I say 2-1 yanks. England and France head home. World el oh els
USA vs Algeria: Wednesday 9:30 AM , ESPN.
But don't tell them that because they'll cut you.
Brady2Terrell has a clear and comprehensive breakdown of what the US needs in a message board post. To make it even more concise: a win means the US is in. A loss means the US is out. A draw and the US is waiting on the result of the other match. In that case, England winning puts us out. Basically anything else and the US is through. Draws in which England scores three more goals than the US does—very unlikely—put England through instead. Draws in which England scores two more lead to a decision based on card accumulation, in which the sides are tied.
Those things are maybe 1% probable. Slovenia goes through with a draw and is very experienced at bunkering; England's offense has been impotent thus far in the tourney.
Ignoring that, your rooting interests:
Since both games will happen at the same time this promises many tense moments unless the US goes up two (raise your hand if you think that's likely, and if you've raised your hand please relocate yourself to a national team that apparently does not exist). Wednesday will be knee-buckling.
Algeria is a strange team. Every time Nadir Belhadj (above) makes a darting run forward I am literally angry that Algeria can pump out a left back like that and we're left with Jonathan Bornstein and a centerback gamely playing out of position. Rangers manly-man Madjid Bougherra would probably be the USA's first-choice centerback with Onyewu's injury and lack of form. Abdelkader Ghezzal may not score a lot in Serie A, but he's actually in Serie A. Serie A would laugh at the entire US forward corps, then consider them again just to laugh some more. If you were to pick a starting eleven from the combined rosters of the same team, the position at which Algeria would win they would win by a country mile.
But… that's kind of it as far as obvious Algeria wins goes. Their goalkeeper, described as "very, very dodgy" by Zonal Marking even before the tournament started, was replaced after giving up a game-winning goal to Slovenia that was almost but not quite as bad as Robert Green's nation-horrifying mistake. His replacement got his first international start against England, making a couple of good saves while looking equally dodgy on balls played in from the edges. He plays in the Bulgarian league. Knock on wood, but the chances he gives up a game-changing mistake are much greater than Tim Howard's.
Tactically, Algeria is extremely variable. They shifted from a three-man backline in the African Cup of Nations to a 4-4-2 in their pre-WC friendlies, then went with a 3-5-2 that was closer to a five-man backline against England.
With Ghezzal available—he was suspended for the England match after picking up two yellows in just over twenty minutes as a second half sub against Slovenia—and Algeria needing to win by two goals to guarantee advancement, the Desert Foxes will probably adopt a more attacking posture against the US. This will see Nader Yahia move back to right back after being drawn inside to play centrally against England, with the rest of the midfield adopting more aggressive attacking positions.
Left: Algeria (white) against Slovenia. Right: Algeria (green) against England. While the England formation looks more aggressive, in reality the two wing-backs operated mostly as defenders.
The two central midfielders were described by Zonal Marking as "simple defensive-minded midfielders" before the tournament and have lived up to that reputation. What attacking the Algerians manage is usually through Belhadj and Wolfsburg attacking midfielder Karim Ziani, easily recognizable as the douchiest looking guy in the tournament thanks to his blond dye-job. (Algeria, as a group, look like Aqua.)
The attack broke down in the final third against England when Matmour, normally a midfielder, provided no threat:
Algeria dominated possession for periods of the game, as you would expect for a side essentially fielding six midfielders. Indeed, you can stretch that to seven – because Matmour is plainly not a forward, let alone a lone striker. His movement was decent but he offered no threat in behind, which is the obvious way to catch out a defensive partnership of John Terry and Jamie Carragher.
Threats in behind are also an obvious way to catch out the defensive partnership of DeMerit and Onyewu, so it's nice that Algeria doesn't have a consistent way to generate any. Ghezzal is a strapping 6'1" guy who shouldn't be a huge matchup problem for Onyewu and Demerit.
ZM sums up their first two games as "dogged" but says they've "offered nothing in an attacking sense" thus far. Whether that will hold true against a leaky USA defense is another section.
The Nats are in an unusual and advantageous situation. Algeria has a shot to advance but absolutely must win. They will be forced to attack against a team they might have bunkered against if they'd faced them in one of the first two group matches. This should play into the USMNT's hands. They're an excellent counter-attacking team even against world class sides like Spain and Brazil, and Algeria's defense has a tendency towards Michigan 2009 errors. Marauding fullbacks and erratic passing will yield plenty of opportunities for the US to strike back.
So… this is a situation in which a ball-winning central midfielder next to Bradley is a priority. I haven't been a fan of Clark, but Edu's second-half performance against Slovenia wasn't much more impressive. Either would be fine as a starter; Torres is set to be a second-half sub if the US needs a goal.
As far as the forwards go, take your pick between putting Buddle in the starting lineup and thrusting Dempsey up top and putting Holden into the fray. With Algeria's games to date proving Belhadj the Algerians' most effective attacker, I vote Holden plus Dempsey. Holden is a young, pacey, work-rate-heavy winger capable of tracking Belhadj's runs better than Dempsey, and tasking Holden with the most important defensive responsibilities frees Donovan to be Donovan*. Holden is the only US player who gives the team any width, and his ability to get deep and cross should be an effective way to test any of Algeria's flappy goalkeepers.
The seemingly odd substitution of England winger Aaron Lennon (generally regarded as by far their best wide option) for national whipping-boy Shawn Wright-Phillips was because Lennon kept cutting inside:
Aaron Lennon constantly came inside rather than getting down the touchline. He needed to be braver and give Nadir Belhadj more of a problem by staying wide and high when Algeria got the ball – this would have either pushed Belhadj backwards to pick up Lennon, and therefore take him out of the equation, or forced one of the three centre-backs to come across to the left-back position, which would have removed Algeria’s luxury of a free man at the back.
Tracking Belhadj and threatening him with an actual winger will go a long way towards shutting down the Algerians' main attacking threat. This could be a game where Beasley makes sense as a second-half sub, possibly for a ragged Holden.
The United State has another huge advantage in the game: set pieces. The US was consistently dangerous on them in the first two games because of Landon Donovan's excellent service, and Algeria was often disorganized in their first two games. It's easy to envision the US pumping in a goal or two from dead-ball situations, another reason to focus on wide play—and the resulting corners that come from it.
(SIDE NOTE: why has Donovan been so excellent in a tournament in which every well-hit cross sees four or five fly wildly out of control? One: he's good. Two: MLS is our secret weapon. Many observers are convinced that a lot of the crappy play in this World Cup (goalie errors, wack crosses, zero free-kick goals) stems from the Jabulani ball, and that the Germans' proficiency with it is traceable to the Bundesliga's adoption of the thing six months ago. Guess who else is using it?
On a domestic front, the Jabulani has made an appearance in Portugal’s league, Argentina’s league, America’s MLS, the Dutch league, the French Cup and the Swiss league.
So there you go.)
As long as the game remains tied, the advantage is to the US. With the sketchy central defense and the situation they can adopt their usual slightly defensive 4-2-2-2 and wait for the opportunities that will surely come.
D: Cherundolo, Onyewu, Demerit, Bocanegra
M: Donovan, Clark, Bradley, Holden
F: Altidore, Dempsey
*("Landycakes" is dead. You hear me? Dead.)
Do not go down a goal in the first fifteen minutes. Algeria probably couldn't go in a shell at that point—they need to win by two to guarantee they go through—but they would pull back somewhat, waiting for information from the Slovenia-England game. The longer Algeria's kept off the board, the more they'll have to press and the more vulnerable they'll be.
This section is totally obvious and useless, I know.
Some other important things:
I say 2-1 yanks. England and France head home. World el oh els
Goal scored in some unfathomably ridiculous way around the hour mark.
Scoreless first half as Algeria can't get past Howard but the US blows about five good opportunities yet again. England and Slovenia scoreless as well, looking good for advancement but nothing for winning the group.
Early in the second half, Rooney breaks through for England, and things look bad for us, as we temporarily drop to third. Algeria gives us a hand, though, as Dempsey is taken down in the box on a foul even a ref from Mali could see, and Donovan nails the PK to put us up 1-0 and into first place.
Before the cheering dies down, the US back line does their Stonehenge impression and Algeria evens it at 1 ... back into third we go, and the pressure mounts as the time ticks away.
Late in both matches, a double salvo completely scrambles the group: Slovenia draws even with England just as Donovan finds Altidore in the box. A 2-1 US win coupled with a 1-1 draw in the other match puts us through as group winners and gets Capello fired before he leaves South Africa.
USA 3-1,. England 1-0, USA tops the group, England survives to do what they do best: get eliminated by Germany.
I agree with your formation, hopefully playing Dempsey down the middle will allow him to bring Altidore into the game.
Get your damn soccer off your damn blog!
So I lived free and died hard and loved it.
get YOUR damn soccer off YOUR damn blog! (emphasis mine).
Brian can do whatever the hell he wants it's HIS blog. If you want to blog about how Michigan football is so awesome and how amazing things are happening right now start your own blog.
I figured the fact that 80% of my posts are soccer related (I guess I'm not popular enough to be recognized *tear*) and my USMNT avatar would be enough to show that I was poking fun at the folks who rip on Brian for posting soccer stuff.
It's a shame people don't get the sarcasm in this post. It was funny. I was going to post something along these lines:
This post jumps the shark! You're just after page views. This is stoopid. Soccer is stoopid. This is a Michigan blog. A bunch of pansies kicking a ball around is not Michigan. Those are not Michigan Men. They're a bunch of nannies that dive and offer nothing to the world of sports. This aggression against sports will not stand! I used to respect this site. Now, with this blatant money grab, I can not.
Then again, I'm sure some people would miss the sarcasm in that, too.
Every time Nadir Belhadj (above) makes a darting run forward I am literally angry that Algeria can pump out a left back like that
Actually, France pumped him out, as they did for 16 of the other 22 players on the Algerian team. France's excellent youth-development program is a boon for many African soccer federations (Drogba and Eto'o are products of it as well).
Ligue 1 is fantastic for producing young talent. Their financial regulations keep clubs from competing at the top level in Europe, but they sure do produce some talent. The whole Gael Kakuta to Chelse case exposing just how much a small second division side like La Harve spends on youth development was shocking, something like 1/3rd of their revenue.
The more players the Nats can get over there the better.
dominate the second half against slovenia, i ALMOST hope that we go down 1 goal in the first 15 minutes(as usual) as long as we turn it up right after and keep attacking. bradley had an absolutely outstanding game against slovenia(even if he didnt score a goal, he played great). i agree that holden should play, hes always been my favorite subs. start? possibly. i wouldn't have an issue with that.
and brought us even with Slovenia.
The MLS jabulani: a big f-ing deal.
Dammit Joe, it took me 45 minutes to get through security because of you!
at least according to the wikipedia (and another article i read involving similar unlikely scenarios in group F), there's no "card accumulation" tiebreaker this year. if the situation where the US and England have the same points, GD, and goals scored, they draw lots.
Disclaimer: I only played soccer when I was 5 (more of a water sport guy). Don't know much about formations and tatical strategies other than what I have read online. I just love watching and playing recreationally. I have been thinking about the 4-2-3-1 formation lately. I think that formation allows us to be very versatile with our substitutions and gets our best players on the pitch. If we were to ever play that formation my starting eleven would look like this:
Donovan, Torres/Feilhaber, Dempsey
Bocanegra, Gooch, Demerit, Dolo.
I guess you can get creative with the top 4 if you wanted to get Holden in the mix. Thoughts??
Going off the last 2 games when we play 2 up top, both players tend to play high and are only involved in the play if the ball goes directly to them (see: long ball after long ball). The only 2 forwards that had any sort of chemistry are Jozy and CD9 but obviously Davis is out. I like what you have with the 5 in the middle to control the game, especially in the first half. Depending on how the game is going in the 2nd, move Bradley more centrally and/or/maybe sub Clark/Edu off for a 2nd striker/move Dempsey up and put Holden on the wing.
I love Feilhaber but he really needs to play in position like you posted (not on the wing or holding); in the middle of the field with defensive cover. He plays some beautiful through balls that the wingers and forwards can get on the end of. Same can be said for Torres.
Call me crazy but I like what Sweatpants did when he had Edu drop back to CB in favor of another guy up top.
I was also pleasantly surprised by BB's tactical moves. It was a gutsy move that would have paid off if it were not for someone I would rather not discuss.
they talk about bowling and NASCAR.
According to theshinguardian.com, Algeria will be going to a 2 striker system. Who knows if that will be a 4-4-2 or their typical 3-5-2.
Either way, I like staring Dempsey and Holden. If they come out in a 4-4-2, we should play our standard 4-4-2. A lone striker is much better against a 3 man backline because it allows the wings to be exposed better. So if they come out in that, have Dempsey fall back some into an ACM role so that we are in a 4-3-3 or 4-5-1 (with lots of attacking midfielders).
Just need that first goal... and I feel we will be through. Excited for the match.
Ziani may be the douchiest-looking guy in the tournament (and man is that a prize with some difficult competition) but I still nominate that one Slovenian dude (can't remember his name) as Most Likely To Molest A Four-Year Old.
Yea, but he looked scary tricky against England, and the US is almost guaranteed to give up a goal. He really looked to be on the decline with both Marseille and Wolfsburg but has really looked good so far in this tournament, watch out.
We already dominated egypt last yr, a fellow arab/african nation who is much much better than algeria are, so I expect atleast a 2-0 victory for the nats.
Jozy really deserves a goal, he has played quite well the entire tournament, setting up goals left and right.
Algeria are playing significantly better than their ranking, and at least in the last 90, we're playing significantly worse than ours. (Also, Egypt's not here. Algeria beat them in a playoff to win their group ... something to think about.)
Obviously in the Confederations Cup, at some point somebody flipped the "stop screwing around and try to win these matches you idiots" switch and the US went on a tear. Fortunately we got a lot of help and actually got to play meaningful matches against very strong sides.
If they flip the switch Wednesday, we'll be fine. If not, well, Algeria's shown that as long as they don't go a man down, they're perfectly capable of playing an underachieving side to a draw simply by waiting them out.
is that 4-4-2 thing or whatever the US is doing really the best formation for us? I mean we don't have a very good defense, so when I see our defense men up past the halfway mark on the field i start to questions alot of things.
I guess I know the comparison you are making to last summer's Confederation Cup......but dont forget, the only reason the Desert Foxes are here is because they won a dramatic, two-leg playoff with Egypt for the final African spot. Their bus got attacked by Egyptian fans. Pretty intense.
So, just be careful how you pray this ends up just like Egypt, as Algerian fans are wishing the same thing.
US Soccer? Expectations? Gulp? I am thinking a 2-1 win, first place in the group and a game with Ghana in the next round to make up for 2006. Or total disaster. There wont be any middle ground.
Looking forward to taking the day off tomorrow to catch it all. Here's hoping the US takes care of business and continues the nice run teams on our side of the globe are having in the 2010 World Cup.
Donovan's "I will either send this into the upper reaches of the stratosphere or burn a hole through the roof of the net" anger goal versus Slovenia effectively destroyed the last remnants of the Landycake era.
IT'S MUPPET TIME MOTERF*CKERS!!!!!!!!!!!!
Others in the office are wondering what the yelling is about. I am still on cloud nine. THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!!! Now where are my damn muppets!!!!!