So as a Canadian born in Scotland (moved here very young), you’d think my hopes for this morning’s games would be quite obvious. The Scottish roots are supposed to belie antipathy towards the English and living in the shadow of the States is supposed to make you hope they trip and stumble over the bombast that accompanies all they do.
Perhaps one of the strongest values inherent in Canadians though is a disdain for petty tribalism and a genuine desire to see the deserved rewarded. That’s what happened this morning and both results left me genuinely happy (and not from a pools perspective).
The States have been game every time they’ve stepped on the field this tournament. Despite a shocking start in the opening minutes against England where they gave away a soft goal and being overly fortunate in the equalizer, they have tried to play progressive, watchable soccer. Another poor start against Slovenia saw an epic fightback that culminated in the worst call of the World Cup to this point. Deprived of three points against Slovenia, it meant the States had to play the confident Algerians. It was one of the better played games so far and easily the most tense. Donovan in tears at the post-game interview was the true measure of what the States have been through to this point…and we’ve just reached the knockout phase now! I was genuinely excited to see Donovan slot just as the England v Slovenia game ended. It was deserved and had the USA been eliminated, given yet another goal denied today by an incorrect officiating call, they would be going home the most aggrieved country at the tournament.
As for England v Slovenia, it will always be England’s lot at World Cups to make hard labour of what should be a matter of fact easy three points. Defoe got them off to a good start but Gerrard should have crushed them with what would have been perhaps the nicest goal to date. The condition of the field mirrored England’s pysche as the game went on. Shredded, inconsistent, getting worse as the game went on. I was exchanging emails with friends as the game went on and when Rooney hit the post in the second I wrote that they may regret that as “England tend towards tragedy rather than triumph’. They scraped through but Slovenia came close a few times particularly on a trifecta on shots that saw two blocked in desperation and the third go wide. The final whistle went and the country I supposed to hate by birthright but in reality is a place I’ve been several times and have great memories of seeing Premiership games, great concerts and visiting plenty of pubs. So my gut reaction was ‘Yes!’. In the cast of characters that make up a World Cup, England is generally on the bill as one of Shakespeare’s more tragic characters. Sometimes one whose doom is at least partially self inflicted and sometimes not. I’m glad they’re still there.
Two intriguing games this morning. Most neutrals would agree that the most deserving teams have advanced.
Now to sort out Group D. The options, like Group C, look like the famed Pentagon powerpoint slide of the USA’s goals in their Afghanistan campaign. Heart says Ghana and Germany but head says Germany and Serbia.