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How we should view America's World Cup performance

By Brian McMahon,
A look at what the U.S. did and did not accomplish during their run to the round of 16

The U.S. bowed out of the World Cup yesterday after falling to Belgium 2-1 in the round of 16 in a game that needed extra time to determine a winner.

Lead by goalkeeper Tim Howard, the Americans were able to keep up with the more talented Belgium side, which features several players who play for some of Europe’s best club teams. However, Howard was finally beaten three minutes into extra time by Kevin De Bruyne, and then again by Romelu Lakuku 12 minutes later to go down 2-0 with just 15 minutes remaining.

Julian Green, a 19-year-old who has dual citizenship between the U.S.A and Germany, instilled some hope when he scored an impressive goal off a Michal Bradley pass to make the score 2-1. It would not be enough though, and America was eliminated from the World Cup in the round of 16, just as they were four years ago in South Africa.

Much has been made about America’s performance throughout the World Cup, and nearly all of it positive. The U.S. did have a solid outing in the tournament - defeating a good Ghana team 2-1, and then giving up a late goal to draw with Portugal 2-2, before losing to Germany 1-0 in the last game of group play. The Americans then faced Belgium in the round of 16, not an easy matchup, but certainly not the toughest one either.

In fact, this is the second World Cup in a row that America has had a realistic shot at beating the team they faced in the round of 16 and failed to do so. The U.S. lost to Ghana 2-1 four years ago in a game that could have been theirs, and they could have had yesterday’s game too had Chris Wondolowski been able to capitalize on a shot from point blank range in the closing moments of regulation time. However he didn’t, but American fans still consider this World Cup a success because they think of America as underdogs, and we should be happy with whatever success we get.

First of all, the U.S. are not underdogs. They have qualified for seven straight World Cups and have a pretty good domestic league in the MLS, though it is not up to par with Europe’s top leagues. We can be underdogs in a specific game when going up against the likes of Germany or another great team, but overall we have a far better history and more good players than most countries in the world.

Former President Bill Clinton shares the same incorrect view as most Americans who supported the team throughout the tournament. This was not a “great” World Cup for the U.S., it was slightly above average one. Had Chris Wondolowski been able to score and win the game for the U.S. instead of kicking the ball into the stands, yes, it would have been a great World Cup, as we would have been going to the quarterfinals for the first time since 2002. Instead, America’s only real triumph this year was getting revenge on Ghana for eliminating them in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups.

The U.S. was outshot 72-36 in their four games. They advanced by working extremely hard, and getting great goalkeeping from Tim Howard. Overall, the U.S. did not look particularly impressive throughout the tournament.

Had Portugal been at full strength, America may have lost, and had Germany really needed to score more than one goal against us, they probably could have. If Tim Howard did not play an absolutely incredible game against Belgium, the U.S. would have been blown out. So what did the U.S. do to warrant such praise?

They made it out of the 'group of death,' which was not actually as tough as it was billed before the tournament started. Portugal is only a top team when Cristiano Ronaldo is playing his best, and he was dealing with a nagging injury, which made Portugal an average team. With Portugal all but out of the picture after their opening 4-0 loss to Germany, the door wide open for Ghana or the U.S. to finish second in the group and advance to the knockout stage. To the American team’s credit, they did defeat Ghana in a game they knew they needed to win, though Ghana might have actually been the better team on the day.

For American fans, they should take some pride in knowing their team made it out of a tough group and gave a very talented Belgium team all they could handle. However, the U.S. actually won their group four years ago, and lost in the round of 16 by the same score as they did this year. This American team did not accomplish anything out of the ordinary, except get record television ratings, according to Variety.

Jurgen Klinnsman believes he will be back to coach the U.S. in the 2018 World Cup in Russia, notes Sporting News. After captivating American fans this year with a run to the round of 16, Klinnsman is going to have something new to deal with in 2018 - expectations.

 
 

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