pageok
pageok
pageok
Warning: Soccer News Below:

A truly historic day for US international sport, though I suspect that State-side it got a lot less play than it did over here in Roma (or elsewhere in the soccer-mad world): USA 2, Spain 0 in the semifinals of the Confederations Cup down in Bloemfoentein, South Africa. The Confederations Cup is not one of the "big" tournaments, to be fair; it's held every four years, the year before the World Cup, and brings together the champions of various tournaments in each of the different FIFA "Confederations" -- Europe (Spain, the winner of the European Cup in 2008), Italy (World Cup, 2006), Brazil (Copa America), Egypt (African Cup of Nations), Iraq (Asian Cup), etc. This year, it is being held down in South Africa, site of next year's World Cup, as sort of a dry run for the logistics and planning that South Africa will need to have in place before the world descends next summer.

The US, as usual, was not expected to fare terribly well -- they looked uninspired in losing 3-1 to Italy and 3-0 to Brazil in the first round, and only got to advance to the second round because the Italians thoroughly embarrassed themselves in losing to both Egypt and Brasil without so much as scoring a single goal (or, to be honest, even coming close to scoring a goal). And against Spain we were supposed to roll over and die. Spain has become the capital of world soccer on many fronts -- Barcelona just won the Champions League, the most prestigious of the "club" tournaments in the world, the Spanish national team won last year's Euro Championship (quite handily), and they are being touted as favorites to win next year's World Cup. They had, until Wednesday night, managed to put together a mind-boggling 35 game undefeated streak -- unheard of in international soccer. The Italian press was full of somewhat grudging, but ultimately effusive, praise for their style of play and the depth of their squad -- and for the Americans to handle them as easily as they did took the world of soccer (aka "the rest of the world") totally by surprise. Here's what la Repubblica, the newspaper I read here in Rome, had to say about the game:

"Ci sarebbe da cambiare pari-pari la nostra difesa azzurra con quella americana. L'arte di difendersi ha attraversato l'oceano."

or

"We should exchange our (italian) defense for the Americans'. The art of defending has crossed the ocean."

Let me tell you, that is high praise indeed - the Italians have long prided themselves on their defensive abilities (they call their style of play "Il catenaccio -- the chain link fence), and for an italian paper to say they'd exchange their defense for ours is truly a remarkable moment.

And later on:

"Gli americani avevano cominciato con la mano sul cuore e il volto rivolto verso la bandiera a stelle e strisce. Hanno finito in un tripudio di gioia, con l'intera panchina che e' corsa ad abbracciare gli eroi di Bloemfontein e con la curva nera -- ormai impazzito per gli americani -- che suonava a tutto spiano le sue vuvuzelas in loro onore."

"The Americans began with hand on heart, their faces turned to the stars and stripes. They finished in an eruption of joy, with the entire bench running to embrace the heroes of Bloemfontein, and the African fans -- by now, crazy about the Americans -- singing, in unison, their "vuvuzelas" (???) in their honor."

It's a little over-the-top, as Italian journalism tends to be, and I haven't the faintest idea what "vuvuzelas" are ... but for an American soccer fan, it was nice a nice thing to stumble upon in the paper early in the morning, sitting in my neighborhood cafe and drinking my morning espresso ...

martinned (mail) (www):
Vuvuzelas are those annoying horns they all play, that mess up all the television coverage.
6.25.2009 5:23pm
dont tread on me:
Nice post David. Great win yesterday for the U.S. side. As a former college soccer player/current law student I'm glad to see some soccer news on Volokh. But you have not yet heard of vuvuzelas? Even the American press has covered these!

6.25.2009 5:25pm
The Yanks Will Triumph:
Vuvuzelas are plastic horns, played continuously throughout the match. In unison, they sound like a swarm of bees. There has been talk about a ban on the vuvuzelas for the World Cup, as they are supposedly distracting to both the players and commentators.
6.25.2009 5:26pm
M.C. R.:
Vuvuzelas are plastic one-note horns that, according to Simon Burnton in the Guardian, "[sound] like a platoon of ninja bumblebees with a bad mobile signal have left you a 45-minute answerphone message. Or like your ears have developed the ability to filter out all sound except for that produced by Vespa scooters, to which they have become incredibly sensitive."

LINK
6.25.2009 5:32pm
CMH:
They mentioned the potential ban of vuvuzelas on the ESPN broadcast briefly. I understood from the discussion that it was to be, if adopted, a permanent ban put in place by FIFA, rather than just for the World Cup. Broadcasters are supposedly leading the charge.


a mind-boggling 35 game undefeated streak -- unheard of in international soccer.


I've got to go ahead and be "that guy" and point out that a 35 game streak isn't unheard of. Brazil did it back in the 90s. 35 is current record, now shared by the two sides.

Rare? Absolutely. Unheard of? No.
6.25.2009 5:36pm
gab:
Perhaps David you didn't see the game? The Americans did not beat Spain "easily." Spain must have had twice the possession time that the US did, and the US barely held the ball in the 2nd half.

We got an excellent goal in the first half, which came off one of only two or three shots we had. In the second half, it was all Spain with Howard making several saves, one of which was world class. We got a goal around the 75th minute off a nice cross by Donovan that the Spanish defender trapped in front of his own goal and literally teed up for Dempsey(?) to shoot.

Anyway, don't be fooled by the score. The US played with great energy and heart, but we sure as heck didn't win "easily."
6.25.2009 5:36pm
martinned (mail) (www):
In other news, it was Iran, not Iraq, playing. Also, I don't remember Euro 2006 quite like you describe it. I guess that is my fault for watching that tournament on Dutch TV.
6.25.2009 5:37pm
gab:
One more thing. Suonare doesn't mean sing. The infinitive of sing is cantare. Suonare means "to play" as regards a musical instrument.
6.25.2009 5:39pm
[insert here] delenda est:
I think the 'cw' has Spain winning the Euro 06 handily, martinned, but in reality any football fan's own team was always just one chance (eg, England 02) or piece of bad luck (eg, England 98)or a refeering mistake (eg England 86) (or, rarely, one moment of genius, eg England 86 again) away from the title themselves...

In short it could well be something to do with Dutch TV!
6.25.2009 5:44pm
martinned (mail) (www):

Anyway, don't be fooled by the score. The US played with great energy and heart, but we sure as heck didn't win "easily."

For the baseball fans, Here are the stats. FYI, possession was 56/44 to Spain.
6.25.2009 5:46pm
Can't find a good name:
Martinned: The original post is correct, and it was Iraq, not Iran, that was in the Confederations Cup this year. I just checked the FIFA web site to be sure.
6.25.2009 5:50pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@delenda est: I was speaking in jest, although a different setup of the tournament, one that is more forgiving to the one off-day, could well have seen the Dutch win. After the first round, World Cups and European cups work with one-match, win or lose rounds. Changing that would either involve fewer teams participating or the tournament lasting much longer, but it would certainly increase the likelihood that the best team end up winning.
6.25.2009 5:50pm
martinned (mail) (www):
@Can't find a good name: You're right. Iran also played, but that was a World Cup qualifier match. That's how I got confused. (Remember, that's how four Iranian players got suspended for life by their own country.)
6.25.2009 5:55pm
Radish (mail):
The Spain/U.S. game was a wonderful example of why soccer is a great game: Spain was better in every way that one soccer team can be better than another, but soccer favours a defender, and goals are rare. A team may be overmatched in terms of skill but ninety exhausting minutes played with relentless focus can cheat a better team of victory, and if the stronger team is less purposeful, they can be beaten in what comes down to a contest of character. Spain is by every measure the better team, but not yesterday.
6.25.2009 6:06pm
RiccardoS (mail) (www):
Just a quibble or two:

"catenaccio" does not mean "chainlink fence", but rather, "door-bolt".

Also, "catenaccio" really has two meanings in soccer: the original one was the name of a specific defensive very strong defensive formation, with a free "sweeper" (the "libero") behind the other defensive players - the sweeper in effect "bolted down" the defense. AFAIK it was introduced first by the Swiss in the '30s, then perfected between the '40s and the '60s by legendary coach Nereo Rocco, first with Triestina and then with A.C. Milan. and then used by coach Helenio Herrera of Inter Milan in the '60s.

The meaning of "catenaccio" was later extended to mean any overly defensive kind of tactic, and is often used in a pejorative sense by British soccer commenters to describe the kind of defensive tactics used by Latin, Italian or Spanish teams.
6.25.2009 6:17pm
MarkField (mail):

I suspect that State-side it got a lot less play than it did over here in Roma


It was the lead story on Sportscenter last night, though that may be partly due to the fact that ESPN is televising the games. Still, it's pretty rare for soccer to get that kind of publicity.

I was really impressed with the energy of the US effort. Lots of blocked shots and last minute tackles; they really did leave it all on the pitch. And I shouted out loud when Altidore scored the opening goal.


FYI, possession was 56/44 to Spain.


I'm not terribly impressed by that. Spain did have a lot of possession -- nobody should be surprised by that, it's what they do-- but it never created any can't miss chances. Most of its efforts were blocked by defenders, and Howard's saves came on shots which would have been very fine goals if they had found the net.

The other thing about possession stats is that in soccer the team which scores first tends to sit back and play counter-attack football from that moment on.* That naturally leads to lots of possession for the trailing team.

Still, Casillas said after the game that he thought Spain would win 9 times out of ten, and I suspect that was charitable. But I'm going to enjoy the victory maybe even more for that reason.

*Except for Man United or Barcelona.
6.25.2009 6:23pm
A.S.:
It was the lead story on Sportscenter last night

Well, until the Shaq trade went down. After that, it was story #2 (still, it got a lot of airtime).
6.25.2009 6:35pm
John kmm (mail):
Spaniards newspaper are ripping off their team and praising team USA. Fans and newspaper agree in only in one thing, the humble team( USA) got a deserved W over the arrogant team ( Spain). BTW, Germany lost to Spain with a non called fault by the same guy that Team USA stopped. The Eurocup was handed to them. Most wins in the streak were to teams like Malta or Eastern Europe countries , most of them are below american level.
Team USA is 14 th in the World Ranking. They had now defeated Brasil( 1998), Argentina, ( 1997) England ( 1950) and Spain in official games. They were robbed in the 2002 of a legit victory over Germany.
And this is their best performance after the 4 th place in the first World Cup

6.25.2009 6:57pm
martinned (mail) (www):
Here's what El Pais wrote: Mucho remate, poca puntería and Fin de Fiesta.

This is the Confederations Cup website of AS, one of Spains main sports newspapers. The other Madrid-centered sports paper is MARCA (Confed Cup site here). In Barcelona they read El Mundo Deportivo (confed site here) or Sport.

Between those four sports papers alone, there must be several hours of reading for any American football fan wanting to gloat.
6.25.2009 7:20pm
ANDKEN (mail) (www):
Not that Spain has some tradition as a national team. ALL the stars of their national championships are foreign.
6.25.2009 9:32pm
Cornellian (mail):
Thanks for the warning. Maybe you could color code these soccer-related posts as well to make them even easier to skip.
6.25.2009 10:09pm
Officious Intermeddler:
http://www.nationalreview.com/04may98/moore050498.html

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB123680101041299201.html
6.26.2009 3:57am
Nicole (mail) (www):
Hi,

We have just added your latest post "Warning: Soccer News Below:" to our Directory of Sports. You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory and get a huge base of visitors to your website.


Warm Regards

Sportstrove.info Team

http://www.sportstrove.info
6.26.2009 5:50am
Skipp:
"Featuring high kicking, low scoring, and ties!" There seems to be a correlation between the popularity of soccer and how crappy a country is. When it is very popular here, we will know we have arrived. It does seem to be getting more popular here. "This match will decide once and for all what is the greatest country in the world. Mexico ... or Portugal!"
6.26.2009 9:18am
hawkins:

Not that Spain has some tradition as a national team. ALL the stars of their national championships are foreign.


Not quite sure what this means, but the majority of players on Spain's national team certainly are not foreign. Perhaps Senna is foreign, I cant think of another non Spaniard.
6.26.2009 9:34am
[insert here] delenda est:
Pretty clear what it means, just not a) why it matters, b) why you would believe it, or c) why anyone who has so little idea of football (apart from: did you know Messi plays in Spain?) would comment about it.

Iniesta looks pretty Spanish to me, looks pretty much like a star, and oh, plays for Barcelona, which also looks like a pretty Spanish city to me. Here's a handful of global stars who are Spanish and play in Spain:
Iker Casillas
Gerard Piqué
Xavi Hernandez
David Silva
David Villa
Bojan Krkić.

The list goes on, but they are all fantastic players. In fact Spain is notable for its relatively few exports if anything!
6.26.2009 10:41am
hawkins:
How does the country in which a professional plays have anything to do with whether they are "foreign"?

By this standard Brazil would really struggle
6.26.2009 10:56am
Rhode Island Lawyer:

I'm not terribly impressed by that. Spain did have a lot of possession -- nobody should be surprised by that, it's what they do-- but it never created any can't miss chances. Most of its efforts were blocked by defenders, and Howard's saves came on shots which would have been very fine goals if they had found the net.


I thought Spain came on pretty hard the last 25 minutes, and while there weren't any "can't miss chances" it was nonetheless constant pressure in the US end. That't the sort of situation where defenses crack and suddenly opportunities to score are there. That was a test of will and the US stood up to the challenge, even though they played the last 8 minutes or so a man down.
6.26.2009 11:49am
Chicago:
Tough luck for the US that South Africa wasn't able to pull off a shocking win against Brazil. Still, the hosts were quite impressive yesterday.
6.26.2009 1:03pm
Chicago:
Speaking of playing a man down, is it just me, or is the US seeing an awful lot of harsh straight red cards?
6.26.2009 1:04pm
MarkField (mail):

Speaking of playing a man down, is it just me, or is the US seeing an awful lot of harsh straight red cards?


Not just you. I thought the red to Clark (Italy game) was borderline at best and probably should have been yellow. The red to Bradley was flat out absurd. I'm not even positive it was a foul (I couldn't tell from the replay if he got the ball), but a straight red was terrible refereeing.
6.26.2009 1:10pm
rosetta's stones:

Between those four sports papers alone, there must be several hours of reading for any American football fan wanting to gloat.



martinned, I don't know what-the-hang this stuff is you guys are talking about in here, but American football don't start for at least 2 months. ;-)
6.26.2009 1:11pm
Realist Liberal:
I took off some time from work to watch the game and it was wonderful. The US played harder than they have all tournament. Yes the Dempsey goal probably never should have happened but at the same time, Spain did not capitalize on US mistakes and the US did capitalize on a Spanish mistake.

Chicago~ I was thinking the same thing when the card came out. I thought it was questionable whether or not it was even a foul, let alone red card worthy. In comparison, I don't remember who did it but there was a Spanish player throwing an elbow later in the game who just got a yellow.
6.26.2009 1:17pm
solplot:
yes, PLEASE let vuvuzelas be banned from the World Cup; they're miserable for television viewers. I had to watch the ESPN replay with the tv muted.
6.26.2009 2:13pm
mrhappyfingers (mail):
The tackle deserved a yellow - I thought - and a yellow for Bradley is the same as a red. All the red cost the team was eight minutes of playing a man down.

In other words, I draw the ironic conclusion: "no harm, no foul."
6.26.2009 5:20pm

Post as: [Register] [Log In]

Account:
Password:
Remember info?

If you have a comment about spelling, typos, or format errors, please e-mail the poster directly rather than posting a comment.

Comment Policy: We reserve the right to edit or delete comments, and in extreme cases to ban commenters, at our discretion. Comments must be relevant and civil (and, especially, free of name-calling). We think of comment threads like dinner parties at our homes. If you make the party unpleasant for us or for others, we'd rather you went elsewhere. We're happy to see a wide range of viewpoints, but we want all of them to be expressed as politely as possible.

We realize that such a comment policy can never be evenly enforced, because we can't possibly monitor every comment equally well. Hundreds of comments are posted every day here, and we don't read them all. Those we read, we read with different degrees of attention, and in different moods. We try to be fair, but we make no promises.

And remember, it's a big Internet. If you think we were mistaken in removing your post (or, in extreme cases, in removing you) -- or if you prefer a more free-for-all approach -- there are surely plenty of ways you can still get your views out.