Sunday, June 18, 2006

World Cup Diary IV: USA vs Italy

Apparently a lot of people are upset about the officiating in the match between Italy and USA. They think the Uruguayan referee has denied a USA victory. I am not convinced. In fact I don't even agree to the slightest.

Uruguay was never in the holy trio of the axis of evil, so you cannot really claim any bias.

The tone of the game was set in the opening minutes with a total of 6/7 fouls committed from both sides, majority of them by the US clearly showing their intention of how they want to go about with their game — anything but soft. In fact I wrote in my earlier post:
"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. "

So, I am not surprised, in case you are.

And the battle tested Italians, all of them playing in the toughest of European leagues, don't exactly enjoy the reputation of easy goers on the field either.

You could see the red cards coming. It was just a matter of when.

Daniele De Rossi for Italy was the first one to sent off for taking a cheap shot on the face of Brian McBride that required multiple stitches. It was a sick act from the Italian midfielder who later apologized.

The controversial moment of the match followed when Pablo Mastroeni tackled Pirlo and the Uruguayan referee didn't hesitate to bring out his red card one more time. In ABC the commentators referred to it as the "make up call." Sadly that's far from truth.

I expect them to take the US side, but making it sound like some sort of conspiracy against the Yanks was plain dumb.
Look, the tackle was late which is to say it was not necessary at all. And when you tackle, you don't plunge with a two-footer with spikes up — it could potentially ruin a career. There was no way the referee could let it go.

The third marching order was automatic when Eddie Pope received his second yellow card of the match — an unfortunate one because it appeared to be a bit harsh.

As if their series of misfortunes were not enough, DaMarcus Beasley's goal from 15 yards was ruled out because McBride was standing in an offside position. Certainly luck was not in their side today but the effort was a commendable one, something that sorely lacked against the Czech Republic.

US played almost the entire second half down to nine men, and they had little choice other than to defend although they counter-attacked on rare occasions. Eventually they ran out of gas in the late but some valiant saves by their goalkeeper Kasey Keller saw them escape with a gutsy draw and a valuable point.

The day for the US started with the good news of Ghana pulling off an 2-0 upset against the Czech Republic with a magnificent display of attacking football, keeping the US very much alive in the tournament.

Right now the group remains wide open. Italy remains on the top of the pack while Czech Republic and Ghana are tied in total points for the second place. US is at the bottom of the group but things can change quickly.

If they can steal an improbable win against Ghana:

• Ghana won't qualify.

• If Italy wins against Czech Republic, Italy and US qualifies.

• if Italy loses against Czech Republic, Czech qualifies, FIFA rules determine the next qualifier (between USA and Italy)

• if Italy draws against Czech republic, Italy qualifies, and again FIFA rules decide between USA and the Czech Republic.

If two or more teams have equal points after all group stage matches, positions will be determined by FIFA rules:

1. Greatest number of points obtained in all group matches.
2. Goal difference in all group matches.
3. Greatest number of goals scored in all matches.

If two or more teams are equal on the basis of the above three criteria, their rankings will be determined as follows:

4. Greatest number of points obtained in the group matches between the teams concerned.
5. Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned.
6. Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned.
7. Drawing of lots by the organising committee for the FIFA World Cup.

Just to let you know, the last two matches of the group will be played simultaneously to avoid match-fixing.

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