… From both the winning and losing perspectives, the title was clearly true today in the second day of the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
The obvious lead today is the United States earning a 1-1 draw with mighty England in the nightcap of Saturday’s 3-game schedule – a point that, while it furthers the US chances for advancement (and leaves open the chance to win the group), also gives life to Slovenia and Algeria, either of which could take the Group C lead tomorrow with a victory when the teams meet (7:30 a.m. Eastern).
Goalkeeping was clearly at the heart of the result for both the US and England today, what with Tim Howard making several quality saves despite getting knocked around by Emile Heskey, while England’s Robert Green fumbled Clint Dempsey’s shot over the line to erase his nation’s quickly-earned lead gained through a Steven Gerrard goal.
On the surface, it has to make you wonder a bit when a quality footballing nation such as England is turning to the likes of Robert Green to be the first-choice keeper against an at-least capable opponent to open the sport’s biggest tournament. Going in, you would have thought probably that Howard was the better of the two keepers, and that clearly played out. Green saved the blushes a bit in the second half, stopping Jozy Altidore’s chance at point-blank range, though he was lucky that it bounced off the post and didn’t careen inside of it.
Howard deservedly won Man of the Match honors, and to be honest, I can’t even imagine what level our national team would be at were he not our goalkeeper. The defensive issues I was worried about showed up on the Gerrard goal, where at one point, he was surrounded by four Americans, but no one marked him and Gerrard beat the late-coming Carlos Bocanegra to get free and beat Howard from straight on. The US also had problems on its left side, where Glen Johnson got free multiple times thanks to pace, but fortunately for the US, he was then unable to really capitalize on the space he created.
One bright spot defensively was Jay DeMerit. I didn’t hear his name called all day, and for a US defender, this is probably a good thing. Oguchi Onyewu went the distance, and the key question for the US now is how Onyewu rebounds from that from a fitness standpoint for Friday’s match vs. Slovenia – which the US must win if today’s result is to really mean anything.
England, meanwhile, have more questions than answers. Either they couldn’t find Wayne Rooney till late, or Wayne Rooney couldn’t find the game (which may be to DeMerit’s credit). Peter Crouch came on late, but was largely just his normal uncoordinated self, and Onyewu matched up on him when necessary (which he had to do being the only tall US defender on the field with Clarence Goodson on the bench). Green is no safe bet to start when England faces Algeria next, with David James the likely replacement. [ame=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuZm-53v96k”%5DAnd hey, Lord knows David James has never made a bad mistake in goal.[/ame]
The US was good value for their point today, and while I was troubled at the defense at times, and their inability to really possess the ball the last 25 minutes was frustrating, they got a result better than I and many others felt they could, and deserve the kudos for that.
Another who deserves kudos tonight is Nigerian goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama, who despite his side falling, 1-0, to Argentina in Group B today, was absolutely brilliant. He stone cold robbed the great Lionel Messi multiple times, and kept his team alive for at least a point when Nigeria began to press a bit in the late going. He was only victimized by a powerful, free header from Gabriel Heinze in the opening minutes but that certainly doesn’t overshadow his performance. Despite the defeat, only falling by a goal could do wonders for Nigeria later should goal difference matter.
Argentina, meanwhile, started the powerful trio of Messi, Carlos Tévez, and Gonzalo Higua