Mon, Jun 10, 2002

: World Cup: Korea vs. USA

WOW, what a battle. The U.S. team that looked so strong against Portugal played more defensively this game and struggled, allowing Korea too much possession and fending off attack after attack. Right from the beginning the U.S. was defending, but they picked strategic times to attack, and mid-way through the first half a through-ball by O’Brien to Mathis and he finished it off perfectly, absolutely deadly finishing. But after gaining the lead, the Americans sat back too much. Late in the first half, a mass of bodies in the U.S. box lead to a bizarre penalty call against Jeff Agoos. Unbelievably, goalkeeper Brad Friedel makes the save (the first penalty kick stopped in this year’s competition). The U.S. take the lead into the second half, but it’s more of the same relentless, high-pressure attack with the American’s frantically defending. Brad made a number of key saves, as did the U.S. defense, but eventually the pressure was too much and something blew, with a Korean player getting a header into the goal. After that it was all-out war. Somehow the U.S. kept the Koreans out, and finally managed a few offensives runs that helped relieve the pressure at the back and almost scoring. Donovan had the Americans’ best chance when a beautiful ball dropped to him in the box, but surprisingly he didn’t get a shot off, hesitating and allowing the keeper to snare it. At least the U.S. held on for the draw, an excellent result. A loss would have been bad. Overall, the U.S. looked tired, especially in the second half, and one gets the feeling the overworked defenders never realized the incredible pressure one gets in a World Cup. They gave their all in the first game and had little left for this one. It was also disheartening to see the Koreans encouraged by the massive crowd of screaming fans make run after run after run. Still, the U.S. held on, played good enough, Brad had a phenomenal game (no doubt his price tag just went up), Mathis did what he gets paid to do (score goals), and everyone had a decent game. The match against Poland on Friday will decide the group — a tie should get the U.S. through, but a win would have them top the group. South Korea will not fare so well against Portugal and should be eliminated. Great stuff! Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: World Cup: Portugal vs. Poland

Portugal started off slower than I liked, taking fifteen minutes to score the first goal and not adding to that tally until late in the second half. Finally they got their act together and scored a bunch of goals (including missing a bunch of chances), but for a while there I was worried. Pauletta got a hat trick, which was impressive, and this gives Portugal lots of momentum for their final game with South Korea, which is a must win if Portugal wants to advance. Poland is out, but playing purely for pride against the U.S., they could be tough. Final: 4-0 Portugal.

Topic: [/soccer]

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: World Cup: Belgium vs. Tunisia

Surprisingly interesting game. Belgium played their typical defensive style while Tunisia were impressive, attacking vigorously with lots of chances and keeping Belgium on their heels. Wilmots scored for Belgium, while a terrific free kick from Tunisia equalized. Unfortunately, though Tunisia tried hard, they just couldn’t quite get the winner. Belgium can still get through, but they need a big win against Russia. Final: 1-1.

Topic: [/soccer]

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