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Entries in Group C (8)


BBC Heaps Praise On USA After Thrilling Victory

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One Great Season

LONDON -- What a day it was Wednesday. I'm exhausted after an extensively hot day that pretty much had a soundtrack from The Specials as I ran around Europe's largest city in the vain hopes of finding one single screen showing the USA-Algeria match (read about my ordeal here). This day's weather was perfect, after spending all day seated in a perfect Centre Court at Wimbledon Tuesday, I assumed today would match the ease, grace, and elegance of the two previous. It did weather-wise, at least.

But back in my hotel room after all the madness, I flipped on BBC1 and listened to a World Cup expert drop a fairly flattering opinion on the American team after its thrilling 1-0 defeat of Algeria:

"I watched the whole of it and, you know, it was back and forth, fantastic football for the fans. Algeria and the United States, going at each other for 91 minutes; errors, options, possibilities. And you really saw the character of the Americans — and America — on the pitch. They never, ever stopped fighting. And even though they had some bad calls against them, they didn't let those things stop them. They just cleaned up after themselves. And then they won. What was it, the 92nd minute? They deserved it. You know when you have so many chances it's bound to happen. It was lovely, lovely football and they deserved to win the group. Good on you, USA."

Click here for Steve's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


A New Yorker in England: A Harrowing Tale


One Great Season

LONDON -- I found a "pop-up bar" online called Fever Pitch that's only in Fulham Broadway (in the heart of the football-mad London neighborhood of Fulham) for the extent of the World Cup.

I also found some blogs and local news articles about the best pubs for watching all matches, and Fever Pitch was rated highly. So I headed over there from my hotel in Vauxhall and they barely let me in an hour beforehand; it was packed to the gills.

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I asked the bouncer which screen's rolling the U.S. match, and he said, "No way. We tried at kickoff, but when we turned it on the TV at the far corner, the place went berserk. So, not here mate. Sorry."

I was goddamned livid; not only did they promise the airing of all matches online, it even said it on the clapboard standing outside the door of the place.

So I walked around that square to all the bars and they basically laughed when I asked about the U.S. match. "Sorry mate," went the reply at all of them. "We understand, but if I give up a screen here to the U.S. match I'll be fired and then killed." I even went to a place called "The American Grill," and the Pakistani family inside running the place said the same.

So in my travails I found one bar manager who's American. He told me to go to an American-owned pub called Back Page in Leicester Square, just outside the station. "Perfect," I think, and I head over there as fast as I can (by this point it's roughly 20th minute) and go straight to the first bar I see outside the station to ask their bouncer standing outside, who should know, and sure enough, the Back Page is nowhere near that neighborhood. The dopey American dude at that one bar in Fulhman was dead wrong. So I go around Leicester Square and Covent Garden and find 100 places packed solid, and in keeping with the story, none had even one goddamned screen rolling the U.S. match — not even one of those dumb little bar-side monitors that no one watches.

At this point, I'd be happy to just sit down, have a beer, watch the end of the England-Slovenia match, and hear its broadcast commentators possibly give asides that include progress of the US match.

So — you ready to laugh? — I found a Travelodge in Covent Garden with big ground-floor windows, through which I discover a hotel bar about half-full with plenty of empty seats, beer and a big screen. I came in with about 15 minutes left, grabbed a beer and fire up one of the Internet terminals which just happen to be in the hotel bar. I turned on ESPN3 online and about 10 minutes later, the people in the Travelodge were visibly terrified when I started jumping around and yelling at the computer. Landon Donovan's goal in extras sent the USA into the next round, and at least one American in London embarrassing himself in a cheap hotel bar.

Click here for Steve's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


OGS World Cup Writers React To USA's Thrilling Win

Landon Donovan

One Great Season

If I knew more about soccer, I'd try to twist something romantically savvy into my prose about what Landon Donovan and the United States accomplished in South Africa today.

But no one ever says it's a great day to be among the literati. On a day like today, after an effort like Donovan's, people say things like, "It's a great day to be an American."

No sports columnist and surely no blogger will be able to wield a pen mightier than Donovan's right foot today. But since the celebration of USA's 1-0 group-clinching defeat of Algeria is still only a couple hours old, emotions are fresh, and so is the team of OGS World Cup writers. Here's what they had to say after the Americans won their group for the first time since 1930, and advanced to Saturday's knockout round:

+ Mike Mudd
Wow, America craved some drama from this U.S. team and boy did they get it. I had oozed confidence in my Group C preview that England and the U.S. would advance easily  out of this seemingly barren group. And I admit I couldn't have been more wrong. The correct two teams moved on, but not without putting both countries' fans on life support for a week. The U.S. showed the type of soccer today it will need to win a second-round game, and I think they have a good shot at winning one with this renewed confidence. I have always thought Landon Donovan is the best home-grown field player this country has ever produced, and his goal today to save the team just backs up my contention. It wasn't easy, but it some ways, the way this U.S. team earned its trip to the next round, it may in the long run bring forth more fans. Because at the end of the day, everyone loves a win pulled out of the fire and the drama of sports.

+ Jake Yadrich
For 90 minutes, it seemed as though the United States were going to get jobbed again by the refs.  The U.S. were attacking hard, creating multiple chances but never cashing in. For the last 10 minutes of the game, I was actually praying for a Slovenia goal since it looked like the Americans were boned ... but Landon came through, and gave me the most memorable sports-viewing experience of my life. As a Kansas grad, I never thought anything would top Mario Chalmers' 3-pointer against Memphis in 2008, but even that has to take a back seat to today's events.

+ Mike Marshall
With all the pressure you could imagine, the country watching, some trying to understand how a 0-0 match could be dramatic, only to be shown a veritable Hollywood finish in added time, these guys never quit. It made me proud to see this level of sustained performance finally resulting in a win (think Germany in the 2002 Final). Damn. This World Cup Christmas just keeps on giving.

+ Mike Dick
This is why we love football. A couple of minutes from going out, the Americans get the late goal and win the group. Cue the massive, collective orgasm. The glut of chances nearly went begging, but great vision and distribution from Tim Howard and good, continued running and the finish by Donovan gave the U.S. what they deserved.

+ Jeremy Brown
More amazing than the awful officiating and an unlikely finish as group leaders, there is actually international sympathy for Americans. And an added benefit of the USA's win was the collection of post-game shots of hot crying Algerian women.

+ Bruce Sholl
It goes to show what kind of team the Americans are by looking at how they responded to adversity today. This was the second game in a row where a goal was disallowed because of questionable refereeing. FIFA seems intent on letting these kinds of game-altering decisions stand with no real consequence, so what's the real cost for a ref if he sways a game one way or another? Add to that the downright dirty play by the Desert Rats, who were intentionally trying to take USA's players out of the game and you can see what kind of team the world thinks we are. These guys didn't let it get into their heads; they kept their focus and played until the end of the match, looking for any opportunity to shift the balance.

That is what makes our country strong -- a willful determination to see things through, even when they aren't going our way -- and why Algeria is going home, why no one likes them, why they have shitty uniforms and why they live in a desert. Throughout their history, stronger, more motivated countries like the Romans, the Arabs, the Ottomans, the Spanish and the French have taken claim to their land, their government, their resources and now we their football team ... and their pride.


USA Wins: Who Said What On Twitter?

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One Great Season

Landon Donovan scored in the 91st minute Wednesday to give USA a 1-0 win over Algeria and advance to the Round of 16 in the World Cup.

Until Donovan's heroics, it looked like the unlucky U.S. side would play to its third straight draw and miss the knockout round once again. But the late goal didn't only give the USMNT reason to celebrate its spot in the next round, but it marked the first time since 1930 that it had won its group. England beat Slovenia, 1-0, to advance as the second-place team in Group C.

U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard saved a light header from Algeria, then quickly threw out to a streaking Donovan, who controlled the ball up the right flank, dished to Jozy Altidore, whose cross met the left foot of Clint Dempsey. Dempsey's one-timer was blocked by Algerian keeper M'bolhi Rais Ouheb, but Donovan's easy rebound found the back of the net without any trouble.

The goal set off jubilant celebrations across the globe, and of course gave Twitter users all kinds of headaches. But some were lucky enough to use the popular social-networking service, and here are some of the better updates sent in the moments after USA finished off the dramatic win:

+ @rk: "Fuck you FIFA refs. We can win without you."

+ @ashleyalderman: "My ENTIRE twitter feed just filled up with tweets that say 'gooooalllllll'. Love it."

+ @PeaceLikeDat: "Landon Donovan crashed the Tweetdeck servers!"

+ @Mengus22: "Landon Donovan went Christian Laettner on Algeria!"

+ @JoeSportsFan: "Sports Illustrated, you're on the clock to airbrush an appropriate hairline for Landon Donovan."

+ @loudibella: "That was one of the greatest moments I have seen in sports.I am teary eyed.GO USA!"

+ @slmandel: "Finally invested in a World Cup, and it paid off. Unreal. And sorry, neighbors below me."

+ @wsjcouch: "On Sportscenter, ESPN just led with Lawrence Taylor's indictment. Then did USA result. You stay classy, Bristol."

+ @wyshynski: "I'm building a Landon Donovan statue out of apple pie, BBQ and Jack Daniels in my front yard."

+ @DVNJr: "Buy stock in the MLS. Now."


+ Donovan told ESPN's Jeremy Schaap after the game, while fighting back tears, that there was no way he'd miss his golden chance: "The ball got to me and time kind of stopped ... You can't miss from there."

+ Donovan, who admittedly wasn't ready to be a leader for the 2006 Cup team, added that he's been on a four-year journey since that disappointing showing in Germany: "People that know me closest know how hard I've worked for this moment."

+ Donovan has picked up a few Twitter followers since his big goal. At 12:10 p.m. ET, he had 52,341. At 12:29, his audience was up to 52,577 and at 12:37, he had 52,705 followers.

+ U.S. coach Bob Bradley told Schaap he was proud of his players' patience: "You worry because when you've been in it a long time, sometimes on nights like that you come up short, but these guys kept going."


Group C Preview: USA-Algeria

Edson Buddle

Will Buddle Deliver
If Given The Chance?

One Great Season

Perhaps you've heard the US men's soccer team has a fairly significant match on Wednesday.

The Americans take on Algeria on the final day of pool play for Group C. England and Slovenia tangle in the other match; both begin at 10 a.m. ET.

As far as the Stars and Stripes are concerned, you can throw out all that silly math talk. Points and goal differential are irrelevant by now; all the USMNT needs to do is win and it advances to the knockout stage. A Round of 16 match against a team from Group D awaits either Saturday or Sunday.

Below are some predictions from a few of the OGS World Cup writers for Wednesday's high-stakes match:

Jake Yadrich
Everyone's been clamoring to see what Edson Buddle can do alongside Jozy Altidore, and we may finally get to see it. Starting Robbie Findley over Buddle seemed questionable to me to begin with, but now the squad's hottest goal scorer coming into the tournament may finally see significant minutes. Buddle puts one in the net, and Tim Howard posts a clean sheet in a 2-0 USA victory.

Mike Dick
+ USA must come out ready to play and not take 45 minutes to wake up as it did against Slovenia.
+ The Americans need an early goal in the worst way, so who is going to partner with Altidore up front in Findley's absence? Buddle? Hercules Gomez? Nobody?
+ The defense cannot concede another early goal; maintaining discipline and shape are key.

Mike Marshall
If USA can buckle up the back, and be positive up front without losing their overall shape, then they're good to go through.

Ben Jackey
The US has a chip on its shoulder after getting it prison-style by the referee against Slovenia on Friday. The Americans play well as an underdog and should have their tales up early in this match.

But that could play into the Desert Foxes' paws. They are best on the counter-attack because they have speed to burn.

History is not on the side of the USMNT, which doesn't play well when its destiny is in its own hands. See 1994 ... 2002 ... and 2006. Expectations are high. I repeat: Expectations are high. For once, much of the country is watching. Can USA handle the pressure?

I predict a goal around 65' by Gomez. Then perhaps a late LandyCakes PK. Meaning he will raise the dead at the spot.

Jeremy Brown
Algeria have recently proven to be stiff competition when their backs are against the wall, as we all saw during the diplomatic fiasco with Egypt in the qualifiers. And nobody likes to lose to Americans, let alone Muslim countries if we're being honest.

International intrigue aside, the Desert Foxes not only have a cool fucking moniker, but a few very good European-based players like Belhadj and Yebda. They're not the unknown quantity that everyone seems to like to portray them as. This match will have a bit of the dogfight about it, and will be a serious balls call for the US.


Is It Time For Bob Bradley To Be Replaced?

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Second-Half Comeback
Saves USMNT, But
Coach Needs To Go

One Great Season

Great fightback. Well done. And yes, the Americans got TOTALLY SCREWED out of the three points in their 2-2 draw with Slovenia on Thursday.

But let's not let the USMNT's fine comeback and the injustice done by the incompetent referee erase the fact that the Americans also bent themselves over with another pathetic first half performance. Every U.S. fan hopes -- and many of them actually believe -- our team is a force to be reckoned with in world football.

But the Slovenians made the U.S. squad look naive and amateurish in the opening 45. The Americans totally lacked passion and commitment aganst a team that called them out and guaranteed they would beat them. Bob Bradley's troops gave Slovenia all the time and space on the ball they wanted. USA couldn't maintain possession, had virtually no midfield and resorted to pumping hopeful long balls up to Jozy Altidore and Robbie Findley. The American defenders were all over the shop, and they paid dearly for it all. Sleepwalking through a match at the World Cup Finals with plenty on the line? They were Yanks alright, but in the masturbatory metaphoric sense.

How on earth the lads were not motivated from the start boggles the mind? The old sports cliche says "you can't fire the players, so you fire the coach." The players should be ashamed of themselves for that first-half effort, and for not coming out with fire in their eyes from the first whistle. But Bradley must take the blame. Many were calling for his ouster at the Confederations Cup until the U.S. did a surprising 180 and went on their improbable trip to the final. Bradley's job was saved, and he may well have gotten another get-out-of-jail-free card Thursday. A loss would have been devastating, and the cries surely would be going out for Bradley to get the sack. Well, no matter what happens from here on out, it's time for Bob to go after this tournament.

The Americans have progressed to the point where they are the top dog in our admittedly rather lightweight region. The next step is to take it up a notch, and try to challenge the best from Europe and South America. We should expect more than what we got today. The USMNT were nearly embarrassed by Slovenia (a useful side, but nothing close to Europe's best) with the whole world watching. If the U.S. is are to be a serious footballing nation, then the coaching job should be a hot seat. You either produce the goods or you're gone. It's not good enough to spin their wheels; the Americans have to move forward. It's clear that for that to happen, the USMNT needs new leadership in the form of a top-class manager with an international pedigree. Would that guarantee success at the international level? Hardly. But the time has come to give it a shot.

Today at halftime, maybe Bob shoved some verbal vuvuzelas up his team's behinds. If so, great. But a match takes place over 90 minutes, and if we saw the commitment over the whole of the match that we got in the second 45, we'd all be celebrating a comfortable win with our place in the knockout stage all but assured. Instead, we were denied three points in part by some shambolic refereeing. But that shockingly bad decision likely would not have been as costly had the Americans shown up to play from the opening kick-off. Let's hope the Stars and Stripes can get after it from the very start in the Algeria match and then take it from there. Either way, let it please be Bob's last stand.

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup 2010: Group C Notes

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One Great Season

Some nuggets to chew on from the opening games in Group C, and looking ahead to the second round:

+ I gotta be honest, the last time I saw a goalkeeper botch a save like the one England's Robert Green did against the United States was probably when I was playing under-12 ball. I was racking my brain all weekend trying to remember when I saw that kind of slip-by from a top-level goalkeeper. And I just couldn't think of one, personally. It was an unbelievable error on the world stage. In the World Cup, that could be a once-in-a-lifetime blunder.

+ That said, props to England defender Jamie Carragher, who said Monday he thinks Green should remain in goal for Friday's match against Algeria. "Every player in the squad has been there where we've made a big mistake in a big game. But the reason that you are playing for England and you get to this level is that you have a certain amount of mental strength," Carragher said. This type of public talk from his teammates could be just the tonic Green needs to go on and have a great rest of the tournament.

+ The Americans' goal to earn a tie overshadowed the real storyline: The U.S. showed many weaknesses: They were mostly disorganized in midfield; sat way too far back in defense, allowing England to jam the ball down their throats, and were completely gased by the end of the game, hardly able to put any kind of passes or offense together in the final minutes. Bottom line: The U.S. did not look like a second-round team. I know the general feeling in the media and with the team was that they deserved the tie, but I just didn't see it.

+ Slovenia's win over Algeria now puts extra pressure on the U.S. The Slovenians not only have those cool Charlie Brown-zigzag striped looking jerseys, but also are a more confident and potent team than people gave them credit for. They like to counter-attack and have a great goalkeeper in Samir Handanovic. The U.S. will need to play better than it did Saturday to win. A loss would pretty much end hopes of advancement.

+ Tim Howard's sparkling performance in goal against England was the finest I had seen from a U.S. goalie since Sylvester Stallone's "Hutch" character saved about 200 shots against the Nazi guard team in the 1983 movie "Victory." And who has ever seen a finer save on a penalty kick than the one Hutch made at the end of the game? Yo Adrian, I did it!

+ Speaking of Howard, don't let any of this talk about bruised ribs fool you into thinking he won't play against Slovenia this week. The guy is a beast and by far the most talented and internationally-respected player on the U.S. squad. He's playing, and this game is too big for him to consider otherwise.

+ Quiz time: Raise your drink if you can name the U.S.'s backup goalies. Can't do it? That's OK, take a drink anyway. Howard's backups are Wolverhampton's Marcus Hahnemann and Aston Villa's No. 2 keeper Brad Guzan.

+ England will get a boost against Algeria. Midfielder Gareth Barry (Manchester City) has declared himself ready to play after recovering from an ankle injury. The English could use some better playmaking in the midfield to help start Wayne Rooney. I thought England looked strong in the opener, especially considering the lads traditionally have slow starts. Take away the mammoth goalkeeping error, and they look like a team which should go on to beat Algeria and move on.

+ The Slovenia-U.S. game will pit the largest country in the Cup against the smallest. Slovenia has about 2 million people, while the mighty U.S. boasts 300 million. This is the first meeting between the two countries in soccer.

+ Algeria captain Anther Yahia said Monday his squad will be more aggressive in its next game against England. I think the English defense will be more than up to the task, and I look for any bold play from the Algerians to lead to many English counter-attacks and goals. I look for a 3-0, 4-0 type of England victory.

+ Finally, check out this creative piece of multimedia from the Guardian newspaper in England. It's an animated, fussball recreation of the USA-England match. Enjoy!

Click here for Mike's bio and an archive of his previous stories.


World Cup Preview: Group C

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It's A No-Brainer:
England, U.S. Advance

One Great Season

When I saw the World Cup draw come out, the first thing I thought was if the United States can't advance out of the first round this year, then U.S. Soccer will be set back for years to come. This U.S. team is arguably the deepest and most talented our country has ever fieleded in a World Cup. A group that includes England, Algeria and Slovenia should be ripe for the Americans to at least get three or four points and move on. Sam's Army should demand high expectations.

BIO: About Mike Mudd

Obviously the strongest team in this group is England, which is fittingly the Americans' opening opponent. This also works in the U.S.'s favor to play the English first. Even a draw or a loss would not be devastating, and take the pressure off the Americans in the following easier games with Slovenia and Algeria. I look for that U.S.-England game on Saturday to be tight. England has a long history of slow starts in the Cup and will be feeling a huge amount of pressure to open with a win. The demons of the past could work against the Brits here. And having followed a defeat of Spain with a near upset of Brazil in last summer's Confederations Cup, the U.S. fears no one.

MORE: Meet The 2010 OGS World Cup Writers

Here's the schedule of the Group C games, and a brief analysis of each team:

+ June 12: England vs. USA
+ June 13: Algeria vs. Slovenia
+ June 13: Slovenia vs. USA
+ June 18: Algeria vs. England
+ June 23 : England vs. Slovenia
+ June 23 : Algeria vs. USA


England looks born again since Fabio Capello took over as coach. The Brits rolled through their group games with a 9-1 record. They have world class players in Wayne Rooney up front and John Terry at the back. On the down side, losing captain Rio Ferdinand to injury is a massive blow, and another factor that could come back to haunt England is the absence of a true No. 1 goalkeeper. Joe Hart, David James and Robert Green could all start in the opening match. But by far England's biggest concern is the weight of expectations, and it all starts with the opening match. I think a solid win over the U.S. in the opener will give the English the confidence to perhaps roll all the way to the semifinals. A loss or tie, however, could send England into a tailspin.
(Essential stats: England is eighth in the FIFA rankings and has appeared in 12 World Cups, boasting an all-time record of 25 wins, 13 losses and 17 draws.)

United States

Manager Bob Bradley has produced a well-organized team that has hit its stride in the year leading up to the tournament. Add to that the world-class talent and goal scoring ability of Landon Donovan, who gives the U.S. a bona-fide star attacker other teams have to focus on. The Stars and Stripes also will be on familiar and successful turf: South Africa was the scene last year of one of the country's most famous triumphs, the victory over Spain to set up a Confederations Cup final with Brazil. But here's the biggest key to success for the Americans: Goalkeeper Tim Howard. Howard is by far the team's best player, and the most respected internationally as he plays for Everton in the English Premier League. Howard knows England's players well and he will serve as a calming and mature voice for the U.S. team in what will be a nerve-wracking opener. The Americans' defense is usually good for a couple of major breakdowns in every game, and it will be Howard who will be counted on to come up with some big saves to ensure advancement.

COMING SUNDAY: Steve Susi Breaks Down Group D

The final question is whether this will be the team that showed great form in the Confederations Cup and qualifying rounds, or the team that laid an egg in the 2006 World Cup and was embarrassed from the opening whistle. I think this team will respond and is a virtual lock to move on to the next round. (And yes, feel free to ridicule me until 2014 when the Americans don't make it; I've officially put my head on a stake.)
(Essential stats: The U.S. is ranked 14th by FIFA, having appeared in eight World Cups for a total of 25 matches, with only six wins and 16 draws.)


Algeria skated through to the Cup finals thanks to a playoff win over Egypt and is making just its third Cup appearance and first since 1986. It is hard to find any star players for a team that is a virtual unknown after being overshadowed by Africa's more notable sides. Karim Ziani will have the job of keeping the midfield together and that will be key if the Algerians are to have any success against the attacking styles of England and the U.S. The team's best player is probably defender Madjid Bougherra, who missed most of the season with Scottish champions Rangers with an injury. But he has said in recent weeks he will be 100 percent when the squad kicks off against Slovenia. Algeria's best hope is to make sure it gets an opening two points and then hope to pull an upset tie or win over the U.S. to sneak through.
(Essential stats: Algeria is ranked 30th by FIFA and has played in six Wold Cup matches, with two wins and three draws.)


Slovenia is no doubt the biggest darkhorse in the entire tournament. Remember the tiny Gene Hackman-led Hickory High team from the movie Hoosiers? Slovenia is the World Cup's version of those guys. The country of just 2 million people posted one of the biggest qualifying upsets by knocking out mighty Russia in a play-in game, and then advancing thanks to a greater number of away goals. Along the way, the Slovenians also beat traditional powers Poland and the Czech Republic.

The goal-scoring ability of Cologne club star Milivoje Novakovic will lead the attack and goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, who plays in the top Italian league, is the glue that holds the defense together. Captain Robert Koren is Slovenia's most creative player. He's a midfielder for newly promoted West Brom in the Premier League.
(Essential stats: Slovenia, ranked 25th by FIFA, is making its second World Cup appearance. It lost all three group matches in South Korea in 2002.)


Luckily I don't need to hold a doctorate in international soccer to figure this one out. I'll go with England and the USA to advance. And for shits and giggles predictions, I'll take Slovenia to beat Algeria and claim third place in the group.