World Cup 2010: America, F#$% Yeah!
Some would say the ultimate result of Saturday's highly anticipated match between the U.S. and England was disappointing. The pre-game anticipation certainly didn't help. It was six months of USA versus England! The Statue of Liberty versus Big Ben! Starbucks versus tea! James Bond versus Jason Bourne! Ronald Reagan versus Margaret Thatcher! Captain Kirk versus Captain Picard! It was so on! So, naturally, the casual (re: apathetic) World Cup follower is bemoaning a tie. We American's like winners. And high scoring games and fireworks and Chevy trucks and rock and roll and fake tits. A tie? Madness!
But we need to look at the bigger picture here. The Three Lions and their collection of stars were supposed to bulldoze through the silly Americans and send us back home in shame to our Vegas buffets and Wal-Marts. And it seemed that would be the case when England's Steven Garrard put the ball in the back of the American's net in just the fourth minute of play. It was supposed to be the start of the onslaught. But it never happened. We're American's, dammit! Haven't the English ever watched a single Rocky movie?
The story of the game was, of course, English keeper Robert Green's Bill Buckner moment, when Clint Dempsey's unexceptional left-footed shot in the 40th minute went through Green's hands for the tying goal. But the even bigger story has to be U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard's undaunted performance. In the 29th minute of play, England's Emile Heskey inadvertently put a boot in Howard's chest, as he went in for a shot. Howard was down for a while, clutching his ribs in agony. But he gathered himself and insisted he was well enough to play. Nothing was going to keep him off the field, certainly not being injured by a dude named "Emile."
The US seemed to feed off Howard's badassedness, clamping down on Wayne Rooney's relentless attacks and playing England even throughout the remainder of the match. In all, Howard made six saves, mostly in the second half, all pretty spectacular. Howard's performance while playing with possibly cracked ribs is stuff of sports legend (if only we cared enough about soccer).
In the end, while the final score was 1-1, it felt like an American victory. The US, after all, is viewed internationally as the William Hung of World Cup competition. But the tie sets up the US for success. They enter their next match against Slovenia as the favorites and need to either beat them or tie them and beat Algeria to advance. A loss would have made the road to the next round a lot tougher. For the English, the tie feels like a loss. As if Gerrard's goal never happened. And, in some ways, it never did.
The U.S. plays Slovenia on Friday at 9:30 a.m. Start acting like you're "coming down with something" today.
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