Wild American Gooner

When Sports Are More Than Just Sports

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Mexico Still Owes Us One

I did my best to avoid all scores today so that I could get home and watch two games, but alas, right as I was about to leave camp, I heard the Netherlands-Chile score. I’ll have to read up on that game later, because I am quite impressed with the Dutch maintaining a clean sheet. However, I did manage to get home without hearing about the Mexico-Croatia game, so I was able to watch all 90 minutes of that entertaining game. Not finding out scores going forward is going to be extremely difficult.

Mexico were certainly the deserving winners today against Croatia. Miguel Herrera’s coaching has been spot on since he took over, and his magical touch has seen the Mexicans go from nearly out of the World Cup to the round of 16. But let’s not forget that Mexico wouldn’t be in Brazil without the USA and Graham Zusi scoring a late winner that gave Mexico the final spot over Panama. They owe us big time.

As I said last week, the Mexico I saw play Portugal in their final pre-World Cup friendly in Boston has transformed into an attacking menace. The new batch of midfielders have been tremendous, especially Hector Herrera. His movement has been excellent and he was unlucky not to score today. But Mexico also has had players stepping up their games everywhere on the pitch – from Ochoa in the back to Dos Santos up front. Everyone has been committed completely to the cause they looked so disinterested in last fall.

It was nice to Javier Hernandez score his late goal, as I thought this particular substitute appearance opened Croatia up for slaughter. Without him, Mexico had been dangerously defensive at times in the second half, and sitting back completely could have led to a disaster. Only needing a draw, Mexico could have sat back from the start, but Herrera’s decision to play on the front foot in the first half should have produced a goal. His positive tactics from the start were refreshing to watch.

Croatia’s play was quite disappointing. Mario Mandzukic didn’t have much of an impact against an aging center back pairing he should have tore apart. Ivan Rakitic didn’t particularly impress me either, sending in a couple poor efforts on set-pieces, and when two of your three stars don’t show up, there’s not much you can do. Only Luka Modric lived up to his billing in my eyes, showing strength in possession I hadn’t seen from him before. Seeing their campaign end with a late red card was fitting for the squad, which will be massively disappointed not to qualify after starting so well in their opener against Brazil.

The two round of 16 games set up today look appetizing, as I look forward to watching Brazil having to defend Chile’s pace – they could struggle with it like they did in the beginning of their opener. The Netherlands and Mexico should also provide a great game, as both teams are in impressive form, surprising many around the world with their play at the World Cup.

Lastly, why don’t any current American athletes have nicknames like Oribe “The Brush” Peralta? I don’t know where that comes from, but it’s a much more interesting nickname than anything we’d come up with in the U.S. Nicknames here are getting increasingly driven by a player’s name (i.e. D-Wade, Melo, Johnny Football) and we need to start being more creative. There used to more great nicknames in American sports, but they are dying out. Let’s see some more creativity.

Mexico now joins Costa Rica as the second CONCACAF side in the knockout stages, as the confederation has exceeded all expectations thus far. We can only hope the U.S. will be able to join them. At least Mexico still owes us a thank you for getting them here in the first place.


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Imagine Kangaroos Playing Soccer

Good morning, everyone. Yesterday was a busy one for me, but fortunately I was able to see all of the Brazil-Mexico game. Having attended the Mexico-Portugal friendly, Mexico’s last before the World Cup, I have to say I am absolutely stunned at how well they are playing in Brazil. Guillermo Ochoa was the hero in goal, but for long periods of time yesterday, Mexico was the more impressive side. Should they advance, they will prove a tough out in the round of 16. I never would have guessed that after their uninspiring performance against Portugal. Brazil was unlucky not to win this game though, as Thiago Silva should have placed his free header anywhere but right at Ochoa. They will be fine, even with the draw, but they certainly do not look unbeatable on home soil, despite what the media keeps telling us.

I was at the Red Sox last night and saw another wonderful game by Brock Holt. Playing in center field for the first time, Holt made one of the more unbelievable plays I’ve seen at Fenway, coming out of nowhere to dive behind a lost Jonny Gomes in left field. Check out the video on the bottom of this article for the best look at this catch. Holt also scored both runs, and showed once again that he needs to be on the field every day. Were it not for Holt, the Red Sox would be borderline unwatchable right now, but the kid is playing out of his mind, keeping this team afloat. I should have a Red Sox themed post later today for you so stay tuned.

Now, after getting rather unlucky with my picks yesterday, I’ll try to rebound today.

Netherlands 3 Australia 0

The name Socceroos is perfect. Every time I watch Australia play, I can’t help but try and picture kangaroos playing soccer (I’ve looked on Youtube and can’t find a video of it). Wouldn’t that just be amazing? I don’t care if this Australian team isn’t as good as prior ones. They are exciting merely because of their name. But unfortunately, the Socceroos don’t have the talent to beat the Dutch today. As the tournament’s new it-team, the Netherlands are rolling. And they will face little adversity seeing off the Aussies. Robin van Persie will score two and Wesley Sneijder will add the third for the Dutch. The Netherlands will all but seal their place in the round of 16 with this win.

Chile 2 Spain 2

In what might be the tournament’s most important group stage game, Chile and Spain will battle it out in a hotly contested affair. Whether or not Vicente del Bosque rings in the changes, Spain will be fired up to prove to themselves that last week’s embarrassment was not an accurate representation of the state of Spanish soccer. However, things will not start brightly for the reigning champions. The defense will be left suspect once again, as Alexis Sanchez, who will be playing many of his Barcelona teammates, will find the net within twenty minutes. A second goal from Chile before the half, this one a brilliant effort from Arturo Vidal, will send the world into a frenzy. But the Spain we all know will be back in a big way in the second half, as a series of substitutions will turn the game around. Jordi Alba will set up Spain’s first goal for Cesc Fabregas. And with time running out on Spain’s World Cup hopes, Sergio Ramos will tie the game, scoring yet another huge goal. The lone point will barely keep Spain in the running for Group B’s second spot in the round of 16, but it will feel like a win after being down and out at halftime.

Croatia 2 Cameroon 0

With Croatia still steaming from last week’s controversial loss to Brazil, Mexico’s draw yesterday will only serve to add more fuel to the fire. Knowing a win is a must against Cameroon, Croatia will be ruthless, relentlessly attacking the Cameroonian defense. Likely without star striker Samuel Eto’o due to injury, the Indomitable Lions won’t be able to relieve any pressure up top, and Croatia will have their way. Luka Modric will deservedly get the opener midway through the first half. Without his long hair that marked his Tottenham days, he is a much more likeable player in my eyes. He will be excellent today. Their second goal will be set up nicely by Ivan Rakitic, who will feed Ivica Olic on the break for a beautiful goal. More pressure will be piled on in the second half, but no further goals will come for the impressive Croatians. This game should be very one-sided.

Enjoy the soccer today and continue spreading the word about this blog. Check back later for the Red Sox piece and for more World Cup coverage. Thanks for reading.