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USA 1 0 Algeria

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Match report here.

I watched in an English pub, which, given I am in England, I found somewhat difficult to avoid.  My local graciously put on the USA match on a smallish flat screen behind the bar (while the other screens in the pub were tuned to that other match).   I was proudly wearing my 2006 Landon Donovan top.

That was a very strange, surreal experience — everybody around me watching one game, me the other.  They have sound, I don’t. I had a semi compatriot with me, an MA student of mine who just returned to Devon after 20 years of living in the US.  His brother has worked for the USMNT for the past 15 years or so — the stories he told were entertaining.   However, on this day, he wore his England shirt over his USA shirt, but at least he paid some attention to the US match, and is very knowledgable about the players, the tactics etc.

By the 80th minute, I was convinced we were cursed.  We clearly needed to do something inhumane to a live rooster in order to lift the curse.  We had so many shots on goal, but nothing would go in for a variety of reasons (luck, hitting the post or the crossbar, their keeper played an excellent game, the ref blew a call, again, etc.).  With England a goal up, us drawing, we’d finish third in the group, and go out.

A good friend of mine, who lives in San Francisco, and I typically exchange a flurry of texts whenever the USMNT play during a tournament, and yesterday was no different.  His best came in around the 75th minute: “at this point I don’t care who it is, but someone in white needs to score.”  As Slovenia too were in white, had they drawn England, we’d have gone through.

The Donovan goal, in stoppage time, literally during the final seconds of the match, changed the entire group at once: before the
goal the table was 1. England, 2. Slovenia, 3. USA, 4. Algeria.  After the goal, 1. USA, 2. England, 3. Slovenia, 4. Algeria.  The USA edges out England for top of the group by a seldom-used tie-breaker: as they were level on both points and goal differential, it came down to goals scored.  The US had scored two more goals than England.

That one goal in the dying seconds of the match also moved the poor Slovenes from qualifying for the second round to ending their tournament.

It was a rare amazing sporting moment.  As England looked assured to progress by this point, more of the English were watching my little match.  When Donovan scored, bedlam ensued.  The English in my local wanted us to go through as well, and didn’t seem too concerned about finishing second in the group, at least until it became clear a few hours later that they would be facing Germany in the next round.

To quote my friend above again, this time writing in a different forum: “I challenge anyone who has any interest in and appreciation of sports not to be excited by the US match today. Absolutely amazing drama. I still can’t believe
we won. I still can’t believe we won the group.”

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