A weird thing happened to me today. Maybe it was front to back listen of London Calling while blogging the night before. But, I woke up British or something this morning. How do I know? Not only did I pull a series of muscles jumping up and down like a lottery winner over a goal in a futbol match, but by the time the middle of the afternoon rolled around my TV’s transmitted, from left to right, soccer, historic Wimbledon tennis match and soccer. I had a hankering for tea by the time the tennis score reached six touchdowns apiece. I was in a downright jolly mood.
And why not. But the reality was, I was surfing a killer a Red, White and Blue wave. So while the viasge of tennis and soccer on all my TVs gave me some posh Euro look, I was true USA #1, Vote Stanzi/Lehman on the inside. The American soccer win kept a day-long, good times vibe going. Not only did they finally meet expectations on a bigtime international stage, but they did so in such dramatic fashion that celebrations, high fives and toasts should have lasted for all involved well into the summer night. You know who also is skipping today? People who either had the Yanks at better than 4/1 odds to win the Group or people who took the JCB’s advice nearly a month ago on how to bet the Yanks.
Its never easy for the US National Men’s Soccer Team. They might not have given up an early goal in this match, but they still produced 90 minutes of agony before giving us 5 seconds of ecstasy, paving the way for as high a buzz any sports fan can have. Landon Donovan is the new Mike Eurizone and a real American Idol all wrapped up in one today. It was his signature performance. Get up kids, phone neighbors, American soccer could be up to something big over the next week or so.
With the win, the Americans bucked and put to bed a lot of negative history pointing against them. They earned points in a third leg of a World Cup group for the first time ever. They won their first World Cup group in 80 years. They broke an 8-game winless streak against non CONCACAF teams. It was only their second World Cup win against somebody outside their own qualifying sphere since they Yanks returned to the finals stage in 1990. It was only the third World Cup in the last 60 years during which the Americans have won a game and a full three points off a match. Historic pratfalls, for at least a few days, have been squashed.
Next up: Ghana on Saturday afternoon. Go take over the world boys!
KNOCKOUT BRACKET TAKES SHAPE
In other results, England avoided national shame to advance out of group play as form and belief continue to grow by sneaking out a 1-0 win over Slovenia. Fabio Capello provided one of the coaching moves of the tournament by giveing Jermaine Dafoe the start of Emile Heskey. Within 25 minutes it paid off with what would be the decisive goal of the match. They move on to play Germany who also dodged an elimination bullet with a 1-0 over Ghana. Serbia and Australia’s match proved irrelevant as Serbia lost and the Aussie’s -4 goal margin coming into the game came back to eventually eliminate them.
Half of the third leg of group play is complete. And half of the World Cup Sweet 16 matchups are set. They’re quite tasty. European rivals collide between England and Germany, with England owing long payback to the Germans for heartbreaking defeats in the semifinals of the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Cup. We also have a pair of more contemporary rematches with Mexico/Argentina and US/Ghana from the last World Cup where the losers–the US and Mexico–left bitter and eliminated from the competition. Oddsmakers are quick on the draw. Let’s check out what they’ve listed for the four Knockout matches already set for Saturday and Sunday. You’ll note, draw is still an available bet. I’ll assume that the Book I dug these odds up at calls the result final in their minds either after regulation time or before any possible penalty kick stage. If I find odds that speak to an actual final, I’ll pass them along in a future soccer post. Those odds will be different than these when the draw is factored out as a winning side.
- Germany/England: Germany +165, England +165, Draw +200…..anybody’s ball game. From a nuetral standpoint, probably the best matchup of the four this weekend.
- USA/Ghana: USA +145, Ghana +195, Draw +220…..the Yanks favored, even a tiny bit, in a World Cup Knockout Round game? Thats sounds like Indiana being favored in a Big 10 football game. Like a trap. We’ll see, but the Yanks appear to be trending upwards, while the Black Stars downward since their first group leg. Ghana has a ton of explosiveness, and my first instinct is that they’ll be running free all over the middle setting up scoring chances against the shaky US defense. Then again, the Black Stars havent scored a non-PK kick during these finals yet and couldnt score in 10 vs 11 for over a half against the Australians.
- Uruguay/South Korea: Uruguay Even, South Korea +325, Draw, +210……Will Uruguay give up a goal. Three legs, three shutouts. But, dont overlook South Korea. They are 5-4-4 in their last 13 World Cup matches, with the defeats coming to Germany, Argentina and Brazil. La Celeste has become a favorite of mine this World Cup, but they’re quite an elite power like those foes. South Korea will more than compete here. At first blush, a draw at better than 2/1 odds looks like a good risk as this game could end up a scoreless draw and be decided on kicks. That wouldnt surprise me in the least. The Park Si-Jung/Diego Forlan battle could be compelling if the South Koreans use the dominating Man U midfielder in a defensive posture against the explosive Uruguian striker.
- Argentina/Mexico: Argentina -200, Mexico +550, Draw +290…..Argentina is so far the biggest favorite in the Round of 16. But, these teams played a Knockout Round game in 2006 that wasnt decided until overtime. Argentina is always high end, but the Mexicans are a better team than they were four years ago. I think they have a great shot at winning, or least extending this match into an extra session. If the Book rules is score through regulation, I’m all over that draw, with some spare change on El Tri.
More Third Legs, More Drama, More Excuses To Skip Work
The drama next centers around Groups E and F. Another world power in the ropes. England and Germany come through with colors yesterday. Can the Italians survive their own win or likely go home game with the Slovakian side?
The reasons for Italy’s struggles in South Africa might be numerous: they’re too old, shot arent on target,teams are beating the Italians at their own game, a lacl of challenging friendly shcedule in the rup up to the finals and so on. But, all will be will with a win over big underdog Slovakia today. Their seeding would still be up in the air (we’re looking at Netherlands/Italy in the next round if both Italy and Paraguay win today. Hello!), but should the Italians win, they’ll at least advance out of group play and stave of any outcries from their fan base. Italy is in with a win, but there are several other permutations to this group, including one that involves first place Paraguay losing their final leg to New Zealand that drops them out of the field and, at the least, will retain the New Zealanders. Now wouldnt that be a Cinderella run? The All Whites were a stunning 2,500/1 to win this field, the longest longshot, not to mention a pricey in the other direction -10000 to be eliminated in group stage. Yet, here they are a win over from advancing through the the Knockout Round.
I never thought this group would provide much drama. I figured the third leg would all be about Paraguay and Italy playing a goal differential game to determine the top two spots. But, all four teams not only have a chance to advance merely on the strength of a win and three points, but all four have possibilities of still winning this group. So there’s tons of drama here. But, per the odds, these still wont be close matches. Paraguay and Italy are -250 and -181 respectively to win these games. Guady payouts of +435 and +675 come with New Zealand and Slovakia wins. Even draws pay at least 3/1. If either Slovakia or New Zealand pump in an early goal, then Thursday morning becomes a pressure cooker for one of the day’s favorites.
In Group F, there’s a great match between Holland and Cameroon. Samuel Eto vs the Dutch All Star Squad. Too bad it means squadoosh. Cameroon is 0-2 and already eliminated. Holland is 2-0 and is some crazy goal margin shenanigans away from emerging as the top seed of the group. All the drama, instead, is centered squarely on the Denmark/Japan match. Japan has a small tactical edge as they can advance with a draw, thanks to an even to -1 goal margin difference in their favor. Its a true elimination game, a play in for a spot in the Knockout Round. It’s a great game to DVR, go on the no spoiler alert the last 2-3 hours of the workday, going for a run and then watch more dramatics play out over a summer dinner.
But, I have to be honest, I already am a tad emotionally spent from today. I cant comprehend any more drama, but that’s exactly where we are headed. We’re staring squarely at a four-day Second Round beginning Saturday with Death Or Glory games highlighted by this partisan with the Americans taking on Ghana, in a rematch of the Yanks bitter defeat to the Black Stars in third leg of group in 2006, but also pitting, in mouth watering matchups, Agrentina-Mexico, England-Germany, Italy-Netherlands and, quite possibly dependent on what happens tomorrow, Brazil-Spain. Soccer, this is your weekend. Have a ball.