World Cup 2006: See, I told you it was the Group of Death

June 17, 2006

Okay, there are plenty of other places to read about the horror that is Jorge Larrionda so I won't go into any more detail than this:

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Today was a wild, wonderful, and often traumatic day of World Cup action in Group E. Now that my blood pressure has started to return to normal I can look back over the past few hours and rejoice that my country has, if not exactly triumphed, earned its berth in a group that promised great contests. When the original draw was done, things looked pretty bleak for us but we could take comfort in the fact that many looked to the grouping of Italy, the Czech Republic, Ghana, and the US as the toughest bracket to play in. That's a small sign of respect in a world where few would give it to us.

After the first matches, it looked like rumors of the Group of Death had been greatly exaggerated. Favorites Czech Republic and Italy won handily, with the US showing against the Czechs particularly miserable. Back to reality. Back to toiling in obscurity for four more years to earn another chance to get laughed off the international stage.

Today, all that changed. The US and Ghana were expected to lose again and the Czech Republic and Italy were expected to seal the deal on advancing to the second round.  In both cases, denied! Ghana started the day off right with smart, efficient and enthusastic play that generated lots of opportunities at goal and thwarted the efforts of the Czech Republic.  If they didn't have to play my countrymen next, I'd be cheering for them after a performance like that. Then, the US took the field and used their guts and every last calorie they had carbo loaded to hold Italy to a 1-1 draw while playing a man down for the entire second half. I loved watching them dig and dig and keep their chins up and shots headed at the Italian net. So a group that looked like a done deal became a group where literally anything can still happen.  Any of these teams could still advance. If that's not the definition of the group of death… well, I might not what is anyway, seeing as this is only my second World Cup as an impassioned fan. 

My advice for my countrymen is inspired by this heart-warming NYT article about a class full of immigrant kids putting on a production of the Wizard of Oz: go to the Wizard!  Get some extra heart, brains, legs, players without red cards, whatever it takes! Just get it!  Play the game I and all the other American fans know you can play on Thursday! I'll be cheering, with pride. 

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