Update, 4:25 p.m.: Post-Mortem: USA 1-1 England. Huge day for American soccer, getting the big upset of England. Most of the chatter won’t (well, shouldn’t) be about the Americans, though: the English gave away this game, which they had totally controlled, when Robert Green let an easy shot trickle past him in what will probably be the biggest howler of the whole World Cup. Fabio Capello certainly didn’t help his case in England, with the constant switching and losses of confidence; indecision and insecurity in the goal and at various positions made England seem uncertain and tentative at times. The US deserves serious credit for keeping Rooney off the board, though the center defenders looked a bit shaky for most of the match. Luck was on the USA’s side, though, and in a lot of cases that’s all that really matters.
Man of the Match: Tim Howard. Singlehandedly kept England from scoring three, maybe four goals. Fantastic play from the American keeper.
1:10 p.m.: We’re back: after the fantastic showing at the Confederations Cup, the US Soccer team will take the field today with a team first mentality. Landon Donovan, arguably the best player to ever come out of the USA, confidently predicted that, while England may have a better team “talent-wise,” the US has the best camaraderie, the best team spirit in the entire tournament. If the US can channel that spirit, Donovan said, “forget about England, we can beat anyone in this tournament.” Let’s hope he’s right.
1:15 p.m.: Of course, he also said that “even if we do play like that, they still could come out and beat us because of their talent.” And remember, a huge percentage of teams that lose the first game don’t go on to make the second round.
1:27 p.m.: Some random questions and story-lines surrounding today’s match: how will John Terry deal with losing the captaincy in his first World Cup match since he was stripped of the title because of his off the field indiscretions; will Edison Buddle be in the starting lineup, and if so will he continue his incredible form (he scored twice against Australia); will the Americans be able to piss Wayne Rooney off enough to make him punch someone/assault someone–or, conversely, will he make the Americans pay?
1:31 p.m.: Another thing to remember: 13 American players have played in England at some point. They won’t be intimidated or surprised by the mighty English.
1:45 p.m.: STARTING LINEUPS
England: 4-4-2: Green; Johnson, Terry, King, A. Cole; Lennon, Lampard, Gerrard, Milner; Heskey, Rooney.
USA: Howard; Cherundolo, DeMerit, Onyewu, Bocanegra; Donovan, Bradley, Clark, Dempsey; Findley, Altidore.
No Buddle! So that answers one of the previous questions, but he could still be a big impact player off the bench. Findley has been leading the attack for Real Salt Lake in the MLS, and he’s a strong presence up front. He hasn’t played against the big European defenders professionally, so we’ll see how he measures up. He was tied for 3rd best in goals in the MLS with Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel, among others.
Bigger news, though, could be Capello’s choice to start West Ham’s Robert Green over Portsmouth’s David James in goal; maybe he’s trying to make up for the USA’s obvious lead in talent at that position. Maybe.
2:10 p.m.: Pre-Game Chatter: ESPN just showed a whole montage of South African clips, decrying the end of apartheid, and how the team embodies the Mandela spirit. I get the feeling from all of this that ESPN, and I guess FIFA more generally, is trying really hard to make this tournament feel African. In doing that it seems to take away from the “African-ness” of the tournament itself; with tons of commercials decrying the African experience, and TV specials talking about how Africa has overcome huge odds, the whole thing seems like it has been bled of any “true” spirit. It doesn’t seem like “Africa’s World Cup,” but more like “FIFA’s World Cup in Africa.” And maybe that’s what it feels like because that’s what it is.
But then I hear the vuvuzelas, and well, I guess it is “African.” Not because of anything FIFA’s done though.
2:14 p.m.: 15 Minutes! Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell talking about the “great rivalry”; Marky Mark keeps referencing Boston-based sport rivalries. Awww, how cute. Oh, and Russel Brand was there too, talking up the English.
2:15 p.m.: Alexi Lalas predicts 2-1 USA; Ruud Gullit predicts 1-1. The English commentators, on the other hand, are all predicting a large English win. Should be fun to watch the game with the English commentators on an American sports network (ABC, with ESPN people). Civil War, anyone?
2:25 p.m.: Oh, man, here we go. Teams are in the tunnel, referees are chatting up front. Martin Tyler is talking up the Americans; the stadium looks beautiful. Well done, South Africa.
2:26 p.m.: Delfin Melero, of the Spanish daily Marca, likes the US in this match–his favorite player is Clint Dempsey, who he sees as better than Donovan, but with worse “marketing.”
2:27 p.m.: Oh, say can you see…
2:29 p.m.: LET’S GO from now on, time will be in game minutes.
Min 2: The Americans have come out fast, with more heart than skill. Good flick by Findley, with his first touch of the match.
4′) GOOOOOOOOALLLLLLLLLL. Gerrard capitalizes on a beautiful pass through the middle from Heskey. Great, quick play from England. Nothing Tim Howard could do about that. England 1-0 USA.
5′) Gerrard shows again how dangerous he is running in through the middle. If he keeps playing like that, this could be a long game.
8′) Goddamnit. Good play along the right wing for the states, followed by a dangerous foul in favor of England.
10′) Great header from Dempsey, good chance on the cross there for the USA. They look like they want to strike quickly, to get the goal back. All this possession leaves us open to a counter-attack–and Rooney is really dangerous in that capacity. Corner to USA after a great run from Findley.
12′) Three corners in a row for the states. Good defense from Gerrard.
13′) Damnit. Big moment for the USA there, with a player totally unmarked in the top of the area. Couldn’t capitalize. Our D looks a bit nervous, as they finally clear a ball to Green.
15′) Gerrard is everywhere. Great tackle on the left flank to slow down a US counter-attack.
17′) Our set plays look good. The Americans are a dangerous team in the air, and we’d do well to keep trying; the USA’s pushing the ball really well.
18′) UUUUUUYYYYYYYY! Amazing cross from Donovan, and both Altidore and Dempsey miss the volley. Yikes.
19′) WATCH OUT! England pushing hard up the right through Aaron Lennon, the cross is deflected beautifully in the back. Looks like Lennon could’ve shot though… And Howard scoops up Rooney’s drive from deep.
21′) England’s playing classic Cappello-style football. Organized, strong defending, with powerful, quick counter-attacks. The USA needs to be especially heady of their power on the break.
24′) The US’s attacks look narrow–we’re trying to punch the ball through the middle; the US needs to find Donovan and Dempsey on the wings to start making things happen. When we’ve done that we tend to put balls on goal.
26′) Yellow Card for James Milner for repeat infringements. Big free kick for the US.
27′) “Gooch” puts a head on it, but it doesn’t bother Green.
28′) Scary counter-attack from England; Aaron Lennon looks really dangerous today. Corner to England; the US defense looks nervous, as Tim Howard is injured on a courageous play. Ouch.
29′) Howard’s still down. Get up Tim!
30′) Shaun Wright-Phillips comes on for James Milner, who has the Yellow Card, as Tim Howard stands up. Good news there.
33′) I’m gonna say this again: our D looks confused, disorganized. Onyewu and Demerit really need to talk this out, make sure they know what’s going on, because they look lost out there.
34′) Yikes. England looked really good on that last offensive set–Rooney would’ve been free in front of goal if Bradley hadn’t gotten his foot in at the last second.
38′) Good counter from the US, fast, well-played, ending in a wide shot from Landon. Better.
38′) Yellow Card to Cherundolo.
39′) GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLL!!!!!!!!! GOOOOOOAAAAALLLLL GOOOOAALLLLL GOOOOOAAALLLLL FOR DEMPSEY!! HOWLER!!!! Terrible misplay by the new keeper Green leads to a goal for Dempsey!!! Easy shot from the top of the area, Green lets it squirt under him.
40′) Well, maybe the early goal cleared our head offensively–the USA looks extremely strong on offense, holding possession, looking forwards. The US’s been a bit guilty of pushing through the middle, but it pays off for Clint.
44′) Great goal on the stroke of halftime–it’s very important for the US to keep England out before the half. Corner to England, could be the last play of the half. Three minutes of stoppage.
45+1) Offside on Heskey–good call, should be the half there.
45+3) HALFTIME. Great for the Americans so far, though our defense still looks weak–they’ve done a good job keeping Rooney out of the game, but seem confused on runs from the midfield and from the wing backs. Fantastic offensive half for both teams: England has looked really dangerous on counter-attacks and runs from the midfield and the wings; the Americans have had more possession, and look strong in the air. Chatter after the match, almost no matter what, will be about Green and the keeper problems for England–there might be cries for Capello’s head already, even though his team looks pretty good to me.
46′) Here we go! Demerit gets a Yellow Card for deliberately handling the ball.
48′) UUUYY. Lennon with a great run up the right flank, fantastic pace around Bocanegra, and the pass just misses Rooney. England looks strong in the early going.
50′) OFFSIDE. Rooney with a break, wasn’t offside; Heskey was. Lucky break for the States.
51′) TIM HOOOOOOOWARRRRD!!! Huge save on a big break from Heskey. Bad D for the United States, who got bailed out by Howard.
54′) Bad call against England–Heskey wasn’t offside. But good defense by Cherundolo to rob Wright-Phillips.
58′) England has come out stronger in the second half. Classic Capello, who’s famous for having teams that come out stronger in the second half than in the first. There’s enough for either team to win, though, so don’t go anywhere.
59′) Very rough foul from Carragher on Findley, got him right in the ankle–he’s lucky not to be injured. And immediately afterwards, a hard foul from Gerrard on Dempsey leads to a Yellow Card and a dangerous free kick for the states.
61′) OUTSIDEEEE. Threatening cross from Donovan, headed wide by Bocanegra; counter from England ends in a defensive header by Onyewu. The US needs to be aware of England’s power on the break.
64′) JOHNSON! Oh, man, Glen Johnson really missed that one, open in the box.
64′) ALTIDORE OFF THE POST!! SO CLOSE. Jozy missed by inches on a beautiful run down the wing and cut to the middle.
67′) Dangerous foul from Onyewu on Heskey. Lampard up to take the kick.
67′) Lampard, as seems to be his style in the World Cup, skies the free kick. Terrible effort from the Chelsea midfielder.
70′) Rooney finally shows up, but is dispossessed; almost perfect cross from Gerrard to Rooney on the back post, who was totally open. Just over his head–the US dodged a bullet on that one.
72′) Great game so far from the US wing backs–Cherundolo has been huge on the right, though Bocanegra has had his troubles with Aaron Lennon.
73′) Ugly challenge from Findley on Gerrard, Yellow Card.
74′) ROONEY! Almost catches Tim Howard sleeping on the back post from outside the area.
75′) WRIGHT-PHILLIPS! STOP BY HOOOOOOOWARD!!! Great from the American goalie. He’s putting on a clinic right now, with Rooney finding more space, and England pressing.
76′) Great cross from Gerrard, Heskey misses high.
77′) Buddle for Findley. Let’s see if his form carries over.
78′) England is really pressing here, but with more heart than skill–they clearly want the goal, but they need some more discipline (or some luck) to make the breakthrough. Let’s see if the US defense can hold up for the next ten to fifteen minutes.
78′) Peter Crouch on for Heskey.
81′) TERRIBLE ball movement from England’s defense. They’ve cooled down for now, but could explode on the break.
83′) Rough play from both sides, lots of whistles at this point.
84′) Big break from England there, looked really threatening, but “Gooch” got back well in support to get rid of the danger. Lampard looks like he missed one there, though.
85′) Rooney needs to stop complaining or he’ll see a Yellow.
86′) Altidore off, replaced by Stuart Holden. Jozy took a LONG time to get off the field–a bit of gamesmanship there, but he gets away with it.
88′) Two minutes, plus some change. We’ll see if the US will go for it, or if we’ll try to keep this level. Big two minutes for US Soccer.
89′) Corner for the USA…tick tock.
90′) 4 Minutes of Stoppage.
90+1) England’s throwing everyone up. Hold positions, boys.
90+2) Bad call against England there–clearly not offside. Tick tock…
90+3) Robert Green must feel awful right now… Tim Howard has been huge–my man of the match.
90+4) TIE GAME!!! USA 1-1 ENGLAND! FANTASTIC RESULT FOR THE AMERICANS!