Saturday, June 17, 2006

Live-Blogging: World Cup 061706

(ps, i'm reversing the order. Read from the bottom if you haven't been following along...)

3:50 p.m. Well, it's a tie, without managing to score a goal of our own. Keller had a good save in the last minute of stoppage time. Really an unbelievable game. Playing with 9 men for an entire half, making only two subs is quite a feat.

I can't WAIT to hear what the players and coaches have to say about this TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE referree.

I wish I could understand how embarassing a tie with the Americans must be for the entire nation of Italy. It's quite gratifying really.

One of the worst officiated games I've ever seen is finished, and we've escaped with a tie, although we had plenty of chances to make it a 2-1 victory (for that matter, so did Italy). So now we need a BIG Italy win over the Czechs on Thursday, and a win over Ghana of our own. Italy will have something to play for, because a win will give them first place in the group. I'm sure they don't want to finish second and play Brazil in the next round game.

3:47 p.m. The US is withstanding shot after shot. They've gotta quit giving up that space in the center right outside the box. I can deal with the crosses from the edges, but I can't deal with the Italians carrying the ball in the center of the field, chipping and passing the ball into space behind the defense.

Balboa is also wondering where Eddie Johnson is right now. The only thing I can think of is that he likes McBride better on defense and in the air. Playing for the tie right now.

3:38 p.m. Great move by Cherundolo to get into the corner, fires a great cross to the back post, and aerial talent Brian McBride just can't' get quite free enough to put it back on goal, rolling out behind the far post. Great chance. The US is controlling the outside of the field well and getting some fantastic chances from the play of Donovan, Beasley and especially Reyna.

The US has to be thinking counter right now. The middle of the field is wide open on the counter, giving speedsters like Beasley and Donovan chances to fly with the ball.

I wonder how long it's going to be before we see Eddie Johnson up top for McBride. We need freshness and speed. Could see it here in a minute or two.

3:30 p.m. Fantastic save by Keller. He's had several great ones in this game. It would be a shame if he didn't perform as well as he can.

Dempsey has since been subbed for by Beasley. Dempsey definitely provided a lift, running forward hard on the wing, opening up space and keeping Reyna and Mastroeni in the middle of the field. Good move by Arena. Dempsey had several chances and played well.

3:24 p.m. I'm trying to figure out if this ref experienced some sort of childhood trauma with the color yellow. He's just given another yellow card for a simple foul. I'm pretty sure his father beat him with a yellow belt or something while growing up in the mountains of Uruguay.

3:21 p.m. Great effort by Reyna, Donovan, and McBride to result in a great counter chance. Donovan is looking good in open space heading towards the goal.

I had to eat some lunch, which ran over into the first few minutes of the second half, where we saw Eddie Pope get a mystery red card and get sent off. US 9 men, Italy 10. Attention referees: Have you had enough face time on TV today? Are you satisfied with the fact that you are now the story rather than this fantastic game?

Meanwhile, Italy has been offsides more times than Britney Spears said "like" in her interview with Matt Lauer. One play in the first half, they managed to have four guys offsides on one play. Even the fans are getting on the refs on both sides. This Uruguyan ref is screwing everyone. If he's reffing the final, lookout.

Beasley goal disallowed because McBride was offside and screening the keeper. He easily could have held back. It's a darn shame. I wonder if my neighbors heard me screaming when Beasley scored?

2:48 p.m. Unbelievable.

Pablo Mastroeni gets sent off for a tough tackle on an Italian fellow. This hurts our midfield and our defense as well. Look for holes in the middle of the field for the Italians now. Everyone back at 10 men. Marcelo Balboa seems to think that this was a makeup call; looked like a pretty vicious tackle to me. Went in with the cleats on the players' ankles.

Coach Arena is not f@#$%$ing pleased.

2:34 p.m.Mastroeni just cranked a 40 yard shot that bounced off the top net. Maybe he lost some of his power when he cut his hair off like Samson.

Moments later, Donovan makes a great pass off to Reyna, who has his shot deflected. Great creativity and great pressure on the Italians. Donovan's playing where he needs to be today, facing up to the goal and with opportunities to attack and create. Good stuff.

2:27 p.m.Live-blogging back on! Woo hoo!!

Goal, US! Well, goal Italy scored in their own goal. Way to go Azzurri! A great cross all the way to the far post. Brian McBride is waiting to poke it into the net, but an Italian player decides to save him the trouble and just stick it in himself.

Moments later, Nesti swings a massive elbow into McBride's noggin, winning himself a much deserved red card. US 11 men, Italy 10. We've gotta find a way to stick the ball in the net now and get three points.

McBride back on the field. He needs to put on one of the schnozaroos made famous in the NBA. That would surely intimidate the mighty Azzurri warriors.

2:19 p.m.19 minutes in, and the US is looking great so far. Italy is totally losing the midfield battle. Every time the ball is loose in the midfield, it seems like there are 3 US players within a short distance of the ball. The US has had some quality chances so far, with Convey cranking a shot high over the goal, Demspey firing a shot wide, and Donovan falling on a great cross.

Speaking of Dempsey, for the record, I did pick Clint Dempsey as the US breakout star of this cup. He's a bit of a defensive liability, but he should provide quite a spark on the offensive end.

Goal. Italy. And my desire to live-blog is gone. I think Pope or Onyewu just decided to stop running with the Italian player and hold his hand up instead. Good decision.

12:23 p.m. The Czechs are finished. Muntari of Ghana just all day to settle a pass inside and fire a left-footed flamer into the high near post. The Czechs were so out of it on that play that it looked like a three-on-one, even though there were three Czech defenders and three Ghana attackers. Completely confused.

The only stinging thing about watching this is seeing the model of exactly what we needed to do to beat the Czechs. Come out with massive energy early, strike a early first goal, and play aggressively up top for the rest of the game, keeping the Czechs from settling into an offensive rhythm. Scoring first continues to be the most important decider of victory in the 2006 World Cup.

The US must score first against Italy to have a chance. There's no way the US can bounce back if they get in the hole. I hope they're watching this game.

btw, Gyan is the man of the match here. Forget about Essien, who plays for Chelsea in the EPL. Gyan has been everywhere, coming all the way back to the middle third to pick the ball up on counterstrikes, which really changed the rhythm of the game throughout.

12:23 Wow. Ghana wins a penalty kick on a tackle in the box. Gyan takes a card for shooting the PK after the whistle blew, even though there's no way he probably heard it. The whistle blew on a red card given to a Czech player. Gyan takes the yellow, which is a questionable call at best. Second attempt at the PK, and Gyan misses it, bouncing it hard off the crossbar. Ghana, still up only 1-0, though they'll be playing the last 23 minute with a man advantage. The red card was a little excessive for the Czech player. It's already going to be a PK because it's in the box. Do you really need to send him off?

I'd like to see the red card come to american football. Wouldn't that be great? Some defensive end late hits a quarterback up under the face mask, and his team has to play a man down on defense for the rest of the day. I think that might cut down on late hits.

Ghana is looking fantastic, controlling the midfield, challenging everything, continuing to put pressure on the Czechs. The Czechs, on the other hand, are showing absolutely no imagination on the offensive end, relying mostly on long crosses into the box. Their second passes in the area have been awful.

Cech just made another save on a great Ghana opportunity.

The Bride and I want to write our family that we support in Ghana about this game, but we're afraid they may not be able to see it since their village is quite poor. What do you think we should do?

11:02 I wasn't planning on writing anything about this game, but holy crap! Ghana just scored in the SECOND minute of play against the Czechs. It looked like no one on the Czech side even thought that was a possibility. Great control in the midfield, great ball to the wing, and a fantastic cross to a chest down by Gyan and quick volley into the lower right corner.

I'm not sure who I'm rooting for. I would rather just see the Czechs win the group and beat Ghana and Italy. That way, if we beat Italy, and the Czechs beat Italy, then we'll be able to finish second even with a tie against Ghana. To me, things get more confusing if Ghana wins today.

10:57 a.m. During the predictions before the start of the Ghana/Czech match, Alexi Lalas asks Chinaglia, who's buried more? Ghana, or the US? Chinaglia answers without hesitation: "the U.S."

10:47 a.m.Alexi Lalas, while making a point about Bruce Arena calling out his stars who didn't perform against the Czechs, asks Giorgio Chinaglia about World Cup 1974. Chinaglia, who failed to score in 1974, was supposedly one of the best scorers on that Italy team that managed to get eliminated in group play. Ouch. Point taken by grumpy old guy.

Why is he here? Other than for reasons of hilarity, I mean. Would you put your grumpy Uncle Frank on TV? It's kind of like that. All that aside, it's easy to see why MLS people hate Alexi Lalas after a delightful comment like that one. ha.

In ABC's World Cup Pre-Game studio, Giorgio Chinaglia just asserted that the US-Italy game will be 2-0, 3-0, something like that, because the US is incapable of playing defense. He also notes that the Azzurri has two central defenders, an unprecedented feat in soccer that will keep the US scoreless. Eric Wynalda was unimpressed, asking, "you don't think the US is capable of playing defense?" And Chinaglia says "no, of course not." There you have it.

10:36 a.m. It was about time they brought this guy back. Last go round, in 2002, ABC and ESPN routinely had the grumpy Giorgio Chinaglia in the studio with the lovable Tommy Smyth or Eric Wynalda. Chinaglia had all the broadcast presence of a bowling ball, albeit with some bonus grumpiness. He never smiles, thinks everyone else is stupid, and offers up such brilliant analyses like "yah, Brazil is the favorite to win the World Cup . . . . . . "