Thursday, June 10, 2010

It's Coming!

by Dick Mac

Since 10:30 P.M. last night, I have heard three stories about the World Cup on my local NPR station. I love hearing about soccer in the mainstream media, because I am a huge fan and it is generally dismissed by the United States media.

On Saturday, the United States will play its first match in the Group Stage. The Group Stage is the first round of the World Cup finals. Each group is comprised of four teams who play each other once and accumulate points for the result. A Win garners 3 points, a draw 1 point, and a loss zero. The two teams with the most points at the end of the stage move to the next stage.

The United States is in Group C with Algeria, England, and Slovenia.

England and the USA face-off Saturday, and most people expect England to take the full three points from the match, on their way to winning the Group. Popular opinion has the USA taking the second spot and moving on to the Round of 16.

The USA has a troubled defense. It is our weak link. Our goalkeepers, however, are some of the best in the tournament and will compensate, to some degree, for our failings in the back. England has a very strong defense, including the very fast and talented Ashley Cole who is a threat at both ends of the field; but they suffer some of the weakest goalkeepers in the tournament. Can England's defense compensate for their weakness in the goal?

My conclusion is that a defense can better assist a weak goalkeeper more effectively than a strong goalkeeper can compensate for a weak defense.

I am not of the mindset that England is the automatic winner of this first Group C match. USA has strong strikers and attacking midfielders, and if Jozy Altidore, Landon Donovan, and Clint Dempsey (all of whom played on English professional teams last season) can keep Ashley Cole back on defense, they might eliminate his ability to run up the side and assist with goal-making and -scoring.

This is a huge "maybe"; but maybe it will work.

If USA beat England, it will be a huge victory. If we draw, it is a spiritual victory for the USA and a spiritual loss for England. If we lose, we need only beat Slovenia and Algeria in the coming weeks to potentially secure passage into the next round.

Back to my NPR broadcasts. I have heard three American announcers/commentators refer to our first opponent as Britain.

Dear NPR: please note that Britain is made up of the countries of England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. There is no British soccer team (which is why they are never represented in Olympic Soccer). All of those countries have their own teams. Fans of soccer in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland are as likely rooting for the USA as England. Nowhere in any of the information about the World Cup is there any reference to "Britain," because there is no British team. This is not even a matter of being ignorant about soccer, which I forgive every American, it is about being able to read and comprehend. Read the schedule! We are playing England, not Britain!


Official World Cup Site

ESPN World Cup Site

United States vs. England Point/Counterpoint


Andrew Wiggins said...

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

Britain = England, Scotland, Wales. The UK adds Northern Ireland.

Ireland is a completely separate republic, although still part of "The British Isles", the collective name for the group of islands.

DM said...

Yes. I meant Northern Ireland, Andy. Thanks for the clarification.