I didn’t want to say anything for fear of jinxing the US and the Azzurri and the tournament in general, but good Lord this has been a great world cup. There’ve been goals galore (for soccer), great comeback, decent refereeing (despite the controversial PK in the opener), and no lynchings of scorers of own goals (knock wood).
I’m thrilled that the US avenged our losses to Ghana, and thrilled that we overcame the adversity of injuries that spent our substitutions so early, and thrilled that we overcame Ghana’s late equalizer. Honest. But as I told my brother last night, this looks like a team picked with 2018 in mind. I told him the team looked like it was Howard, Dempsey, Bradley, and eight JV players. Then he pointed out that Bradley wasn’t too good tonight, either. The defense was frantic, there was no purposeful possession in midfield, not too many threatening runs up front, not enough response to the pressure Ghana put on us for far too much of the game. But we got the win, and that’s all that matters.
Italy beat England, as I expected, in one of the better games of the Cup so far. The defense looked a little unsure without Buffon behind them. I’m a bit worried about the offense. Balotelli’s up front and seems to be in a good mood, but who’s the other guy? Italy can usually scrounge up two world-class strikers; despite the stereotype, they put on decent offensive shows in ’02 (five perfectly good goals were disallowed by the criminals with whistles in Korea and Japan) and ’06. The midfield looked awesome, though. Pirlo might be the smartest player in the world. He reminds me of the old fat guys who played in my summer league when I was younger– you thought you could run them to death because they were old and fat; but they passed so well that you couldn’t keep up with the ball and you ended up getting beaten. Badly. And then they’d go smoke and drink on the sidelines during breaks, and come out and do it again when they came back on the field. That’s Pirlo.