AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

2016 Copa America draw: There is no group of death, USMNT will be fine

3 Comments

Let’s begin this week with the most flaming-hot of takes: the U.S. national team, as with nearly everything in life, is fine.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s USMNT coverage ]

It is unspectacular in just about every way imaginable — it is truly unspectacular and joyless of late — yet still reliable enough to qualify for the 2018 World Cup and once again send a nation of nearly 320 million into soccer delirium in 27 months’ time, just as it has done every four years for nearly three decades now.

In much the same fashion, Jurgen Klinsmann’s side remains just functional enough to not totally embarrass itself at the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

The draw for this summer’s tournament was conducted Sunday night — alongside the Yanks in Group A are Colombia, Paraguay and Costa Rica — and the Yanks were handed a totally manageable field for a CONCACAF giant like themselves. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they should be expected to advance from that group. Doing so only requires they be better than Paraguay and Costa Rica.

[ MORE: Christian Pulisic makes first Bundesliga start for Dortmund ]

Let’s break it down bit by bit: Colombia are really, really good — decidedly better than the USMNT — but must only be played once during the group stage; that Colombia are far and away the best side in Group A and not, say, Brazil or Argentina, is a massive assist for the hosting Americans. Paraguay are, like the USMNT, spectacularly unspectacular and on their very best day, South America’s seventh-best side. Costa Rica have won just four of their 13 competitive meetings with the USMNT this century, drawn three and lost six.

It could have been so much worse — Chile are the current Copa America holders and Uruguay possess some fellow named Luis Suarez; Jamaica are at present probably CONCACAF’s third- or — gasp — second-best side; and Peru are miles better than Paraguay, whom they brushed aside with ease in the third-place game at last year’s Copa.

[ MORE: The very latest on the Tim Howard-to-MLS rumors ]

If, as a soccer nation, the United States is suddenly terrified of Paraguay and Costa Rica, then Jurgen Klinsmann truly has broken our spirit, our hopes and our dreams, and replaced them with the kind of resignation to defeat that’s typically only suitable for fans of the Colorado Rapids and Chicago Fire.

This is not a “group of death,” as so many in the States were quick to dub it Sunday night. Truth is, the USMNT at present isn’t generally good enough to be anything more than the third- or fourth-best team in a real group of death (CONCACAF doesn’t have four teams capable of this, let alone six to fill out a four-group tournament with two seeded sides). See, the group of death implies an equally daunting test for all four teams in the group, not that it’s simply a tougher test than USMNT fans would have liked, or even that it’s “the toughest group” of the four.

It’s a challenge and an ideal litmus test halfway to the next World Cup, to be sure, but if we’re wetting ourselves over the prospect of needing to win four points from games against Paraguay and Costa Rica, on home soil, you’re really not going to enjoy the next World Cup.

AFCON wrap: Diaby’s sensational rip highlights trio of matches

(Photo by Ulrik Pedersen/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Leave a comment

The Africa Cup of Nations said hello to six more competitors on Monday, with a thrilling goal amongst the eight tallied across the competitions in Egypt.

[ MORE: Copa America roundup ]


Mali 4-1 Mauritania

Two different men named Adama Traore — neither of them the Wolves winger — joined Moussa Marega on the score sheet but it’s difficult to describe the class and small margins that defined the tournament’s goal of the day.

Sporting Lisbon’s Abdoulay Diaby somehow got this shot off through two defenders and into the upper reaches of the goal to open the scoring in the three-goal win for Mali, which is having some summer when you take into account the U-20 World Cup.

Ivory Coast 1-0 South Africa

There were only 13 total attempts in the game, and Aston Villa’s Jonathan Kodija scored the lone goal of a tournament opening win for Les Elephants.

Tunisia 1-1 Angola

A draw was probably fair, as Youssef Msakni’s first half penalty was met by Djalma Campos’ late goal to split the spoils in Group E.

Copa America roundup: Uruguay tops Chile; Full knockout bracket

AP Photo/Leo Correa
Leave a comment

Ecuador and Japan drew to allow Paraguay to sew up the final knockout round spot, sending Miguel Almiron and Co. into a match-up with Brazil.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

And Uruguay rode Edinson Cavani’s goal into the other side of the bracket, moving ahead of Chile in a tight match.

Ecuador 1-1 Japan

There was a lot to like in a match with 30-plus shots and the ultimate prize of a match-up with Brazil on Thursday in Porto Alegre.

Shoya Nakajima put the Asian side ahead a quarter-hour into the match, but Angel Mena provided an equalizer before halftime to put both sides in danger of failure to reach the knockout rounds.

Chile 0-1 Uruguay

Cavani scored for the second time this tournament as Uruguay claimed first place in Group A and a knockout round meeting with Peru.

Cavani’s deftly flicked header of a Jonathan Rodriguez pass pushed Uruguay above Chile, which had won both of its group matches and now meets Colombia on Friday.

Knockout round schedule

June 27
Brazil v. Paraguay

June 28
Venezuela v. Argentina
Colombia v. Chile

June 29
Uruguay v. Peru

July 2
Brazil/Paraguay v. Venezuela/Argentina
Colombia/Chile v. Uruguay/Peru

July 6
Third place playoff

July 7
Final

Norwich City adds Switzerland international Drmic on free transfer

Photo by TF-Images/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Norwich City has added a new star striker to a unit which produced 93 goals in the Championship last season.

Josip Drmic will join Swiss national teammate Timm Klose with the Canaries for the next three seasons, hoping to bring his Bundesliga and international experience to a Premier League safety campaign.

[ MORE: Johannsson to MLS? ]

Drmic turns 27 next month, and scored two goals in five appearances for Borussia Monchengladbach last season. He has 31 goals and seven assists in 107 Bundesliga appearances between Gladbach, Hamburger SV, Bayer Leverkusen, and Nurnberg.

Coach Daniel Farke got 30 goals from target forward Teemu Pukki, who plays a similar role to Drmic and has plenty of top flight experience with Celtic and Schalke amongst others.

Drmic can also operate on the wing, usually left over right, and has featured in both the 2014 and 2018 World Cup. From Canaries.co.uk:

“I’m going to do everything and give 100% on the pitch. I will be ready to give everything for the club. My job is scoring but I also want to help my team and help us be successful.

“When I first came to Norwich, the first thing I noticed was how kind everybody was. It’s given me a lot of positive energy and I’m excited to see what happens.”

Between Pukki and Drmic, Norwich can have faith that its well-prepared to have an answer up top.

Canada’s Beckie: Sinclair asked if I wanted to take penalty v. Sweden

Photo by Marcio Machado/Getty Images
2 Comments

Prolific forward Janine Beckie didn’t dodge cameras after her missed penalty helped seal Canada’s fate at the 2019 Women’s World Cup, and she also explained why legendary striker Christine Sinclair wasn’t at the spot.

Beckie, 24, scored two goals in Canada’s run to the bronze medal at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and the Houston Dash forward and Texas Tech product has 25 goals in 57 caps.

[ MORE: Sweden tops Canada ]

The American-born Beckie was called upon to try to level the score against Sweden on Monday in the Round of 16, and took a solid effort which was parried by Hedvig Lindahl in an outstanding bit of goalkeeping.

“I’m confident in my penalty,” Beckie said. “I thought I hit it really well. I thought she made a really good save. It’s the big moments. It’s the moments that you live for. You get all the glory if it goes in, and you take the blame it feels like if you miss. That’ll stay with me for a long time.”

So why was she at the spot? Here’s Beckie on TSN, and Sinclair’s confirmation of the tale. As we expected, Lindahl’s success against Sinclair at the Algarve Cup played a role.

“Christine actually asked me if I wanted to take it. That’s a big moment for me and it’s gonna be hard for a while.”

Full marks for stepping up to both places: The penalty spot and the post-match interview.