Sunday, June 22, 2014

U.S. vs. Portugal: Glorious Futility

So, World Cup. After falling behind early on a defensive mistake, then failing to get the tying goal for the rest of the first half, the U.S. stormed back behind a great power kick goal from outside the box by Jermaine Jones, then a go-ahead tally by Patrick Dempsey. On the literally last play of the game in stoppage time, Portugal star Christian Renaldo had his only good moment of the tournament to date, sending a perfect cross to Varela, who scored on a beautiful header to tie it.

It is, of course, not a bad result for the U.S., who remain more likely than not to move on to the next round. A win or a tie against Germany, who looked like world beaters against Portugal in the opening game and just good against Ghana in the second game, would get them through. They would even get through with a loss, if Portugal beats Ghana, but not by enough to get over their goal differential from the disastrous opener against Germany. There's all kinds of good things to take away from this game, not the least of which is the fact that this might have been one of the best games the U.S. ever played at the World Cup, Portugal is very, very fortunate to still be alive, and when "alive" consists of needing  a winner (much more likely Germany) in one game, and a huge win of their own against a Ghanian side that's more alive than they are, that's telling.

But, well, if only for one less minute of stoppage time, the U.S. would already be in, and Portugal would already be out. So the question is whether the Yanks can get over the thunder strike disappointment of not getting the win, and...

Nothing I've just written here is in anyway revelatory, or anything you weren't already thinking, assuming you've spent any time thinking about this at all.

That's the thing about futbol to me; it's primacy. There's no such thing as a moral victory here; the U.S. is a mid-range team in a tournament where the top dogs usually crush, and have all of the advantages. They aren't supposed to get out of this group; looking ahead to the probable matchups from Group H against Belgium or Algeria, those look much more manageable than what's in group. And it seems insane that, well, Ghana could get through while the U.S. wouldn't, after losing head to head, or that Portugal could somehow survive after being a minute away from elimination, or that Germany, freaking multiple championship and takes futbol more seriously than we ever will, is guaranteed of nothing after two games.

The only thing that we're certain of is that the U.S. has played two of the most exciting games in the World Cup, and that they aren't getting embarrassed by some of the best the world has to offer. And that, on Thursday, we're all going to be staring daggers into our screen of choice, and hoping that the teams just agree to tap the ball back and forth to each other at midfield for 90 minutes, since both clubs advance with a tie, and it would just about have to end FIFA forever in a hailstorm of corruption that dwarfs the minds of men.

Well, OK, that last part is probably just me. But you get the point, right?

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