Where does the ‘Group of Death’ escape rank in US World Cup history?

1 Comment

With at least one more date left in the 2014 World Cup, where does the performance of the United States currently slot when ranked with the nation’s previous output at the world’s biggest tournament?

This is the United States’ 10th tournament and, while there’s room for improvement, let’s see where we should consider the accomplishment of escaping Group G.

10. France 1998 — Tasked with a group including Germany, Yugoslavia and Iran, the Yanks went out and promptly lost all three matches. That featured a 2-1 loss to Iran which found the States only goal of the tournament coming in the 87th minute from Brian McBride. Bad things, man. Bad things.

9. Italy 1934 — You might think a “one-and-done” where the States got smashed 7-1 by Italy is worse than France 1998, but reading up on the tournament makes you feel like if there was ever a fixed champion, it was these hosts under Benito Mussolini.

[ RELATED: Top five US performers during Group G play ]

[ RELATED: Three things we learned from USA-Germany ]

[ RELATED: Convinced? Klinsmann’s personnel moves keyed US advance ]

8. Germany 2006 — In another tough group, with Ghana, Italy and the Czech Republic, the Yanks did manage a draw against 10-man Italy. But remember, the US was coming off a quarterfinal run in 2002 and opened the tourney with a 3-0 beatdown by the Czechs.

7. Italy 1990 — With due respect to tournaments where the States did earn a point or more, this was the US first tourney in four decades and — after a 5-1 thumping from Czechoslovakia — the group settled in for a respectable 1-0 loss to the hosts and a 2-1 loss to Austria. Could’ve been way worse.

source: Getty Images6. South Africa 2010 — The group was branded “England Algeria Slovenia Yanks” by the English press, and the US still barely made its way out. Given a gift by English goalkeeper Rob Green, the Yanks needed Michael Bradley heroics to draw Slovenia — sorry Maurice Edu — before needing Landon Donovan’s stoppage time goal to get them by Algeria and into the group’s top spot… which they failed to use to their advantage in a match-up against Ghana instead of Germany (who beat England 4-1). Fun tournament, but not even top-half material because…

5. Brazil 1950 — the Yanks punked England!! After years of not participating, the Three Lions arrived and were expected to dominate the field. In the States’ last World Cup for 40 years, the Americans opened with a 3-1 loss to Spain. But then came “The Game of Their Lives“, where a hearse driver and bunch of non-professional players beat England 1-0. A final 5-2 loss to Chile stings the overall ranking but the US beat their forefathers’ fathers. Not too shabby.

4. USA 1994 — Yes, hosting helps most teams and they needed an ultimately-tragic own goal to get their only win of the tournament, but the Yanks made it out of the group with a draw against Switzerland. The third-place group performance kept them above fellow No. 3 finishers Russia and South Korea, and the States held Brazil into the 72nd minute before a Bebeto goal eliminated them. Brazil won the tournament, and it was just the States’ second back on the stage after a 40-year absence.

3. Brazil 2014 — Bear with me here: the States were given a 36 percent chance to get out of the group, and did it. They exorcised some World Cup demons by beating Ghana in thrilling fashion. They drew Portugal, outplaying the No. 4 ranked team in the world — fair ranking or not — before conceding a late equalizer from a Cristiano Ronaldo cross. They were thoroughly outplayed in losing to Germany 1-0 but have emerged to the Round of 16. Is that better than barely escaping Group E.A.S.Y. and failing to beat Ghana in 2010? We think, “Yes.”

2. Uruguay 1930 — A splendid later tournament and the fact that this was the first World Cup conspire to keep the Yanks’ third-place finish out of our top spot. The US used four goals from Bert Patenaude to spring 3-0 wins over Belgium and Paraguay before being knocked out, 6-1, by Argentina en route to being awarded third thanks to either:

A) Yugoslavia refusing a third-place game.

or

B) FIFA ranking the US performance as superior.

1. South Korea/Japan 2002 — This quarterfinal run was magical, starting with the 3-2 upset of Portugal to set the States up for a knockout round run. The real glory, however, came in the match that relegates a third-place finish to the second-best tournament: beating Mexico “dos-a-cero” to send El Tri out of the tournament. If only 20-year-old Landon Donovan could finish and HOW WAS TORSTEN FRINGS ALLOWED TO HANDLE A BALL ON THE GOAL LINE?!?!?!?!?

Agree? Disagree? Think beating England should be No. 1? And what would it take to propel the 2014 into the Top Two?

UCL wrap: Barcelona, PSG roll; Dzeko scores stunner (video)

Tim Goode/PA via AP
Leave a comment

There were a few more zeroes on the board in Wednesday’s UEFA Champions League action, but that doesn’t mean the day failed to entertain by any stretch of the imagination.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Chelsea and Roma staged a slugfest at Stamford Bridge, while PSG and Barcelona saw its stars shining, and Jose Mourinho orchestrated another away defensive masterclass for Manchester United.

Chelsea 3-3 RomaRECAP

There’s a lot to say about this one. Chelsea goes up 2-0 through solid goals from David Luiz and Eden Hazard, but finds itself down and needs another Hazard goal to rescue a point.

But this goal, one of two from Edin Dzeko, is why we watch this wonderful sport. Aleksandar Kolarov also scored and had an assist as ex-Man City men came to play at Stamford Bridge.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester UnitedRECAP

The perfect road match, more or less, though United scored its lone goal thanks to goalkeeper error. Marcus Rashford took the free kick that was carried across the goal line, and United completed more than 500 passes to double Benfica’s output at the Estadio da Luz.

Barcelona 3-1 Olympiacos

It’s not much of a surprise to see Barca triumph at home over Greek opposition. An own goal joined Lucas Digne and this historic Lionel Messi marker to build a 3-0 lead at the Camp Nou.

Anderlecht 0-4 Paris Saint-Germain

In case you think PSG cannot make a run this year, consider its list of goal scorers on Wednesday: Kylian Mbappe, Angel Di Maria, Neymar, and Edinson Cavani.

Elsewhere
Qarabag 0-0 Atletico Madrid
Juventus 2-1 Sporting Lisbon
CSKA Moscow 0-2 Basel
Bayern Munich 3-0 Celtic

Mourinho: Tactics involved targeting young Benfica backstop

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho knew that promising Benfica backstop Mile Svilar would be facing some big nerves.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and Mourinho instructed his Red Devils to challenge the backstop at every turn.

[ RECAP: Benfica 0-1 Man Utd ]

That paid off when Svilar carried Marcus Rashford‘s free kick into the goal, the lone marker of a 1-0 loss that keeps United atop Group A and Benfica three points behind second- and third place.

“I knew how good the goalkeeper was, I told the players that. We had a little bit of a strategy, especially on set-pieces to make him uncomfortable. We put men around him on corners so he cannot come out. He risks a lot, but only top keepers do that. He was unlucky for the goal,” Mourinho said.

Svilar looked dejected after the game, apologizing to fans at the Estadio da Luz and getting consolation from a fellow Belgian in Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku.

Nemanja Matic laid out United’s strategy a bit more, from the BBC:

“The manager said to us to try and shoot and get some crosses towards their goalkeeper because he is young and playing in his first game. This is football and I know he is a great goalkeeper and I wish him well for the future.

“We had control, some difficulties in the first 30 minuets but then we controlled the pitch. We used our experience. We could not find the second goal but did not make any mistakes at the back.”

Rashford limped out of the game, and Mourinho says he initially thought it was cramps. Instead, it’s a problem with his left knee. Simon Peach of the Press Association quotes Mourinho as hoping the injury is not bad.

United completed more than 500 passes, doubling Benfica’s production. Some have been critical of Mourinho’s penchant to play it safe, and he winked at them after the match in calling his tactics “a crime.”

“We were in control, David De Gea did not have one save to make. I never felt we could concede a goal and were solid defensively. Sometime I feel being good defensively is a crime, but that is a way of getting results.”

Chelsea 3-3 Roma – Thrills at the Bridge

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
Leave a comment
  • Luiz, Hazard put Chelsea up 2-0
  • Kolarov, Dzeko brace flip lead
  • Hazard nabs equalizer
  • U.S. U-20 mid Scott on bench for Chelsea

Eden Hazard scored twice as Chelsea overcame the sacrifice of a 2-0 lead and the Blues drew AS Roma 3-3 at Stamford Bridge in UEFA Champions League action on Wednesday.

David Luiz also scored for Chelsea. Ex-Man City men Edin Dzeko and Aleksandar Kolarov starred for Roma, with Dzeko scoring twice and Kolarov adding a goal and an assist.

Chelsea has seven points to lead Group C, two more than Roma and five ahead of third-placed Atletico Madrid. The sides will meet again in Rome on Halloween.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Luiz started the scoring with a delightful strike. Call it a second bite at the proverbial apple if you must, but then admit he sunk his teeth into it.

Eden Hazard made a darting run to double Chelsea’s lead, but Kolarov pulled Roma within one with a deflected strike past Thibaut Courtois.

Diego Perotti curled a shot that hardly troubled Courtois in the 63rd minute, the Chelsea keeper just leaving his feet collect it.

Dzeko and Chelsea’s Andreas Christensen (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)

Then the former Man City striker struck again, seeing a long diagonal ball over his shoulder and whizzing a perfect left-footed volley through the flailing arms of Courtois.

Dzeko then made a late move before a Kolarov free kick to lose his mark and nod home a go-ahead goal.

It wasn’t over, as Hazard found his way to space and a cross from Pedro.

The Belgian headed his chance beyond a diving Alisson, and it was 3-3 with 15 minutes to play.

American-English midfielder Kyle Scott did not make his Chelsea bow. The 19-year-old has represented England at the U-16 level and the U.S. at the U-18 and U-20 levels.

Benfica 0-1 Manchester United: Match-winner Rashford injured

AP Photo/Armando Franca
Leave a comment
  • No shots on goal for Benfica
  • United puts four on frame
  • Man Utd out-passes Benfica 522-237.

Marcus Rashford scored the lone goal of the match, then limped off injured in Manchester United’s 1-0 win over Benfica in UEFA Champions League action at the Estadio da Luz on Wednesday.

United is close to wrapping up a knockout round berth with the win, leading Basel by three points, CSKA Moscow by six, and Benfica by nine.

Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho got his managerial start at Benfica when he replaced now-Bayern Munich boss Jupp Heynckes in 2000.

[ MORE: Landon Donovan, USSF prez? ]

Rashford’s free kick from the left fooled young Benfica backstop Mile Svilar.

The 18-year-old was making his UEFA Champions League debut, and was caught out of goal.

While retreating toward his end line, his two-handed catch carried him and the ball into the goal despite the efforts of his outstretched paws.