Thankfully, I wasn’t so sky-is-falling as to have to put a foot in my mouth, but I will admit to being happily proven wrong by bizarre circumstance. As I had mentioned previously, yesterday’s Confederations Cup match against Egypt would be a more appropriate litmus test for the United States than the games against Brazil and Italy had been. I had expected the result to be a ground-out 1 goal victory for the US, but instead, they manhandled the Pharaohs and came away 3-0 winners. That speaks well for the Americans, seeing as how Egypt are routinely one of the strongest sides in Africa. I am also happy to report that not one of the US’ 3 goals was scored by Landon Donovan.
Now, the result of the US – Egypt match is not exactly turning the soccer world on its ears. The US would have been much embarrassed to lose to Egypt and while the manner of the victory is better than anticipated, the W was the expectation going in. What is a bit shocking, though, is that thanks to a complete meltdown in the Italian side, the US has qualified for the semi-final round of the Confederations Cup.
I, for one, love complicated goal differential math. I think it’s silly, and insane, and frustrating, and for all of those reasons I love it as part of this sport. In this case, it also happened to help the US considerably. Italy, the US, and Egypt all were technically tied on total points, each having won one game and lost two. Egypt, however, had a goal differential of -3 (meaning that they allowed 3 more goals than they scored). GD is the first tiebreaker according to FIFA rules, so Egypt finished last in the group. But, both Italy and the US have a differential of -2 so the decision goes to the next tiebreaker, which is total goals scored. The US scored 4 goals (3 against Egypt, 1 against Italy) and since Italy was miraculously shut out by both Brazil and Egypt, they recorded only their 3 goals against the US, meaning the US finish 2nd in the group and advance to the semifinals. I have never seen a tournament decision come down to total goals scored before and I have to say, I love the arbitrariness of it all.
Did the US deserve to go through? Maybe, maybe not. I actually don’t care enough about the national team to argue the point either way (I am a devoted club man, with the national side only garnering moderate interest). I will say, though, that arm-chair fans and devoted followers can both take satisfaction in the result against Egypt. We should also continue to hope for more competition against teams at that level. The reward for the US’ unlikely semifinal berth is a match against Spain, who now hold the world record for longest international winning streak (15 games). The US won’t be much of a speed bump on the Spaniards’ cruise, I don’t think, but that’s to be expected.A further addendum: ESPN really needs to find someone who can comment on soccer high light reels without pronouncing the word “score” like a
fraternity brother who just found another cube of Milwaukee’s Best.