U.S Team Scores At The World Cup
TONY COX, host:
Okay, let's get caught up on the U.S. and the World Cup. The U.S. team played Algeria today, a game that determined whether the U.S. would advance to sweet 16 of the tournament. Here's a bit of what happened.
(Soundbite of World Cup match)
Unidentified Man: Landon Donovan, (unintelligible) here for the USA. Can they do it here? Cross. Advances ahead again and Donovan has scored. Oh, can you believe this? Go. Go. USA, (unintelligible) through. Oh, it's incredible. You could not write a script like this.
COX: What a finish to that game. Dave Zirin is here with me. He's a sportswriter for The Nation and at edgeofsports.com.
Mr. DAVE ZIRIN (Sportswriter, The Nation, edgeofsports.com): Holy Heavens.
Mr. ZIRIN: That was a Hollywood-style ending.
Mr. ZIRIN: The U.S.'s best player, Landon Donovan, scoring a goal in extra time. We were just watching it in the back room. The entire office here at NPR just erupted. Because the entire game was like this bubbling explosion that just wasnt happening. USA had opportunity after opportunity. They kept blowing those opportunities. And then, in the 91st minute, Landon Donovan makes it happen.
COX: It looked like early on, tell me if I'm wrong, it looked like early on that the stars were lined up against them.
Mr. ZIRIN: Yes.
COX: They got a couple of calls that were really questionable, again, that went against them.
Mr. ZIRIN: Again, it really did look like the stars were lined against them. Clint Dempsey scored a goal. He was called offsides. Replay showed that it looked like he was even with the last defender. And in soccer, the tie goes to the offense. So if youre even youre not offside, so it looked like it was just a terrible call. And there was a disallowed goal when their comeback against Slovenia where they were down two to nothing, it ended up a 2-2 tie. They should've been up 3-2 but a goal was disallowed. So the U.S. really did seem snakebit throughout this entire World Cup. And remember, this is not your mom's U.S. soccer team.
Mr. ZIRIN: Expectations were very high. They have the best goalkeeper in the entire English Premier League in Tim Howard.
COX: He was great today too.
Mr. ZIRIN: Oh, brilliant. Half their players play in Europe, so which is considered the creme de la creme. So expectations were super high. If they had lost this game today, Coach Bob Bradley, out of a job. Instead, he is now set.
COX: So what happens now? They move to another group, right?
Mr. ZIRIN: Well, not only do they move to another group, but it looks like they're going to end up coming in first in their group, which is a huge deal because it means that they're going to end up in the next round in a quadrant with Uruguay and South Korea. If they'd come in second - first of all, if they had tied, they wouldnt have advanced at all. But...
COX: At all. They would be going home.
Mr. ZIRIN: They'd be going home in ignominious defeat. But if they had come in second, they would've been in a group with Argentina and Mexico which would've been literally the Bermuda Triangle of groups.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: That's for sure.
Mr. ZIRIN: So anybody who knows anything about soccer would have to say that the United States in the quadrant they're moving into has a puncher's, or should I say, kicker's chance.
COX: Is this the farthest that they have gone in World Cup competition?
Mr. ZIRIN: Not the farthest, but it does not happen often, the USA advancing. And it also doesnt happen often them winning in game three of the tournament of the first round of the tournament. In the history of the World Cup the United States is 0 and seven in games like today. They have never won a game three like this.
Mr. ZIRIN: Unbelievable.
Mr. ZIRIN: They have made history today.
COX: I would - it's hard, you know, as you watch them on television at the end, its hard to imagine how great they must feel about the accomplishment that they made and when they did it and what they overcame in order to accomplish it.
Mr. ZIRIN: Well, I'm just impressed that they kept their composure together because they were victims not just of some terrible calls, but they are also victims I think of their own anxiety, because as you were watching the second half, and I watched it very closely, you can feel the freneticism. You could feel the nerves. You could feel this idea, because Algeria needed to win two to nothing to advance. And it seemed very clear from early on that Algeria was playing to tie, a 0-0 tie. And my goodness, the U.S. won. It's a Hollywood-style ending. If this nation doesnt hook itself up to the soccer juices after this, nothing will.
COX: That was going to be my final question. We only have a couple of seconds left. This should kickstart America into supporting soccer. It really should.
Mr. ZIRIN: They're playing this Saturday. I'll bet you the game this Saturday has a higher rating than any of the NBA Finals or NHL Finals games. That's my prediction.
COX: God, it really is exciting.
Mr. ZIRIN: Mm-hmm.
COX: And listening to you, that's pretty exciting too, Dave.
Mr. ZIRIN: Oh, well, thank you, Tony.
(Soundbite of laughter)
COX: Dave Zirin is a sportswriter for The Nation and edgeofsports.com.
Thank you once again for dropping by.
Mr. ZIRIN: My privilege. Thank you.
(Soundbite of music)
COX: This is Tony Cox from TELL ME MORE. Lets talk more tomorrow.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.