's insertion. So far we have more conventional play, more turn-overs than good builds--for both sides. Ghana have lost their spark. The Americans haven't noticed? MCBRIDE JUST HEADED A SLAMMER OF A SHOT AGAINST THE FAR POST! GOD DAMN IT AND THAT POST!

Looks like the Americans have noticed the dimming spark in the Black Star. Corner...

ANOTHER DONOVAN HEADER THAT SAILS INCHES ABOVE THE CROSSBAR! HE HAD IT! HE HAD IT!

And over in Hamburg the Czechs have rediscovered their spark... Come on now.

Eddie Johnson makes a run but fails again. At least the Americans are on the attack, again and again, they've swelled their own tide and now they're surfing it: they keep this up, they have their equalizer. But they need more than that. They need to do what the Elephants of Ivory Coast did yesterday: 2 goals in the next twenty minutes. Virtually impossible?

70... All of a sudden we're down to the last 20 minutes: the impossible's early dusk.

72... Ghana had itself a view of the American goal blocked only by a lucky American shin. They're attacking again, the Black Stars, and more and more that penalty is looking like a shot-down of American verve, instead of firing it up. The seconds are ticking off, the Americans aren't pressing enough.

75... The equalizer doesn't come in the next five minutes, and the Americans can start making their Grand Canyon plans for the rest of June. Now more time-wasting bullshit on the Ghanaians' part.

In Hamburg it's turning into the Totti show: shot after shot, but so far no success.

78... Terrible show by the Americans. Two minutes lost to Ghanaian theatrics only to result in American turn-overs once play resumes, and every time the Gahanaians get their foot or their hands on the ball, they mash grass and burn time.

The Black stars are a man down for now. But a sub is coming in. It's all a game of fouls now. Might as well be American football now: the ball is in play a fraction of the time, and again with a fowl, this time favoring the US at the corner edge of the penalty box, far end. They have to capitalize on this one.

A Horrific ball by Landon Donavan that sails right into the travel agent's lobby: that's it for the Americans.

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! Fllippo Inzaghi makes it 2-0 for Italy.

The Americans are wasting their gifts.

That's it for the Czechs, and it looks to be it for the Americans: a tie is like a pointless run in the bottom of the ninth. And of course a Ghanian again on the grass, again with the time-wasting. These last thirty minutes have been a joke, half the time lost to these stoppages. It'll be interesting how many minutes the ref adds. But again, the Am,ericans aren't capitalizing on what they get.

87... The Americans again, a slow build...bumping it back to their own half and BACK TO KELLER? WHAT ARE THEY THINKING?

GhANA ON THE BALL NOW. The Ghanaians have played an ugly match, they haven't earned this win, let alone that penalty kick, but neither have the Americans earned anything. This is a victory by default.

90... LANDON DONOVAN HAD AN OPEN BOX, dribbled a split second too much for yert another pass, missed his chance to make something happen. More flat-footedness. And the great Eddie Johnson? No factor. One more attack by the US, one more shot blocked by a Black Star's foot. And Ghana is burning time.

Time for this guy to check out. Let Eric Wynalda take over.

92... Well ladies and gentlemen of the jury, it's been unreal. The exit polls called it right in Accra. Ghana is Africa's sweetheart, the United States and their Marines-addled team are not even going home with the respect they promised us.

One major consolation: this is the World Cup: we go on, and we hang our hats and hearts on a whole football council of terrific teams. The Ghanaians among them. Two wins for these wonderful black stars, ugly as they have been here: We're all Ghanaians now.

Bruce Arena, this loss is on you. So is the terrible display overall of this allegedly best-ever American team. Ghana showed how it's done. Bruce Arena showed how to lose. And the players of course showed how to follow a leader in name only, a leader who talks a good game but manages a disaster, a leader of boasts and braw and the usual rhetoric of guts and glory, but with the strategy of a fool. Presumption doesn't win games. How typically American, sad to say. The One Percent Doctrine, on the football pitch.

 

 

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