Match Day 9- That's it Mali, you are dead to me!
Last night's action just proves you cannot expect the world to spin on it's axis. Or at least not in the way you want it to spin.
Let's start at the beginning with Germany and Serbia which was obviously played by street gangs disguised as Germany and Serbia, because that is the only logical conclusion one can reach after seeing the number of cards given out for fouls. I have never seen a more hyper-sensitive referee. Being in another player's general aura was getting you a card last night. Then he would go and allow just an egregious play as any other in the game go without as much as a sniff. If we want to talk about the worst officiating job of the night, the comprehensive award for craptacular oversight goes to him. So Germany now loses one of their top weapons for the next game and Serbia manages to break through during the Germany's brief period of mental anguish to nab three life saving points. The big news out of all this is Australia can get back on level terms with everyone else and Ghana could take the outright lead.
I wrote about the USA v. Slovenia game last night so I'll just add a couple more things. Obviously, if the USA doesn't dig themselves a hole in the first half, we aren't even talking about the Malian referee's horrible phantom foul call. Slovenia gets all the credit for walking through the door we opened. Now we should finally get to see what Edson Buddle is capable of in the next game against Algeria. Coach Bradley doesn't really have another option with Robbie Findley out on cards unless he decides Herculez Gomez is needed as a speed threat. The midfield worked much better after Maurice Edu came into partner Michael Bradley and act as the offensive link. Landon Donovan played out of his mind on the right side of the field and should have Algeria concerned.
Speaking of Algeria... Everything in Group C got turned on it's head with the 0-0 draw between them and England. Many would agree that Algeria played well and shut England down, but on the flip side we all then agree that England did nothing with anything. In the USA game they had chance after chance. Last night's game was a different matter all together. They seemed lost and unsure. Rooney again felt like a man out on an island waving back to shore for help. For the second game in a row, I cannot fathom why Fabio Capello started Emile Heskey alongside Rooney at the Forward. Heskey has proven that he is too timid to take shots when called on. At least Jermain Defoe showed life and spark and an ability to fire on an open target. Joe Cole didn't even make it into the game.
Algeria on the other hand made a strong statement that they are not to be trifled with and are absolutely no walk in the park. They looked like the team their roster suggests exists even if it didn't show up against Slovenia. The USA will have to maintain attacking possession longer than England did if it wants to make the 2nd round. The math for the USA is pretty easy, win and your in. A draw doesn't even enter the conversation until that is the only option. Nothing is impossible in this group now. Slovenia CAN beat England and Algeria CAN beat the USA. Get ready for fireworks in game 3.
Won't you let me take you on a...pre-view!
Game 1: Netherlands v. Japan.
Netherlands looks to wrap up a stranglehold on the group with a victory tonight. I fully expect (look what that has gotten me...) the Dutch to take 1st place tonight with a win. I think their attack will be too much for the Japanese to handle. Netherlands has far more options than Cameroon did and should stretch the Japanese defense. Japan will play a solid game but ultimately it won't be enough to match the quality of the Dutch.
Best guess: Netherlands 3-1 Japan.
Game 2: Cameroon v. Denmark.
Cameroon didn't have much going for them against Japan and will probably wilt against the Danish Defense. I would love to see Cameroon make an adjustment to right the ship, but I think Denmark is too talented.
Best guess: Denmark 1-0 Cameroon.
Game 3: Australia v. Ghana.
Welcome to Thunderdome! Ghana looked great against Serbia and I don't expect much of a change tonight. Australia doesn't have the same level of defense that Serbia does, so one would think Ghana could count on at least one goal from the run of play tonight. Australia has to drop any kind of laissez-faire attitude they may be holding onto now that the group is busted wide open on the heels of Germany's defeat. If the Soccer-Roos are going to make the second round, anything less than a win is unacceptable. A game against Serbia in the offing means goals will be at a premium. Look for them to press the attack tonight. Last week I predicted Australia would make round two. That prediction gets it's ultimate test tonight.
Best guess: Australia 1-0 Ghana.
This actually flies in the face of what my eyes have seen, but I should stick by my one bold prediction until it is time to eat crow. Honestly, Ghana could drop two in the net tonight to eliminate any hope Australia has of proceeding.
I need a night of objective soccer watching as last night felt like the bumpiest roller coaster I had ever been on.