Saturday, June 17, 2006

World Cup Diary III: Darko and Bruce Arena

Serbia & Montenegro's 6-0 suffering in the hands of the mighty Argentines has scared the hell out of British fans, and for a pretty good reason. If England fails to win their group and comes second to Sweden (which seems unlikely), sans any upset they will meet their nemesis in the quarter-final, otherwise England and Argentina square off only in the finals.

Speculations aside, can anyone explain to me the 6-0 massacre?

I know, I know, Argentina is one of the favorites to win the cup. But if you are paying attention to the bookies and anyone who keeps track of the football world, they are no more of a favorite than Germany and England . Besides, Serbia & Montenegro is a pretty good side and they qualified from the European region, arguably the toughest region to qualify from. So what went wrong?

Short of any plausible explanation, I think it is only appropriate to invoke Darko Milicic who hails from Serbia into the equation--and once you have the Darko variable, there is something concrete to toy with. Was he there to inspire Serbia & Montenegro and did his inspirational speech rub off onto the team like his footwork in the post? Did he ever come in close contact to transmit his skills to his home team? Or was he the one to suggest using Chad Ford's scouting report on Argentina?

You see, when dealing with a 6-0 drubbing, anything is possible.

In Kaiserslautern US plays Italy today in a likely win or go home date. If the Yanks lose, realistically they will be flying home unless they like to stay back, enjoy more of the German hospitality and take notes. Since only a handful things went right for them in their previous encounter against the Czech Republic, like successfully keeping their losing record versus the European teams on European soil intact, they can now only hope that their worst is a thing of the past.

There is no shame in a 3-0 schooling, considering the Czechs are way better, but the shame is in the manner they surrendered. If I were Bruce Arena, the coach of US team, I would be worried--very worried.

Last time these two teams met in a friendly match in 2002, Italy won the battle 1-0 — not a seriously deflating defeat but I assume they were being nice to Americans, if that's at all possible. This time, however, Donovan and his friends will not do anyone, in particular the majority of their fans who are obsessed with other ball games, any favor with another lackluster performance.

The Americans don't have a choice but to pull up their socks and play with more purpose than they did with the Czech Republic. It would be foolish to try to outplay the Italians as they are superior in every department of the game. Instead, they should be more physical, and try frustrating their opposition--more importantly not to give them an inch of free space in the midfield from where every attacking move originates.

In other words, if it comes down to being downright ugly, they better be BAD if they want to keep their hopes alive.

I don't see the US winning, but a gritty draw will go a long way to salvage some of the respect lost.



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