With Barack Obama taking time out from the G20 summit in Canada, not to mention Bill Clinton in the stands, Team America didn’t prove themselves to be World Beaters after all, succumbing in extra time to Australia.
An early Mark Bresciano strike was cancelled out by Landon Donovan’s second-half penalty, but in the third minute of ‘OT’ a brilliant Tim Cahill solo effort saw the Australians home. Their play made a mockery of the dire predictions following an underwhelming group stage, progressing to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
‘It is fantastic to be in the eight best teams, but our problem over the next six days is an injury to Mark Bresciano that will have our medical staff working hard, and two players suspended through second yellow cards,’ said Socceroos’ coach Pim Verbeek.
Next up for Australia, the pride of their continent, is Uruguay. La Celeste got through their own Round of 16 encounter with South Korea after a double from Luis Suarez – the second a gem – gave them a 2-1 victory over the 2002 semi-finalists.
The above, based on a true story, stars Ghana as Australia, Kevin-Prince Boateng as Mark Bresciano, Asamoah Gyan as Tim Cahill and introducing Milovan Rajevac as Pim Verbeek.
But really, it’s not so bad as to start living in a parallel universe. Although Australia’s disappointment with the Socceroos’ failure to progress past the first round was so great it sparked a political coup, there are greater examinations abroad.
The French government has been warned by FIFA to be careful of undue interference in the affairs of the FFF. This comes after Nicolas Sarkozy, who has never, ever, ever been known to stick his beak in where it’s not needed, summoned captain Thierry Henry to a meeting to discuss where it all went wrong. Presumably, ‘nous sommes la merde’ isn’t what Sarko is after, however true.
And similarly, the Italian FA has announced an inquiry into their team’s own underwhelming performance in South Africa – with the mandate that ‘siamo merda… e vecchi’ is not what they are after, however true.
Will the Americans join them in the coming days? Perhaps they could suggest their fans not adopt a political slogan as their football team’s chant, although it is still better than ‘Let’s make it a Landon-slide’ or ‘Vote as you shot’.
MUST-SEE: England coach Fabio Capello stalks the touchline during his team’s win over Slovenia. It’s a language warning, people!
EYEBROW-RAISER: Uruguay’s progression to the quarter-final will be their first since 1970, and aside from Brazil and Argentina, South America’s first since Peru in 1978. So… what exactly has the rest of the continent been doing?
REASON TO CHEER ON ENGLAND: Germany beat Australia! But go beyond that. Think of the Premier League, aka that guarantee of something to watch when you come home from the pub at 3am. You might know Shaun Wright-Phillips’ run better than Brett Holman’s; you certainly know how Wayne Rooney has gone but might struggle to relate so much to Miroslav Klose.
REASON TO CHEER AGAINST ENGLAND: It’s England, and that should probably be enough. If it’s not, think of John Terry’s face as his world comes crashing down, and try to suppress that smile. You can’t, can you?
TONIGHT: Germany and England kick things off at midnight in what is a must see. Stat alert: The Germans have progressed further than England in every World Cup finals since 1966. Then English haven’t beaten their rivals in the World Cup finals since ’66, including most notably the 1990 semi-final where West Germany got up on penalties. England looks as though they will have a full 23-man squad from which to choose, but it is likely to be either Matthew Upson or the returned-from-suspension Jamie Carragher to partner Terry at the back. Germany has injury clouds over ‘heart of the team’ Bastian Schweinsteiger, Brazilian-born Cacau and Kevin-Prince’s brother Jérôme Boateng. But Wakeem Luuurrrv’s German outfit could nonetheless pinch it. Penalties again? Why not – it’s England’s worst fear, with the possible exception of the opponent that may wait for them in the quarter-finals… Germany 1-1 England a.e.t. (Germany wins 5-3 on penalties). Argentina have been brilliant thus far, which either means they are due for the shocking fall or they should roll over Mexico. With Diego Maradona at the helm, anything could happen, although that beard seems to have had a wisening effect. Mexico are playing at the Round of 16 for the fifth straight World Cup, yet they have never won at this stage – and last time they lost it was to Argentina, 2-1 in extra time. Javier Aguirre has dismissed talk of revenge. Carlos Vela is struggling with a hamstring injury for Mexico, although he hasn’t been in such sparkling form as to suggest they have no hope without him. El Tri’s best players, Giovani dos Santos and Gerardo Torrado, will line up on the right but Argentina is more solid defensively on that side (their left) with Gabriel Heinze and Martín Demichelis. Mexico should also struggle, as any mere mortals would, with the front three of Carlos Tévez, Gonzalo Higuaín and of course Lionel Messi, who might even grab himself a hambone. This is reason enough to suggest the Maradona show rolls on. Argentina 4-1 Mexico.
Evan Harding is co-producer of The Contenders Daily Bite, a daily World Cup short which can be seen on Tribal Football. A Master of Global Communication student at La Trobe University, he is an upstart editor armed with a month’s supply of coffee and a Spanish chance to still make back the money lost on an ill-conceived bet. Previous World Cup columns can be found here.