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The Cup Running Over


June 18, 2010 12:30 PM

Germany Stumbles; the USA Almost Does

Please forgive the self-congratulatory tone. But we sort of told you so. Two great games -- marred by bad refereeing.

GERMANY-SERBIA

We've already talked about how different this German team is from German teams in the past. How different? Well, it missed a penalty kick for the first time in decades. It got a man sent off for the first time in years. And the result was that a better-than-people thought Serbia squad beat the Germans 1-0. Serbia normally struggles to score, but used the height advantage of Nikola Zigic well to have him knock a cross down for Milan Jovanovic to score - the German defense was uncharacteristically messy. And although the Germans are the ones who were once associated with Gestapo tactics, the ref today was harsher than a vuvuzela parade: the Germans missed Miroslav Klose after he was given an extremely questionable second yellow, and will miss him even more in the next game. Also, this was Serbia's second handball in the box in as many games - really now? This group is suddenly wide open.

USA-SLOVENIA

What a game. A dominant Slovenia seemed to uncharacteristically lose steam as the game progressed, and a superb fight-back from the United States earned a well-deserved point. As for the first half, we wish Bob Bradley had read our columns. The Slovenians did what they always do, which is to soak up pressure and strike on the counter. And so they did. Although the teams lined up in identical 4-4-2 formation, the USA's lack of a real holding midfielder - a problem we have written on before - was its undoing. The wonder-strike from Valter Birsa was a surprise but there was so much space between the midfield and the defense that he had almost minutes to pick his spot. The Slovenians' second goal, scored on the counter-attack as predicted, was also a result of a through ball played from an identical location to Birsa's goal. This gap between the lines is what caused Oniguchi Onyewu to press forward and get caught out against England as well, despite his excellent recoveries. It doesn't matter how great Jose Torres and Michael Bradley are going forward - - if the USA doesn't find someone to cover that space it's in trouble.

However, the USA played an excellent second half, making necessary adjustments. The introduction of Maurice Edu made all the difference in midfield, and a superb shot from Landon Donovan brought the US back into the game before Bradley leveled the score by finishing a superb move. Only a dodgy refereeing call - - one of several in this match as well as the one before it - - prevented the US from taking all three points. However, on four points Slovenia is still in the driver's seat of this group. This group is going down to the last game.

The review of the England-Algeria game will appear tomorrow.

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