All the Marbles

Remember when this group was going to be a walk in the park?

Now to be fair, it was the Brits who were rubbing their hands together and snickering about how "Easy" this group was going to be for them.

The US was a bit more humble about it, certainly, but truth be told we pretty much felt the same way.

Thankfully the foul stench of the French National Team has been removed from what is otherwise a damned nice tournament and we're free to focus once again on Project 2010 which, it must be noted, has not yet failed to yield the 2010 World Cup for the USA.

Just one final Francoquestion:

Now that we've waved bon voyages to the battling bleus, is the NYRB marketing department gearing up a massive PR campaign trumpeting the arrival of a bench riding member of the most thoroughly contemptible team in World Cup history and crowning him King of New York soccer?

And will the first question he gets from the media be "So, Thierry, any regrets about having personally cheated Ireland out of their rightful place in the World Cup and do you think the French melt down was an example of how karma is a real bitch?"

Note to Frank Giase: no charge, my man.)

I also think it's high time we move past any gratuitous, petty and vindictive cheap shots at one of FIFAs' finest.

We can however freely speculate on the consequences of his a) gross incompetence b) frightening ineptitude c) painful imbecility or d) all of the above.

(And say what you want about FIFA - Lord knows I do - but those boys can handle a disaster with the best of them, and this is an excellent example. They had scheduled a "Media chat with the referees" event and they promised that all officials who were not traveling that day would be available. So who magically appears as the fourth official at a game in Nelspruit the day before the event and is thus on a plane and unavailable? That's right, the one guy everybody there wanted to talk to.)

In the days after the Coulibaly match there was a lot of speculation around the soccersphere about how, in an odd sort of a way, the disallowed goal had actually helped the US team gain notice and stature with the general public on the theory that while the US doesn't care much about soccer they - like most other countries - are pretty touchy when it appears someone, someplace has crapped on "their boys".

By this line of reasoning the game generated far more interest in the team than might otherwise obtain and, thus, in the long run is a good thing for US Soccer.

To which I say: Maybe, but only if they beat Algeria today. Otherwise it won't matter a lick. Lose and it gets forgotten. Win and it will be a vindication, proof that right makes might and good defeats evil and all is right with the world.

Everybody eats that stuff up with a spoon and whipped cream.

What it all comes down to is this:

Three weeks ago if you had said that all the US had to do to advance into the knockout rounds of the World Cup would be to beat Algeria, we all would have taken the deal in a heartbeat.

Of course, in a way, the worst possible result of the group from the US perspective wasn't the draw with Slovenia but rather Englands' draw with Algeria.

Because of that, Les Fennecs actually have as much on the line today as we do. If England had gotten the business done against them then the Desert Foxes would simply be going though the motions today, playing for pride and golden memories but not much else.

Instead, they're going to come out and fight like hell. Which is as it should be.

And if anyone thinks for a minute that it's going to be easy, I'd just direct you to The Suns' front page from January.