Taking on the World
“People should know when they are conquered.”
“Would you Quintas? Would I?”
As the US waits for its Round of 16 game vs. Ghana on Saturday, the Americans face a favorable draw and a real chance to advance, not just past Ghana but into the final four.
“The USA never gives up,” Spain’s Cesc Fabregas said in published reports. “That’s why I believe they can go much further because they fight to the end and work so hard. So, I can see them reaching the semifinals, and then who knows what happens?”
The team’s last-minute win against Algeria revealed the squad’s true heart. The Americans had every opportunity to give up – they had never won the third game in group play (0-6-0 all-time), yet another bad call from the ref denied them a rightful goal, their shots kept finding the cross bar or the post, rather than the back of the net, and they were moments away from being eliminated in the group stage for the second World Cup in a row.
But they wouldn’t accept being conquered. That’s not the American way.
While Landon Donovan received much of the attention for scoring the game winning goal, the win vs. Algeria was truly a team effort. Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey and Michael Bradley, among others, continued to pepper the goal with shots, while Tim Howard was a rock in goal for the Americans.
The World Cup’s motto is One Game Changes Everything, at that was certainly true for the US, as ESPN’s Chris Jones points out:
In those 12 seconds between Tim Howard’s throw and Landon Donovan’s finish, in those 12 seconds when the U.S. team managed to go from elimination to winning its group, a massive psychological shift occurred. That goal against Algeria changed everything. The Americans went from disappointments to heroes; Bob Bradley went from being the wrong man for the job to a strategic genius; Donovan himself saw stories about his missed potential erased and hastily rewritten, turned into stories that instead celebrated his gifts, his stone-cold ability to finish when his team, his country, needed him most.
Now the world’s biggest fear – the American team advancing through the knockout stages – is right there for the taking. The US has a chance Saturday to avenge the group stage loss to Ghana in 2006 that knocked them out of the tournament. Ghana hasn’t played well so far this year, their only goals have come on penalty kicks, they don’t have their best player, Michael Essien, and their keeper is the shaky Richard Kingson.
If the US can get past Ghana, they will most likely face Uruguay, who emerged from a weak group that included South Africa and the French. Not exactly something to keep the team up at night. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
The Americans have to take care of business starting Saturday. If they play with the drive and pace they displayed against Algeria, there’s a very real chance they will advance.
The world is theirs for the taking. Whether the world likes it or not.