Four years ago I was sitting in a bar in Prague when the US team was eliminated from the World Cup by Ghana. It was a crappy game; Ghana scored early and spent the rest of the time lying on the grass. Not the sort of game that could endear futbol to the American masses.
This morning I was geeking away in my office when the neighbor turned on the World Cup. Loud. In Spanish. My neighbor is not a native Spanish speaker as far as I know. As long as I was listening to the game, I decided to watch it. It didn’t take long before I realized why the neighbor chose the Spanish channel. I’m sticking with the English-speaking commentators myself, however, for comedic value.
It’s halftime as I write this, and Ghana is winning. Will they spend the second half lying on the ground pretending to be hurt? We don’t know yet. I’ve heard tell that this tournament is much less baby-filled than the one four years ago. In a totally unrelated bit of news, Italy and France, the two teams that competed for the championship last time, have been eliminated.
I’m curious to see whether the Japanese team spends time lying on the ground crying like a babies. Macho cultures like Argentina have no shame on the field, but Japanese culture is all about shame, and the avoidance thereof. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Japanese played a hard-nosed sort of soccer that would be (somewhat) more pleasant to watch.
OK, the second half has started. I’ll keep a running commentary, updating this page as I make my insightful observations.
Minute 47 – big chance for the good guys, good block, followed by a period of the us team milling around the perimeter waiting for someone on the Ghana team to switch sides, or something.
49:01 – a collision! They both got up and kept playing! Incredible!
50:45 – is it me, or is this ref in the way more than most? He’s not favoring either side, I’d say, equally in the way for both.
50:05 – Ghana showing they know how to just take the damn shot. Our boys should learn from that.
53:40 – Nice chance for the US. That’s the kind of pressure they need.
54:40 – Oh, crap, now it’s one of our guys lying on the ground. “He landed awkwardly,” the announcer said. Yeah, right. Dempsey wanted a whistle.
56:20 – Another US ankle-grab-to-get-a-whistle play. The Ghana player scorned him. As he should have.
59:45 – Announcer: The USA have to score. It’s that kind of insight that justifies bringing in a Brit to help with the broadcast.
61:50 – GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! I was typing my last pithy comment and missed what caused the penalty kick, but the US collects.
64:25 – American announcer: He’s really stepped up his game. He’s approached it, he’s come up to… dammit, I don’t remember what he said. Let’s just say that the American guy is not going to be outdone by the Brit.
64:40 – Awesome work by the Ghana goalkeeper.
68:15 – get off the lawn!
74:00 – I’m too slow at typing to get the announcer’s stupid comments down before they say something else and I forget the first one. Right now they’re just chatting on about some player’s gloves.
74:50 – you know what makes a fascinating game? Two teams dicking around at midfield, showing no apparent desire to score. That’s what I like in a sporting contest.
75:50 – and as I typed that, a big chance for the US.
76:30 – get up, you wimp!
77:10 – oh, wait, he really is hurt. He came off and was replaced. I’d feel bad but let’s face it, I had a right to be skeptical.
78:30 – Oh, I love overdramatic announcers, too! Brit Announcer: Can the United States do it? Followed by more blahblahblah.
80:10 – Looked like a big chance for the US. I think the US guy was thinking too much about drawing a penalty and not enough about putting his boot on the ball. Almost scored anyway.
84:55 – You know what else is missing from this game? Endless offside traps by the US. They just did the first one of the half. Good riddance.
89:30 – Cleats to the chest brings a Ghana player down. Is he really hurt? His recovery was swift, I’ll say that.
91:00 – lame-ass yellow card against Ghana. FIFA should have a way to reverse calls like that; the guy will miss the next match because of it.
92:30 – US seems content to wait until the overtime period. Ghana on the attack!
93:30 – on a corner kick with no time left: “The US must defend this one well.” The Brit went on to explain that if they give up the winning goal with no time left they will lose. Really?
94 – Overtime! And the advertisers rejoice!
90:00 – It will be interesting to see if conditioning plays a role in overtime. The team with a little burst left in their legs will have a big advantage.
91:50 – the US goaltender kicks the ball to the Ghana goaltender. No one seemed interested in getting in the way.
94:40 – Ghana gets a breakaway goal! US defense caught napping and split down the middle. Trouble for the good guys.
95:25 – Brit: “this is where reputations are made. Some, broken. Ask the French and Italians.” American: “At some point you have to go and meet the parents.” (American quote may be inaccurate – they were coming too fast.)
96:45 – and Ghana is on the turf. The stretchers are out. Here we go.
98:05 – Brit: How many times can the US keep going to the well? Keep coming up with an answer? Keep digging up old clichés?
99:30 – Ghana on the turf again. This is what sport is all about.
100:34 – Ghana player goes down, ref not looking. He gets back up.
101:58 – Ghana dicking around more. Announcers saying the ref has to keep the game moving. Like that happens.
104:35 – US still not above a bit of turf work to try to draw a whistle.
105:35 – Announcers have gone into full “apologize for the US performance” mode. They’re conditioned to go 90 minutes. They’ve had to come from behind too many times. And so forth.
105:00 – American “If you see things happening, and you get there with your energy, you can really make good things happen.”
105:40 – Brit: “Forget the prep games, this is the real thing.”
106:20 – One guess who’s lying on the grass right now.
107:50 – US player manages to get into the penalty box before falling down, but only manages to draw a direct kick.
110:10 – Ghana player down for no apparent reason. US played on while they could. Here come the stretchers.
111:44 – still wasting time, Ghana player got up off the stretcher and seems ready to come back in.
112:30 – Ghana taking a full minute to sub a player. The clock ticks on. This is a serious flaw in the sport.
114:20 – It sounds like the British announcer doesn’t think it’s worth playing the rest of the game.
115:20 – Let’s see how long it takes for Ghana to get this kick in… about 30 seconds. I expected worse.
118:30 – I think the US players agree with the British announcer.
119:20 – US chance, then after the play a Ghana player sits down – he didn’t fall, mind you, and he wasn’t knocked over. He sat down. Where’s his teammate? The one who taunted the US player for going down. He’s got to straighten out his teammate! Happily he doesn’t get a whistle.
120:10 – an exciting moment as the US goalie tries to score.
And that’s all. Probably a better game than four years ago, but the same result. Perhaps, though, this game will do a slightly better job of selling soccer in the US than the World Cup did four years ago.
Both Ghana goals looked to me like defensive breakdowns by the US, but maybe that’s just the way soccer is. There were some long tedious parts that the announcers filled with blather, but maybe that’s the way announcers are. Now we return this blog to more interesting sports.