As we continue along the Round of 16 — these games really are quite more exciting when they loser goes home — we start off your weekday live blogging with a team representing a country that was founded by the exiled convicts of another country ... and, much worse, a team that tied the United States. Heavens. How pathetic.
So yeah, it's Italy vs. Australia, with the winner cruising on to the quarterfinals. Obviously, Italy's favored here, but may we remind you that this is a team that tied the United States. We can't emphasize that enough.
Your live-blogger today is Brandon who has done this for a few times, including the England-Sweden game. It should be big Monday morning fun. Follow along in the comments, and enjoy, after the jump.
'94 An easily conversion by Totti, and that's the game. What a horrible way to finish. Australia's hearts are ripped out, after being the better side, and another terrible officiating performance has ruined yet another World Cup game. Someone tell Sepp Blatter that his officiating has ruined this tourney, and it's bound to get worse.
And Marcelo Balboa, I hope someone directs you to these comments, because saying it's the defender's fault for sliding—and not the ref's fault for a bullshit call—is utterly inexcusable. You're a defender yourself! Or at least you were. That comment, compounded with thousands of horrible sayings and phrases you have made over the last month sum up your presence as an awful, terrible commentator. I hope you and Dave O'Brien get jumped by a bunch on renegade Socceroos fans tonight, who will shame you and dress you up like Dutch hookers, then parade you around Kaiserslautern while whipping you with a torque wrench. You are a terrible announcer! You should never say that about defending! You know better, you stupid piece of sh*t.
My heart goes out to the Aussies, who were the better team today, and did not deserve that awful call. Horrid. And now I have to go to work. Peace, CliffX is finito.
93' It's a terrible, horrid penalty call by Corroso, who sells a dive and wins the penalty in the box. Balboa becomes the official anti-Christ by praising Corroso for selling the dive. FUCK YOU MARCELO. FUCK OFF AND DIE.
Totti to take the pk. LOL.
93' NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!! NOOOOOOOO, NOO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO!!!!!!!
92' Too many Italians in the box for Australia to penetrate. Ooo, that sounded dirty. But then Australia competely knock out the counter-attack.
89' Aloisi tries a crazy bicycle kick, but misses the ball completely. In a hilarious moment, Viduka cries out for a penalty, although nobody touched his partner! Three minutes stoppage time, then another yellow after that on Zambrotta for dissent. It was probably deserved.
88' Almost a wrestling match on the left side, and no call. That's actually a good thing. Now there's something fighting between Aloisi and Perotta. Gennaro Gattuso ends up with a yellow card, a result of the foul on Bresciano. Very tense, I'm sure. I wish that could be conveyed more on the broadcast.
87' Close-range shot is stopped. The ball is tussle around in the Aussie box, and Italy's eventual shot is right at Schwarzer. Pretty wild.
86' Buffon stops a good cross, and Aloisi is working very hard to create up front. Will it be too little, too late?
84' On a side note, I'd recommend Prozac. Bresciano takes his umpteenth shot, too high. Balboa's right in saying Australia needs to put up more pressure, I worry extra time would be a resurgance for the Italians.
82' Buffon kicks the ball. I'm begging for a goal now.
81' TOO HIGH! A fine Cahill header is too strong. Substitution: Alosi on, Sterjolski off. Atmosphere is quite intense in the stadium.
80' Another great Australian effort gives them a corner. C'mon Aussies!!!
79' Flop, Totti, flop! LOL. He wins a free kick in midfield because I hate him so.
77' Just a word here: if we end up going into extra time, I'll have to leave you in Jason's hands because of work. Don't worry, he's a nice boy. A tad demented, but very nice. The cameras finally show what Guus Hiddink looks like, but still don't identify his name. Another good shot from Bresciano, and yet another save from the world-class Buffon.
76' Aussies control on the ball, but it doesn't matter, Totti's playing. LOL. An Italian guy kicks the ball back to Buffon, and Viduka almost steals it from the mistake. Shot by Italy blocked by those darn Aussies.
74' Dale Chipperfield plays it on the left, but he's well defended. And guess what..........HERE COMES TOTTI. His big frame and nose replace Del Piero, keeping the attacking scheme the same. The Italian fans go crazy. Yay. Totti. LOL.
73' BORING. DAMMIT. PUT IN TOTTI. LOL.
71' I know he's got producers talking in his ear, but Dave: it's not all that important that Australia is ranked 44th in the world. I don't care. Really, and my opinion is the only one that matters, seeing as Maddox probably isn't a fan of soccer. Harsh foul, no card, Aussies control.
69' Cullina (an Italian last name playing for Australia) chips in, too high. The referee easily misses some Italian dude sending the ball into touch. Pathetic. Foul and free kick in midfield, Italy.
68' Oaky, so I realize I've been spelling Sterjolski wrong. It's not "Stoyowski", it's "Sterjolski." Just call me Peter Gammons because I caught my mistake.
66' Del Piero gets a great freekick tipped over by Schwarzer. Bresciano tries to control on the other side, but slips and the attack for Australia is thwarted. I like that word, thwarted.
65' A BUNCH OF HARRIER JETS HAVE JUST FLOWN IN!!!! CLOWNS, TINY MIDGET CLOWNS, ARE PARACHUTING INTO THE STADIUM!!!! OH NOES!!! THE ANIMAL LIBERATION FRONT HAS SHOWN UP!!!! THEY'RE SETTING FIRE TO THE PITCH, JUST BECAUSE!!!!!!!!!!!!!
63' Jason thinks Paul Konero should be put in, but that might backfire against the Australians. Gattuso has a great break and crosses to Del Piero, but it's over his head and rolls into touch. On the other side, Stoyowlski wins a corner.
60' Great cross by Stoyowlski, but it hits Viduka's hand. Tough break, but I truly feel the Aussies are on the cusp of victory. Meanwhile, Wilkshire gets a yellow card, partly in thanks to Del Piero (the guy he fouled) acting like a huge wuss on the pitch. What a tool.
59' NEAR GOAL! Dale Chipperfield hits an amazing turn-and-shoot, and Buffon stops it AGAIN. It's clash of the titans, baby: Gianluigi Buffon vs. DALE F'N CHIPPERFIELD.
58' Italian free kick is well off. You should've put in Totti, yo. YOU SHOULD'VE PUT IN TOTTI!
56' Substitution: Barzagli on, Toni off. That's a mistake. Toni was your best chance, pal. BRING ON TOTTI! LOL.
53' How many comments has this blog gotten so far? Six? Seven? Severe case of the Mondays. At least we have Unsilent Majority here to protect us from all evil. Faquita (the substitute) tries a shot but it's way off.
52' It's a great kick, but a couple of feet to the right. The stadium is buzzing right now.
50' HOLY COW! UNCALLED FOR RED CARD!!! Materrazzi gets involved in a crazy tackle near the Aussie penalty box, and I'll tell you what, that may not even be a yellow card. Huge decision by the ref. Cahill got a yellow earlier, and now it's a big free kick for Bresciano.
47' Once again, slow, midfield play. Geez. Jason notes that somehow his XM satellite radio feed of this game is about ten seconds slower than the TV feed. Weird as heck. Comment from Jason: I don't know who they have doing the broadcasting, sometimes the crazy British guys from ABC I think, but they do a decent job on some games, although they spend a lot of time talking about random events in the game, a lot of speculating, and a lot of time watching their hands. At least there's no Dave O'Brien.
46' Second half is underway. Substitute for Italy: DI CANIO IS COMING!!!! naw, just kidding, some big buy wearing number 9.
45' I just noticed, Will could neither find a cute Italian nor Australian to pick a favorite for the game. Perhaps that explains the slower first half.
IT'S THE HALF-TIME HAPPY SHOW, WITH JASON!!!!!
DINGO TOOK MY BOOOORRRINNNNNNG
ITALY CANT STOP THE SOCCERROOOOOOOS
AUSTRALIA IS STUCK IN PESTO SAUCE
OCEANIC AIRLINES CRASHES OFF THE ITALIAN COAST AND NO ONE CARES
I wonder if the australians could form a mafia syndicate, perhaps based upon
debtor colonies. They'd have a big following in Georgia.
Really, I got nothing except the Aussies should put in Skoko pronto. At least that way I can hear funny names and laugh at cultures different from my own. LOL SKOKO!!1111.
Don't forget to always buy American. The power of Christ compels you to vote Constitution party.
He better be making me a delicious sandwich.
45'+stoppage: Only some midfield possession for Italy, and that's the first half, very quiet, very encouraging for the Australians. I'm quite surprised they haven't mentioned Guus Hiddink's name in this broadcast.
44' Absolutely nothing happens. The game is vgery competitive, but it's deadlocked in the middle for the most part. There's a good cross by Aussie punched away by Buffon, I suppose there's that. One minute stoppage time.
43' Del Piero taps out! He taps out! That's what Dave O'Brien says. Sorry, channeling my WWF days there.
40' Good free kick by Italy easily stopped by Schwarzer. Toni then tries to bring the ball forward, but he's tackled very harshly, and writhes in pain on the ground. He'll be okay, though, he's Italian.
39' ESPN does well in showing actual Australian fans in Sydney, Australia, instead of going to the Virgin Megastores in LA. Kudos. The Italian fans are getting very frustrated, booing and whistling their team's efforts.
37' Foul on Grosso. Balboa says no, I say shut up.
36' Long ball for Italy is too long, game beginning to slow down again. Although now I'd say both teams are pretty even. PUT IN TOTTI! HE'S A GOD! LOL.
34' TONI DANZA! He gets into the box again and sends a point blank header just over the goal. He's the Azzuri's bright spot thus far. Buffon has played well, too.
32' The Australians are too cautious with their bal handling, and hey give it away. Italy proceeds to do what Australia just did, and then they give it away. Almost a fast-break for Viduka, but it's snuffed out. Then Toni takes another great shot, but Dale Chipperfield, fast becoming a favorite for me, blocks the shot.
31' Italians are putting on a stereotypical defend-and-counter show at this point, and I guarantee you, if they keep it up, they'll pay for it dearly.
29' Gross takes out a player on an Aussie breakaway and gets the yellow for it. Bresciano takes the free kick...and Dale Chipperfield almost scores a goal! Buffon is there to put it away. Douchebag Davey calls the free kick a "Beckham-style" one. I want to kill him, hump him, and eat his fucking costume, just wait.
28' An Aussie cross is too high, and Viduka can't chase it down. He's working very hard so far today.
25' Del Piero surprisinigly easily loses possession, but the Italinas keep fighting. Eventually the Aussies can head back to Schwarzer. ESPN admits wrong intelligence and it was Grella, not Chippefield, who got this mysterious yellow card.
24' Viduka is close again! His header is right at Buffon though. Pace of the game is picking up.
22' Several great displays. Viduka does some fancy footwork in front of the Italian goal, but he's thwarted. On the other side, Toni spins around and fires a cracker at goal, but Schwarzer saves again with his feet. Dale Chipperfiled gets a yellow card in the midst of all the excitement. Dave the douchebag has no comment.
21' GREAT CHANCE! Gilardino (for Italy) cracks a very high kick towards goal, and Schwarzer tips it over the net. Good stuff. Hey, does anyone know of any animals native to Italy? We're trying to find a contrast to the kangeroo.
20' Now the announcers speculate about Totti's fitness. This is why you have a PREGAME SHOW to discuss these kinds of things.
19' Schwarzer comes out of his goalto quell an Azzurri attack. Dave tries to be funny by mentioning how no one's been carded yet. And I almost got twenty minutes in without calling Dave a douchebag. Oh well.
17' Alessandro Del Piero is called offside. You know what? He's one of Juventus' greatest players ever, and we've barely heard a peep out of him in this World Cup. Even in the US game. Interesting. Counterattack for the Aussies bodes well, throw-in coming.
15' I know you're waiting for me to write something fun, but I just can't. It's a very conventional game rigth now. Free kick Australia.
14' Clear foul on the right, but a quick restart for Italy is ill-advised, as a goal kick results. Totti wouldn't have done that. LOL.
11' It's worth mentioning at some time in this match that I have tremendous amounts of respect for the Aussie coach, Guus Hiddink. What he's done for football on a world scale cannot be underestimated. Italians get a good attack into the box, but the final shot is blocked Chipperfield. We're calling him Dale Chipperfield from now on.
9' Foul on Bresciano for Aussies, free kick in the middle. NOW the fans are starting to yell, and they sound like Australian voices. Good stuff.
8' And for your non-shocker, Marcelo informs us that Totti's not starting! I'm not shocked...he's not all that great. Give me Kaka or even Patrick Vieira 9 times out of 10.
6' Of the three games I've blogged, this certainly has the most inauspiscious start. It sounds very quiet in Kaiserslautern today, with neither side being all that aggressive. Jason (my bad and doomed lover) says the Aussies have a player named "Skoko" who needs to be put in immediately so we can cheer for him. I concur.
4' Viduka plays well on the left, another corss, but that Italian defense is tough.
3' Oh, hey, Gattuso did get the start after all! Glad I got that. A near goal from Cattoni...but his header is just wide.
1' Some technical difficulties warp us right into play. The Aussies make some nifty moves on the wing, controlling well to start. A cross finds a striker's head, but the shot is off target.
0' The players come out looking like pedophiles once again, in lieu of the national anthems being played. I get stuck with Dave and Marcy again. Why can't I get the guys that did yesterday's England match? They knew what was up. Anyways, the cable link goes bad for ESPN, so no national anthems, after all.
A final word on the US performance in the World Cup (and after this, no one on Deadspin's allowed to talk about it):
Above all else, we must remember the fact that Group E was meant to be a very challenging group, complete with three world-class goalkeepers and several internationally renowned superstars. Only Group F was more difficult, with Argentina, Holland, and the highly competitive Ivory Coast all lunging at each other's throats. We were supposed to be the Ivory Coast of our group, a clear underdog but still a dangerous team you really didn't want any part of. Unfortunately, that notion fell apart within five minutes against the Czech Republic, browbeating our side from the start and making our attackers highly uncomfortable throughout the match. When the dust settled, and as the Czechs looked something like a juggernaut and Thomas Rosicky seemed destined to become the nation's next Pavel Nedved, our team seemed to become exposed as undersized, timid, and doomed to repeat their 32nd place finish in the '98 World Cup. This is the immediate impression you, I, Eric Wynalda, the News of the World, and President Bush all gained after watching that dreadful game.
So if you expected the USA to even get a result against Italy a couple Saturdays ago, you're kidding yourself. I certainly didn't, writing as much in my live blog of the game. If we couldn't penetrate the Czech's unknown defenders how could we get through Nesta, Zaccardo and Cannavaro? And if Nedved was unlucky not to get a goal himself against us, what would alleged soccer god Totti pull out of his sleeve?
But this was not meant to be; our team felt feistier and hungrier than it had. It played with the sense of urgency fans immediately demand from their teams right from their first game (the Germans pulled this off the best). Keller proved why he's still such a prized teammate at 36 years old, McBride went down as a bloodied hero afterwards, just in time for his birthday. Above all, a renewed sense of faith was restored in American fans, and the next Thursday in Nuremburg would be the final revival of US soccer, one last victory before playing Brazil and getting our asses handed to us in several ways.
This renewed hope became Bruce Arena's biggest enemy, and after the US disappointingly lost 2-1 to a much more passionate Ghana side, Wynalda vehemently lashed out on him, placing the blame squarely on his shoulders and sub-textually calling for his firing.
I'll say this about Eric Wynalda: he's a soccer legend, his goal against Switzerland in '94 was awesome, and it's truly a good thing to see commentators finally speak their minds without censure or hamming it up, a la Stephen A. Smith, Woody Paige or Skip Bayless. But I feel his shaming of Arena was uncalled for. Without Arena there wouldn't have been the expectations the US team was facing in the first place. Arena has found success at every level of competition, his tactics in the 2002 World Cup a display of brilliance. Arena's done too much in terms of organization and training, he's given too much to the national team's cause to receive this kind of treatment.
If there's one thing Arena can definitely be blamed for, it was his insistence of the 4-5-1 formation, which left McBride too often isolated and kept the US in limbo until Eddie Johnson would finally get subbed in after sixty minutes. Even so, I can't fault Arena's plan, considering he expected his midfield not to suck. Landon Donovan's performance at this Cup will go down as one of the great mysteries of life, especially when factoring in all the great goals he's made for the national team, including the one against Mexico in 2002. Maybe he has gone soft; maybe LA and his hot B-actor girlfriend have become too appealing, or maybe he just really can't stomach the food in Germany. But whatever the reason, the man who looks like Michael Ballack in MLS struggles time and again on US soil. Perhaps Arena should have sent a message to him in the Czech game and subbed him out, but that would have been a pretty unbelievable moment in itself. It was sink or swim with #21 all the way, and the coach is not to blame for the player's timidity.
DaMarcus Beasley's work on the wing confounds me even more. This guy plays for PSV Eindhoven! He plays in the Champion's League every season! What the hell happened??? He had one great cross to Clint Dempsey, but otherwise, forget it. Flat-out FORGET IT. Very upsetting performance, especially from a guy who saw him play out of his mind against Mexico in Columbus this past September. There were other culprits too; after reading so much about Oguchi Onyewu, his performance felt like a big letdown, and Eddie Pope never really got comfortable playing out there.
(Although that's not his entire fault, is it, Jorge Larrionda? The officiating of this World Cup is another rant worthy of an investigation by the New York Times. First it was Larrionda disrupting a great game, then it was Onyewu's non-penalty, then it was Graham Poll issuing three yellow cards to a Croatian player, and yesterday it was some Russian guy handing out SIXTEEN YELLOW CARDS, along with four send-offs. I didn't see Portugal play the Netherlands, but it doesn't take a hard-core soccer fan to understand that if the game has a better referee, it's a completely different contest. There are many reasons for the US and Dutch falling short of their goals, and the officiating isn't an insignificant part of that.)
All things considered, however, the US team looked outplayed for the majority of the 270 minutes they shared on the pitch in Germany. The cause, I believe, is because of the weaker competition these guys often face in CONCACAF and MLS. There are two ways we can improve upon this:
#1 Increase the level of difficulty in international friendlies and non-World Cup tournaments (outside of qualifying, of course).
#2 Send our boys over to the big leagues in Europe.
The first point is more difficult to achieve. There is the Gold Cup, but outside of weakened Brazil teams, the only true competition in those games has been Mexico, whom no one can beat in Estadio Azteca. There's also the Confederations Cup, but you have to win the Gold Cup a certain year to be invited to that, and the US missed out on the most recent tourney (in 2005 in Germany). Perhaps if there was some way to hold an intercontinental tournament between the best teams from CONCACAF and CONMEBOL—now that would be interesting. Plus the prospect of the US facing the best from Argentina and Brazil would garner national attention during the non-World Cup intervals.
Of course, the logistics of that are very difficult to pull off, so let's say "the hell with it" and send people to Europe, now. Send Freddy Adu to Newcastle United. Send Dempsey to a London club like West Ham so he can terrorize midfields and have photos of him in drunken make-out sessions appear in the Sun. Send Jimmy Conrad and Onyewu to the Bundesliga so they can toughen up. Send Donovan to Sweden so he'll ditch his girlfriend in lieu of infinitely hotter women and learn to be more creative with the ball. Adu noted on PTI that Europe is his next step, as soon as he's ready, and he's got the right idea, unlike most of the US team. Do that, and in 2010 the US team will emerge stronger, more in tune with the competitiveness of the game, and capable of reaching the knockout phases of the Cup. A better draw would help things, too.
On a final note, if we're this mad about our team, how do you think Czech fans are feeling? There's more than one heartbreak in Group E.
Rant done: ON WITH THE GAME!!
Starting players for the Azzurri:
D Not di Rossi
M Um, Totti
M Rocky Balboa
M Steven Balboa
S Paulo di Canio (which would be evil and awesome simultaneously if it were true)
S Some very liberal person
Starting players for the Socceroos:
G Paul Hogan
D Nick Hogan
D Ted Hogan
D Hulk Hogan
D Terry Hogan
M Greg Norman
M Nicholas Kidman
M The Tasmanian Devil
M Mark Viduka
S Tim Cahill
S Doesn't matter, Cahill's better
Harry Kewell will probably be used as a sub. Probably.
By the way, I went to bed thinking an upset was imminent, and I have awoken with those same feelings. So we'll see. Email me at CliffX5@gmail.com if you need to complain.