Prouder than ever! That has been the sentiment of every USA supporter at the end of the USA-Algeria match and for the team’s performance throughout this tournament. USA deservedly won Group C with another impressive display of determination, commitment, perseverance and agility, demonstrating how far soccer has evolved in the United States and, hopefully, inspiring a new generation of young players to dream of winning a future World Cup. The American team finished ahead of a lackluster England, a magnificent accomplishment that deserves to be celebrated as a US soccer milestone.
It was a last gasp effort that finally pierced the Algerian net, a blitzing break out counter in the 91 minute of the match that passed through the Howard-Donovan-Altidore-Dempsey corridor within a few seconds. Landon Donovan tapped in Dempsey’s rebounded shot past the excellent Algerian goal-keeper, who had been his team’s savior all night, unleashing a euphoric eruption. The thrilling finish was in the making, USA having missed six or seven massive opportunities and having another good goal disallowed, yet never relinquishing the will to succeed despite the adversity. “In soccer, you can’t always control a call or a bounce, but you can control what you are about as a team, how committed you are to giving everything in a game,??? USA coach Bob Bradley stated. “I think that has become the special quality of this group.??? The result, entirely consistent with the course of the match, places USA in a higher echelon, raising its present profile while raising future expectations. USA moved up a full tier on the international platform with this victory, to the collective jubilation American soccer fans.
For its part, England played better and created enough chances for a comfortable win, yet was still nearly eliminated. Slovenia missed a great chance in the 90th minute that, coupled with the USA goal, would have sent England out of the tournament. To their credit, English stars started to make their presence felt, but hardly impressed. It was a scrappy win that confirmed all is far from well with England. Rooney, instrumental in every regard to English prospects, was substituted with 20 minutes to go of a 1-0 match with everything on the line and he did not hide his disdain. England survived, but failed to convince.
USA will take on Ghana in a couple of days, a very short rest for both teams. After pressing fully with all out physical commitment on back to back games, the American players seemed wiped out after the Slovenia and Algeria matches. They have a short time to rejoice, recuperate and prepare for a Ghana team that progressed largely thanks to Serbia’s unexpected failure. The Serbs went down to a lively Australia team that came within a couple of goals of glory, a humbling experience for a team with great expectations that ended up last in the group. Led by the fantastic Tim Cahill, Australia exited the tournament on a winning note and left a positive impression at the World Cup.
By edging Ghana Germany won Group D to set up a mega-clash with England on Sunday, a classic rivalry that requires no introduction. The stakes are high for both sides as no other tie generates stronger passions. It will be interesting to see which team brings the strongest battle form in the face of elimination, as neither impressed yesterday and neither is expected home after the Round of 16.