Germany 0-1 Serbia
I disagree with the conventional wisdom on the sending off of Miroslav Klose. Yes, it was harsh, but he was already on a yellow, and you don’t make a needless tackle from behind when you’re on a yellow, especially with a card-happy referee. Klose should have known better, pure and simple. That’s not suggesting the ref was perfect, but he was consistent. But even if Alberto Mallenco’s officiating was confusing and inconsistent, watching Milan Jovanovic celebrate his goal with such joy and passion, along with Vladimir Stojkovic’s save on Lukas Podolski’s penalty kick, made the game worthwhile.
Prediction against result: So Serbia isn’t Australia. Who knew?
Slovenia 2-2 United States
So what happened? It goes back to what I’ve been saying about the U.S.’ difficulty with big Eastern European teams. In international soccer, it’s not always about the talent on the field, but about the different styles on display and how they match up against each other.
The U.S. played like it expected Slovenia to sit back and defend. That’s how they qualified, giving up only four goals en route to South Africa. So Bob Bradley put in Jose Torres to give the U.S. a little more creativity in attack. Instead, Slovenia came out and attacked with intent, and Mexico-based Torres was unused to dealing with fast and direct Eastern Europeans. On Slovenia’s first goal, Torres was too high and wide, which gave Valter Birsa the space to slip in and get a clear look 30 yards out. The second goal happens all the time. We’re pressing to tie the game, get a few good chances and unlucky bounces, and get hit on a counterattack because we’re caught out of position, with Oguchi Onyewu a little slow to step up and put Zlatan Ljubijankic offside.
As much as Bradley can be blamed for his decision to start Torres, credit him for realizing the mistake and subbing him to start the second half. Maurice Edu wasn’t great, but he did hold things together better back there (as well as get the Goal That Should Have Counted). But even more importantly was that we saw two players who have taken plenty of abuse for various reasons – Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley – lead the comeback, hopefully to shut their detractors up for good.
During the national anthem, Donovan wasn’t singing. He was stonefaced and determined to show that 2002 wasn’t a fluke. Today, he was the best player on the field for either team, and became the leader he’s only intermittently shown. Bradley has always fought back unfair charges of nepotism, especially after bad games. But that was a brilliant run from deep midfield for his goal – and give full credit to Herculez Gomez for his run that opened up the space for Bradley.
Bottom line: We tied the game we were supposed to lose. We tied the game we could tie. Now, let’s win the game we have to win.
Prediction against result: We were screwed out of a win.
Matchday 9 Previews
Netherlands v. Japan 7:30 AM ET, ESPN
With the games opening up now, something tells me Japan could could make a game of this. But then another part of me thinks the Dutch are too strong to let the group slip out of their hands.
Prediction: Netherlands 2, Japan 1
Ghana v. Australia 10:00 AM ET, ESPN
Even with Tim Cahill, Australia couldn’t mount a serious attack on Germany. With him suspended after getting sent off on Sunday, they’ll look even worse. Ghana’s speed will terrorize the glacial pace of Craig Moore and Lucas Neill, and probably get one of them sent off, too.
Prediction: Ghana 2, Australia 0
Cameroon v. Denmark 2:30 PM ET, ABC
I tried, Cameroon, to give you the benefit of the doubt here. But you made me look ridiculous against Japan, and a man in my position can not be made to look ridiculous. You will pay for your actions by losing to predictable but efficient Denmark, who will get their goal and shut down.
Prediction: Denmark 1, Cameroon 0