Sunday, June 13, 2010

World Cup off to a good start

The World Cup is off a good start, at least depending on who you are.

The host South Africa managed a 1-1 draw against Mexico in the opener Friday in Johannesburg, continuing a string of 14 consecutive openers where the host country doesn't lose. Now, there hasn't been a World Cup where the host doesn't advance past the group stage, but South Africa did themselves a big favor by gaining the point from a usually strong yet underachieving Mexican side.

Then there was the U.S. National Team, who also gained themselves a point with a 1-1 in their opener Saturday against England in Rustenburg, whom some have picked to make it to the final. It looked bad at first as Steven Gerrard (who plays for Liverpool in England) got past the U.S. defense and punched it past goaltender Tim Howard four minutes in to give the English the 1-0 lead. Howard took some pounding later in the half, banging up his elbow and then his head, but toughed it out like the good English Premier Leaguer (he plays for Everton) that he is.

Then there was the goal that England will not forget for a long time.

The U.S. managed to hang onto the ball long enough (England had possession 57 percent of the time) to get into the English zone. Clint Dempsey (who plays for Fulham in the English league) squibbed a kick forward to the English net and goaltender Robert Green (who plays for West Ham Untied in the English league). What happened will go down in history, as Green fumbled the easy kick as it rolled into the net to knot the game at 1-1.

English goaltending has not had a glorious history, but as analyst John Harkes said after the goal, you have to handle that kind of kick, no matter what level you're at.

Either way, it was a gift for the United States, who almost took the lead at the 65th minute with a Jozy Altidore (Hull City in England) run that was swatted away by Green at the last minute to keep the score tied until the end.

A win would've been nice for the U.S., but getting a point out of the English in what is the Americans' toughest game of the group is a good step toward advancing past the group stage for the first time since 2002 in South Korea and Japan. Next up for the U.S. is Slovenia on Friday, June 18 in Johannesburg, a game they should take. Slovenia plays its first game against Algeria later today.

One other note: This was probably my favorite commercial shown during Saturday's game on ABC:

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