Wednesday, June 23, 2010

USA Soccer Wins Group and Advances

I'm not usually a soccer aficionado, though I have nothing against the game. And when I do watch it, I can get into it. But being in Mexico during a World Cup, or La Copa Mundial as they say here, means that one cannot avoid getting sucked into it. It is omnipresent. So, today, I tuned in to the 80 plus stations on Mexican cable television to watch the US versus Algeria in a make or break game. And the game could not be found. About 6 stations, though, were carrying the England versus Slovenia match. That's fine for 3 or 4 stations, but all of them???? Not a single showing on regular Mexican cable of the US versus Algeria match? What gives? Well, I have my theories, but I'll leave them aside for now.

So, I had no choice but to watch England play Slovenia. And I must say that England deserved to win. They dominated Slovenia from start to finish. And England did win 1-0. But what created much anxiety for me was watching England march towards victory all the while getting periodic updates of Team USA's inability to score against feeble Algeria. But then there was a miracle. Just as the extra injury time period ended in the England/Slovenia game, giving England the win and a secure place in the next round, the news flashed on the screen that the USA, in the extra injury time period of its own match with Algeria, had scored a goal. Incredible.

The television broadcasts in Mexico of the end of the England/Slovenia game panned out over the faces of the Slovenia fans as the news had sunk in that, all within the span of a minute, their previously first-place team had not only lost to England, but had fallen to third place in the group with the US's last minute win over Algeria. They were stunned and crestfallen. I felt for them. But not too much, as it was clear to anyone who watched the US/Slovenia game that the US clearly scored a winning goal that was nullified by a referee for no apparent reason. Too bad for Slovenia; but great for the USA!

The outcome of today's matches means that the US finishes first in its group and thus will be matched up in the next round against the second place finisher in Group D. What is interesting is that if Mexico continues its winning ways (which is unlikely, as they play an extremely strong Argentina) and if the US does also, we could very well see a US/Mexico matchup in subsequent rounds. I think the US has a good shot at making the quarter finals; but Mexico's road is much more difficult.

Even the Mexicans I talk to here in Guadalajara are basically conceding the next match against Argentina. And that is surprising, if you ask me. I know there is hope against hope that Mexico will defeat Argentina; but realism seems to be carrying the day in this country, with recognition that Argentina has the better team and should win. But, since I have a fondness for Mexico, I'm gonna be pulling for the "Seleccion Azteca" to pull off the upset. And I think they can do it.

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