WC2014 Days Three, Four & Five: Ghana vs. USA, etc.

Day 3 continued:
I didn't get a chance to see the Ivory Coast beat Japan, though the highlights seemed to suggest that either team could have won. Group C seems very open and possibly very weak - we'll see…

Day 4 (day off - no games watched):
France, perhaps more than any other "big" team, and regardless of who they were playing, needed a big win in their first match after the debacle of 2010, and they delivered. I don't necessarily regret not seeing this match, but I look forward to seeing them play further into the tournament, and am also excited to see the team they beat, Honduras, take on Ecuador. In my mind, second place is still very open in this group and, Switzerland's victory not withstanding, the aforementioned match will be the crucial one.

As for Argetina's victory over Bosnia and Herzegovina, well, no surprises there. It was B+H's first match in a World Cup final. They face what will probably be a tough match against Nigeria next, and it will be interesting to see who prevails in that one.

Day 5:
Iran and Nigeria played to the first draw of the tournament. I didn't see it.

Germany destroyed Portugal in another surprising blowout of a well-regarded team (perhaps everyone from the Iberian peninsula should get together for a drink and commiserate). Due to the marvels of technology, I was almost tempted to watch this one a few hours after the game actually ended but… eh.

I did, however, watch Ghana lose to the United States, and I am... ambivalent.

Clint Dempsey scored a very early goal against a defense still gearing up from a starting whistle that had blown less than a minute earlier. Not to take anything away from Dempsey, but, well, um, ok, you know?

If I had started the match rooting for Ghana, it would have been hard to keep up my enthusiasm. Ghana's countless attacks throughout the game always ended in mediocre-to-embarassing last touches that highlighted, alternately, inexperience on the part of younger players and over-ambition on the part of their elders. In a World Cup that has proven to be almost overloaded with goals, Ghana's inability to finish could spell disaster for them already.

As for the United States, they played, well, better than I would have expected. I liked the sense of control in the midfield, and I feel that the defense held up well against Ghana's repeated attacks. That being said, Ghana's lack of goals were more down to their own bad decisions, ultimately, and not the American players. The rigorous way in which America's lines were held would have provided even more opportunities for more creative attacking players, which, given how many shots Ghana took, is saying a lot. I felt in many cases that the US was a bit clumped - any team willing to spread the field against America will find the angles to beat them. All credit to Tim Howard for making some excellent saves (some of which he shouldn't have had to) and to Kyle Beckerman (grudgingly, given my prejudice against white guys with dreads). Beckerman's playing, which was physical without being meanly-so, calm, and intelligent, was perhaps the highlight of the game for me. From what I understand, he's become a regular only under the leadership of Juergen Klinsmann, and, well, more than most of the players, and the decisions they make on the field, I trust Juergen, at least so far.

Of all the reasons I don't cheer for team USA, neither knee-jerk hatred nor trendiness are on that list. I wish Jozy Altidore a speedy recovery. If I had a (nationalist) heart to break, watching Altidore clutching at his hamstring would have broken it...

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