JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: Messi rises, a Swiss miracle, and the day we’ve all been waiting for
Another day, another round of great to good games at the World Cup. If you haven’t watched the World Cup before, you may not realize how good this tournament has been so far. No boring draws, goals flying in at a historic rate, some terrific early matchups on the schedule (seriously, England-Italy on day 3? That’s crazy.), and a tremendous and lively atmosphere. Somewhat ironically, the match that I thought was the marquee game of the day yesterday came perilously close to becoming the first stinker of the tournament (despite the resurgence of one of my favorite scorers, Own Goal), and then along came a tremendous run and a thunderbolt off the left foot of Lionel Messi, and all was right with the world. Somehow that goal was only the second in Messi’s eight previous World Cup matches, but it was the kind of individual brilliance from him that has become common place at the club level. After a couple of halftime substitutions, Argentina was able to shift into its preferred 4-3-3 formation with the attacking trio of Messi, Ageuro, and Higuain starting to create better chances after a turgid first half, highlighted by the 1-2 exchange between Messi and Higuain (in American sporting terms, think a give and go in the high post between a point guard and center) that lead to the decisive goal.
Watch the play here, starting around he :45 mark of these highlights.
Credit to Bosnians, who played well and look well positioned to finish second in the group and advance.
Man of the Match: Messi edging out Own Goal
I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight the amazing finish to the Switzerland-Ecuador match, which looked set to end in the first draw of the tournament until the final 45 seconds, which saw Ecuador blow an enticing chance to pull out the win, followed by a Swiss breakaway that resulted in the winning goal at the death. One thing to be sure and note here is the OUTSTANDING decision by the referee to play the advantage on an obvious foul and allow the play to continue, resulting in the winning goal. This is one of the best rules in soccer, where the referee can choose to allow play to continue if the attacking team still has an advantage on the play. Depending on the severity of the foul the referee can come back after they play and award a yellow or red card, but he isn’t required to stop play and penalize a team on the breakaway (I’m looking at you, basketball).
Watch the Swiss miracle here.
As good as the tournament has been so far, today is the day that American fans have been waiting for, with Germany-Portugal (the main course for the rest of the world), setting the table for the USA-Ghana grudge match at 6:00. I’m giddy waiting for this game, but also frankly terrified. I’ve written this before, but this game is absolutely enormous for both teams. The team that loses is all but eliminated before their tournament starts, and likely will be as well if the result is a draw. The rational, detached part of me realizes that the US could improve and play better in the tournament than they have in any previous World Cup and not advance beyond this group stage, but the fan in me is desperate for the team to advance and advance the sport another level in this country.
I’m nothing if not a homer when it comes to international sport, so my prediction today is a 2-1 U.S. win today combined with a 3-0 Germany thrashing of Portugal to set the Americans on our way to the knockout rounds. (Cut to me, sitting in corner wrapped in a USA scarf chanting “I believe that we will win” repeatedly) Say it with me folks, U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!
Cheers and happy viewing.