So it’s just a typical World Cup day—in other words, it’s 13.30 Pacific Coast time, and I feel like I have lived an entire adventurous lifetime since the alarm trilled just before the USA v. Slovenia kick-off. (I couldn’t even contemplate the dawn patrol game from the Group of Stress—if I’m going to wake up in the dark to watch Germany and Serbia do anything, there better be a Panzer division involved.)
In fact, I suspect that I, a mere 35 years of age, kind of look like Capello right now.
The high/low jags provided by Team America Fighting in their usual insane performance were enough to ruin anyone’s digestion for a year, and Algeria’s brave draw against some abject island nation didn’t exactly prove to be a lunchtime of Nag Champa and om-chanting either.
Let us unpack.
First of all: I fucking told you about Slovenia, didn’t I? As soon as the beautifully manicured Sasha Vujacic buried the decisive freethrows in last night’s NBA Game Seven, I knew we were in for it against the Green Dragons. I mean, how many top-tier Slovenian sportsmen can there possibly be? How is it that the television screens of America, a country where no one who hasn’t taken an eccentric hipster honeymoon there could even find Slovenia, are suddenly awash with jocky Slovenians? We are in the midst of some kind of global demographic anomaly, and I figured Team America would have to white-knuckle it in the face of this phenomenon.
And, well, we cannot play defense, can we? And we, generally speaking, cannot tell the difference between an ideal time to attempt to pass the ball into the goal, Barcelona-style, and the ideal time to shoot at the goal because it is, you know, right there. The goal. Rectangular space defined by white posts and a crossbar. Throughout the first half, I kept screaming “WHY AREN’T THEY SHOOTING?!?” while my wife became a puddle of despair on the couch (not because of me, this time—thanks, Robbie F.!) and my poor, drowsy child looked at me and said, “What’s wrong, Daddy? Calm down, Daddy!” This unfortunate kid. One day, he’ll be thanking his shrink on national TV, Artest-style.
Thank the Football Gods, blackhearted little elves that they are, that we dug up some quality for the second half. Bob Bradley doesn’t have his defense very well-drilled, but he is fairly canny with the subs. And Landon Donovan will never hear a word said against him in this house again. Apart from the goal, he is one of the few players in this tournament who can say he’s mastered the idiotic intricacies of the Jabubabababa, or whatever they’re calling this ball so cleverly designed, the best players on Earth can’t use it. It’s only taken a decade, but Landon has matured into one of the more reliably classy players out there.
And, yeah, we got jobbed by the ref, who was an absolute disgrace. Now that the heat of the moment (in which I went on Twitter and called for Barack Obama to liberate the people of Mali by force of arms) has passed, here’s what I have to say to my fellow USA supporters in re: the disallowed goal: Call the WHAAAAAM-BULANCE. We are big kids now, and this kind of thing happens. Let us not forget that we received a hilarious gift goal in the England match. One point given, two points taken away. Remember, they are elves, these Football Gods.
Anyway, not to worry, because we have a friend in England. His name may or may not be Wayne Rooney, whose habit of walking around the midfield with a dejected look on his face certainly suggests that he’s trying to help someone out. Someone else. England’s performance against Algeria only brushes against respectability because France has already defined the absolute nadir of supposed EuroPower performance in this World Cup. In fact, the Republique can take pride in Algeria’s take-charge approach to today’s match—at least there’s one half-decent French team at the tournament.
Even though Algeria never really looked like scoring, they played England off the park for just about the entire match. They looked assured, confident. They frankly looked kind of huge, not unlike an offshoot of the fearsome breed of square-jawed mountain elk the Slovenians field. Which, of course, raises the question: if the Algerians can make a joke out of England, what the hell will they do to us?
But that’s a nervous breakdown for another day. For the moment, we must simply savor the football’s endless capacity to surprise, delight, and cause early-onset angina.