Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1999 Women's World Cup, Arlo White, Atlanta Beat, Brandi Chastain, Briana Scurry, Colombia, Gianluigi Buffon, Glasgow, Greg Ryan, Hope Solo, NBC, Newsweek, Peter Schmeichel, Pia Sundhage, Toni Schumacher, Twitter, U.S. Olympic Team
U.S. Olympic Team goalkeeper Hope Solo will not be disciplined for a series of tweets in which she ripped NBC color commentator Brandi Chastain for criticizing the Americans’ defense during their 3-0 rout of Colombia in a second group-round match the day before in Glasgow.
Said coach Pia Sundhage after a meeting with Solo and team captains, “We had a conversation: If you look at the women’s national team, what do you want (people) to see? What do you want them to hear? And that’s where we do have a choice–as players, coaches, staff, the way we respond to certain things.”
o ”Lay off commentating about defending and gking until you get more educated @brandichastain the game has changed from a decade ago. #fb”
o ”Its 2 bad we can’t have commentators who better represents the team&knows more about the game @brandichastain #fb”
o ”I feel bad 4 our fans that have 2 push mute, especially bc @arlowhite is fantastic. @brandichastain should be helping 2 grow the sport #fb”
o ”Its important 2 our fans 2 enjoy the spirit of the olympics.Its not possible when sum1 on air is saying that a player is the worst defender!”
(Note: Arlo White is NBC’s play-by-play man.)
The response by Chastain, best known for her winning penalty kick for the U.S. at the 1999 Women’s World Cup final: ”I’m here to do my job, which is to be an honest and objective analyst at the Olympics.” [July 29]
Comment: We’ve been down this road before.
Solo has popped off numerous times during her 12-year, 118-match international career, most infamously after she was benched in favor of back-up Briana Scurry for the USA’s 2007 Women’s World Cup semifinal, a game won by Brazil, 4-0. That lineup blunder by coach Greg Ryan cost him his job, but for essentially throwing Scurry under the bus, Solo was voted off the squad, temporarily, by her teammates. She also twice touched off other controversies via Twitter, the most recent in 2010 when, while playing for WPS’ Atlanta Beat, she questioned the integrity of match officials, drawing a one-game suspension and $2,500 fine.
Of course Solo is entitled to her opinions. And many view Solo sticking up for herself and the players in front of her in Glasgow as demonstrating the same outspoken leadership traits as those exhibited by such notable male ‘keepers as Gianluigi Buffon, Peter Schmeichel and Toni Schumacher. (Ironically, Chastain, in a newspaper interview before the Colombia match, praised Solo for her swagger.)
But Solo would do well to realize that she’s part of something very special in American sports. What initially made the U.S. National/Olympic Women’s Team a sensation, winning hearts and minds among fans and non-fans alike was its good humor, good sportsmanship, and positive, one-for-all, all-for-one attitude. Winning certainly didn’t hurt, but away from the field, if there were problems, apparently they stayed behind the scenes while they got solved.
This is Solo being the aptly named Solo. The product of a broken home whose relationship with her occasionally homeless father, a Vietnam War vet, has been well documented (the latest, in a Newsweek cover story)–evidently she will continue to be the only U.S. player to take the field with a large chip on her shoulder. But in the last couple of days she has helped make the U.S. women’s team–that oasis in a sports world drowning in greed, ego, poor sportsmanship and, yes, reckless tweets–a little less special.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: 1924 Paris Olympics, 1928 Amsterdam Olympics, 1930 World Cup, 1972 European Championship, 1974 World Cup, 1997 Copa America, 1998 World Cup, 1999 Copa America, 2002 World Cup, 2004 Copa America, 2012 European Championship, Brazil, Cesare Prandelli, Cesc Fabrigas, Colombia, Czechoslovakia, David Silva, ESPN, Fernando Torres, France, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Italy, Jordi Alba, Juan Mata, Kiev, Pele, Spain, Thiago Motta, Uruguay, Vicente de Bosque, West Germany, World Cup, Xavi
Defending World Cup champion Spain became the first country to win a second consecutive European Championship, humbling a shorthanded Italy, 4-0, in the 2012 final in Kiev.
The triumph made Spain, which won its first Euro crown in 1964, the second three-time winner of Europe’s biggest prize after West Germany/Germany (1972, 1980, 1996).
David Silva got the rout underway in the 14th minute when he headed in Cesc Fabrigas’ short cross. Jordi Alba latched onto a pass by Xavi to beat Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon four minutes before halftime to put the match out of reach.
Substitute Fernando Torres, who also scored against Germany in Spain’s 1-0 victory in the 2008 final, scored in the 84th minute, and Juan Mata, set up by Torres, applied the finishing touch at 88 minutes. Italy lost Thiago Motta to injury in the 62nd minute after coach Cesare Prandelli had used his three substitutions–the last of them Motta in the 57th–and appeared nearly helpless on the Torres and Mata goals. [July 1]
Comment: Spain’s dominating performance put a much-needed shine on a tournament that for the most part was downright dull. But those quick to brand this team as the best of all time need to take a deep breath.
Is Spain the best? Those who disagree might start with the West German team that won the 1972 European Championship and the ’74 World Cup. That team also lost the ’76 Euro final to Czechoslovakia on penalty kicks before winning its second Euro four years later. Others would point to Brazil’s Pele-led 1970 World Cup champs. And so on.
So are the Spaniards the best ever over an extended period? Various media reports branded coach Vicente del Bosque’s ball-possession magicians as the first to win three consecutive major titles. ESPN, which televised Euro 2012, was among them. But the first was Uruguay, winners of the 1924 Olympics in Paris and the 1928 Olympics in Amsterdam–back when Olympic soccer was the sport’s de facto world championship. The Uruguayans so dazzled the Continent on those occasions that they fueled the drive to create the World Cup in 1930, which that year was hosted and won by Uruguay. De facto or no, that was three world titles in a row over a half-dozen years.
Too long ago, when soccer wasn’t quite the global game it is today? Then for hardware in the modern era, go with another South American team, Brazil, just a decade ago. Except for an interruption by Colombia at the 2001 Copa America, the Brazilians, three years removed from their win at USA ’94, won the next two South American championships, in 1997 and ’99, finished second at the 1998 World Cup to host France, then won their fifth world championship at Korea/Japan 2002, followed by another Copa in 2004.
But then, when it comes to soccer and other matters, we live in a Eurocentric world.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: adidas, Algarve Cup, Argentina, Arsenal, Azzurri, Belgium, Borrusia Dortmund, Brussels, Cesare Prandelli, Clint Dempsey, Colombia, CONCACAF Gold Cup, Copa America, Denmark, England, FIFA Confederations Cup, Genoa, Germany, Gianluigi Buffon, Italian National Team, Juergen Klinsmann, Juventus, Mexico, Miami, Nike, Portugal, Sebastian Giovinco, Serie A, Spain, Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Terrence Boyd, Tim Howard, U.S. Cup, U.S. National Team, U.S. National Under-23 Team, U.S. National Women's Team
The U.S. National Team upset Italy, 1-0, in a friendly at Genoa’s Stadio Luigi Ferraris to post its first victory over the Italians in 78 years. Clint Dempsey rolled a shot from the top of the penalty area past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon in the 55th minute and the Americans, behind some stout defending, held on for their fourth consecutive win under new coach Juergen Klinsman. [February 29]
Comment I: The triumph was described in many quarters as historic, and given the fact that the U.S. went into the match with a 0-7-3 record against the Azzurri and had been out-scored, 32-4, over those 10 matches, the feat was indeed historic. Italian commentators no doubt shrugged it off as an aberration. Dempsey’s goal, they no doubt pointed out, came against the run of play–decidedly. Italy out-shot the U.S., 19-4, and would have had more had the pesky Sebastian Giovinco and mates not been flagged for offside nine times (to the USA’s zero), mostly on hopeful balls lofted over the U.S. back line. Italy also had the edge in corner kicks, 8-2, and Buffon was forced to make only one save to U.S. ‘keeper Tim Howard’s seven, which included a clutch kick-save in the fourth minute. This also wasn’t a full-strength Italian squad; neither could it be said of the U.S., but while the Americans remain sorely lacking in depth, Italy coach Cesare Prandelli could trot out a starting lineup heavy on players from Juventus, at the moment Serie A’s second-place club. Moreover, all would agree that a better look at reality came in the teams’ last meeting, at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup in South Africa, a competitive match in which Italy took the U.S. to school in a 3-1 win that left the Americans’ hopes in that tournament on life support.
So was this upset truly meaningful? If so, the U.S. in recent years has enough such moments to fill a history book, starting with the 2-0 win over Mexico in the 1991 CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinals, and followed on a semi-regular basis by England 2-0 at U.S. Cup ’93, Colombia 2-1 at the 1994 World Cup, Argentina 3-0 at the 1995 Copa America, Brazil 1-0 at the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals, Germany 2-0 at the 1999 FIFA Confederations Cup, Portugal 3-2 at the 2002 World Cup, and the biggest of all, World-Cup-champion-to-be Spain 2-0 at the 2009 Confederations Cup semifinals.
The best way to describe what happened in Genoa is to suggest that the U.S. further cemented its reputation as a team capable of anything at anytime, an erratic opponent who’s a no-win proposition for the world powers. Why should they relish facing an opponent they’re expected to beat when, on the odd day, they’ll fall victim to grit, fitness and just enough skill to get the job done? At the same time, this giant killer can’t get past the mid-level teams on a consistent basis, as it demonstrated in its 1-0 loss to Belgium in Brussels in September, Klinsmann’s third match in charge.
What may have been most noteworthy about Italy 0, U.S. 1 is that Klinsmann stuck his neck out and agreed to have the game scheduled at all. He rolled the dice in Genoa and won with a conservative 4-5-1. His 4-4-2 may come and go, depending on the opposition and the circumstances, but it’s clear that he intends, as he’s said, to pull the Americans out of their “comfort zone” and tap into the bravura and blue-collar characteristics that made the U.S. job so appealing to the German in the first place. In sum, Klinsmann with nothing to lose, the fellow hired to be the anti-Bob Bradley.
Comment II: Klinsmann’s boldness crossed a line when he substituted a spent Jozy Altidore with Terrence Boyd. a striker who has yet to work his way from the Borussia Dortmund reserves into the club’s first team. Boyd was clearly a fish out of water, and it can be gently said that he was lucky not to be shown a yellow card for a high foot a few minutes into his 11-minute cameo. A 21-year-old kid making his debut against Italy in a one-goal game? There are limits.
Comment III: It’s been nearly 20 years since Nike took over for adidas as the national teams’ outfitter, and it still hasn’t gotten it right. The same company that has repeatedly ruined Brazil’s classic jersey–and those of the countless other national teams and prominent clubs it has come to sponsor–dressed the U.S. for its Italy match in something that could best be described as a bad version of Arsenal in navy blue. In fact, it simply looked like the Americans had their sleeves ripped off, revealing their white long underwear. Fortunately, the U.S. played better than it looked, sartorially speaking.
Comment IV: On one day, the U.S. National Women’s Team routed Denmark, 5-0, in Portugal in its Algarve Cup opener; the U.S. National Under-23 Team blanked Mexico’s U-23s, 2-0, in Dallas in an Olympic qualifying tune-up; and the U.S. National Team shocked Italy, 1-0, in a friendly in Genoa. Oh, and the Mexican National Team bowed to Colombia, 2-0, in a friendly in Miami.
It won’t take away the sting of a day like June 25 last year, when Mexico thumped the U.S., 4-2, at the CONCACAF Gold Cup final … but for American fans, it doesn’t hurt.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Aston Villa, Bob Bradley, Cape Town, Colombia, Eric Lichaj, Green Point Stadium, Jozy Altidore, Juan Agudelo, Mikkel Diskerud, Poland, South Africa, Steve Cherundolo, Thomas Dooley, U.S. National Team, University of North Carolina
A young, experimental U.S. National Team, defeated South Africa, 1-0, on a goal by substitute Juan Agudelo five minutes from time in a friendly at Green Point Stadium in Cape Town.
The U.S. starting lineup averaged only 10 1/2 caps, and four of coach Bob Bradley’s halftime substitutes were 20 years old or younger and making their international debut. [November 18]
Comment: No doubt Agudelo will still be celebrating his goal six days hence, when he marks his 18th birthday. After all, the Colombian-born striker, set up brilliantly in the box by the Norwegian-born Mikkel Diskerud, is the youngest scorer in U.S. history, eclipsing Jozy Altidore.
A more impressive birthday boy, however, was U.S. right back Eric Lichaj, who turned 22 the day of the South Africa match. Lichaj, whose parents were born in Poland and reared in America, earned his first cap as a sub in last month’s scoreless draw with Colombia, and he played a key role, along with goalkeeper Brad Guzan, in keeping the American net clean.
Lichaj turned in the kind of performance–smart, strong, creative and utterly cool–that was sorely missing at times on the U.S. back line during the Americans’ last stay in South Africa. All this despite playing the last hour with a yellow card. Best of all, he covered ground like a young Thomas Dooley, popping up deep in the South African end on a regular basis.
It was only one match, but Lichaj (pronounced “LEE-hi”) showed off the qualities that inspired Aston Villa to sign him when he was a University of North Carolina freshman. He’s just now breaking into the Villains’ starting lineup, but with the venerable Steve Cherundolo due to turn 35 when the next World Cup rolls around, it is hoped that Lichaj will be doing same for the U.S. over the next couple of years.