Myopic Thunder; or, E-A-S-Y, You Ain't Got No Alibi

Great article by Tom Friend about David Vanole and the bad old days of US soccer. Go read it, unless you hate freedom or something.

So remember how Ryan Nelsen was so pleased to have gotten a draw against Italy - oh, wait, he wasn't:

Didn't you feel like Nelsen was being a tiny bit ungrateful? Didn't you think that New Zealand was fortunate that Italy didn't kick them up and down the nation?

I mean...New Zealand qualified for the World Cup by beating the Solomon Islands and Bahrain. Italy qualified for the World Cup by beating the world. I admit, my first thought when I saw Nelsen's reaction was "You got a glorious result you can tell your grandchildren about, Ryan. Relax."

We didn't know at the time that soft penalty would cost New Zealand a spot in the final sixteen, though. Sorry, Ryan, I'll never doubt you again.

However and this is not pleasant to talk about, but Tommy Smith really did have a hold of De Rossi's shirt. Strict, merciless justice demands that New Zealand be sent home along with Italy.

Also, Shane Bartlett today said that Giuseppe Rossi was the kind of player Lippi should have kept on the team. Rossi had a great World Cup, by being cut. We've read a lot about how it's better to be lucky than good - but having an alibi is better than either.

So among Landon Donovan's other contributions to civilization, he apparently cost England a shot at the World Cup. The premise is, because England botched Group C, their road to the Final now runs through Germany, Argentina, Spain, and Brazil.

I didn't read the two thousand comments - Jesus, I thought I took abuse - but I imagine at least two rebuttals were made. (1) Yeah, THAT's why England won't win the World Cup - tough bracket. Being nowhere near good enough had nothing to do with it. And (2), there's no guarantee that those other four teams will be there.

Okay, Germany probably will face England, but the other three aren't locks. Spain and Brazil might not win their groups.

And I still think Mexico is a decent match for Argentina, I really do. Soccer City is a mile and change above sea level. Argentina is worse than they were four years ago, Mexico is better. Rafa Marquez probably is the world's best scout on Lionel Messi. Carlos Vela is back. The coaching advantage for Mexico is parsecs wide. I think Mexico is up to the challenge.

So I think the guy is just getting pasted for making the assumption of who will play whom. If there's one thing this World Cup has taught us, there are absolutely no easy games, you project any kind of bracket at your peril, and any fan who looks past the game immediately ahead is oh, my God, New York Times, what on earth are you thinking:

Sweet Commie Jesus, talk about wearing the skin before you killed the bear. Um, it took us a miracle extra time goal to beat Algeria, and you can't spell Algeria without "algae." Ghana, Uruguay, and South Korea are all looking at us and saying the exact same thing, I guarantee you.

Fortunately, I think Ghana is very, very beatable. Their first win was because, and maybe it's because I just saw "Tropic Thunder" on TV, but I can't think of anything less offensive or more accurate: Serbia went full retard. Stupid red card, stupid penalty, 1-0. Ghana hasn't won since. Ghana backed into the final 16, the US made it roaring.

But while Korea looks tempting, I don't think they'll make the date. Uruguay hasn't lost to anyone either, and the only blot on their escutcheon so far is that awful game with France. You might not be impressed with beating South Africa and Mexico, but they looked pretty good doing it, and that's one more win than we've managed.

Unless you count the Slovenia shoulda-win. Fine, but then, how good was Slovenia? Okay, better than France.

You know who I'm wondering about right now? Clint Dempsey. Robbed of the go-ahead goal against Algeria, which probably would have made the game an easy 4-0 stroll. Botched a couple of chances in the second half when crunch time was really crunchy - you might remember the last one, Landon Donovan had something to do with it. Landon is now St. King God Superbad, and Clint Dempsey? Just another guy in the background.

At least he's getting chances, in more ways than one. We all hate referee Koman Cablooey, but we could have hated him for giving Dempsey a red card for an elbow in the first two seconds of the Slovenia game, which would have gone a long way towards screwing us proper. Dempsey's lucky to have played against Algeria at all.

But I think the glory he didn't get against Algeria is America's gain, and literally Ghana's loss. I'm getting a serious multi-goal breakout vibe from Dempsey right now.

The last time Dempsey and Donovan were in South Africa, they both had shaky starts, then owned the place. History is going to repeat either way - either we relive last summer, or Ghana relives 2006. I think it's our turn, though.

That's still a long way from the god-damned semifinals, though. Stupid New York Times.