USA Victorious Despite Struggles

 

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The 2014 World Cup started with a bang for the Red, White, and Blue when only 30 seconds into the match, team captain Clint Dempsey netted a perfectly placed strike into the back of the net. The problem was the next 85 minutes of play, where the Americans were constantly playing on their half of the field, fighting to keep the Black Stars of Ghana from tying it up. Inevitably, Ghana scored the equalizer in the 82nd minute of play and it looked like the team that broke hearts all across the nation four years ago when they knocked the Americans out for the second straight World Cup, would stop the US from starting off this tournament with a win. Second-half substitute John Brooks, who claimed to have dreamt that he would score, ensured that the Americans left with a victory when he headed in a beautiful corner from Graham Zusi just four minutes later. The celebration was on. A team that had no momentum whatsoever scored twice when they needed to the most, and left Natal, Brazil with three points after the 2-1 victory.

After the match, focus quickly shifted to the health of star forward Jozy Altidore and defenseman Matt Besler both left the game with apparent hamstring injuries. Altidore’s injury seemed severe, and the announcers openly questioned whether or not Altidore would be able to return to the World Cup after it looked like he got shot while sprinting after a deep pass. Besler asked to be removed during halftime after reporting that his hamstring was tightening up. Besler was replaced by Brooks. In addition to those two, Dempsey suffered a broken nose after he took a hard knee to the face. Though Dempsey was able to finish the game, he reported that he had trouble breathing. Dempsey hoped that it would be fixed by the time the US face Portugal on Sunday.

After surviving Ghana’s test this past week, the focus now switches to Portugal, who got clobbered by one of the favorites to win the tournament, Germany, 4-0. That is the nature of the World Cup, your prize for survival is another must-win game. If the United States is able to defeat Portugal, they will only need a tie with Germany to ensure that they will be one of the two teams to advance out of Group G. Portugal has one of the best players in the world in Cristiano Ronaldo, but they will be without three top players after defender Fabio Coentrão and forward Hugo Ameida both went down with injury and have been ruled out for the Group stage, and the talented yet abrasive center back Pepe is forced to sit out after receiving a red card for the most foolish of penalties against Germany. All told, a victory against Portugal is certainly attainable, and it would all but ensure safe passage into the round of 16 for the US.

Group A

World Cup favorite Brazil is sitting at the top along with Mexico after finishing this week with a 3-1 win versus Croatia and a 0-0 tie against El Tri. Brazil’s victory was fueled by two outstanding goals by its star player Neymar. Mexico has looked stronger than expected after beating Cameroon 1-0 behind Oribe Peralta’s follow up goal after Charles Itandje blocked Giovani Dos Santos’s initial attempt. Dos Santos, the Mexican star player, also had two goals wrongfully disallowed after being called offside. Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa played the game of his life against Brazil, and has been rightfully applauded for his splendid effort.

Group B

The favorites in this strong group have to be the Netherlands and Chile. Netherlands got off to a quick start in defeating defending champions Spain 5-1 in their opener behind two goals from Robin Van Persie. Chile powered through Australia 3-1 after scoring twice in the first 14 minutes of play. The Netherlands are a favorite in this tournament, but keep your eye on Chile. Chile possesses a strong team and could make a run in the tournament this year.

Group C

Colombia cruised through Greece 3-0 to jump to the head of this Group. Colombia is one of the stronger teams and has to be considered the favorites, along with Ivory Coast, to advance from this group. Ivory Coast has had the misfortune of playing in tough Groups in the past, but that is not the case this year with Colombia, Greece, and Japan.

Group D

This formidable Group contains Uruguay, England, Italy, and Costa Rica. While many had written off Costa Rica when they saw them in the same Group as three perennial powerhouses, they turned heads with a strong 3-1 victory over Uruguay. While Italy and Costa Rica are in good positions to advance, I would expect Italy to jump ahead of Costa Rica based on goal differential.

Group E

Switzerland hit an injury-time stunner to defeat Ecuador 1-0. With France leading this weak Group, the second spot is up for grabs and Switzerland is in a good position to advance. If there was ever a time for Switzerland to gain confidence before the round of 16, it would be against Ecuador and Honduras.

Group F

This Group is the classic case of a clear cut top-dog, with no real challengers to unseat the king. In this Group, Argentina is the king. Iran, Nigeria, and Bosnia-Herzegovina will battle for the second spot, though the word battle is not quite appropriate. Unfortunately, one of those three have to advance, and I think Iran has the best chance.

Group H

Belgium, Russia, South Korea, Algeria. Belgium is the only team that deserves to advance, but I bet Russia joins them. Belgium will greatly benefit from playing in this terrible group, but do not expect any country from this group to advance past the round of 16.

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