A busy Saturday
What had been a tournament dominated by South America suddenly isn't anymore. Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay are all gone and while some are calling Brazil's loss to the Netherlands a major upset I'm not one of them. An upset? Sure. Major? No. These were the Dutch, arguably considered the best nation to never win a World Cup and they have one of the best players in the tournament in Wesley Sneijder. Brazil just didn't play its best and when that happens at this level, you go home. Since Brazil is hosting the 2014 World Cup, and it has now gone back-to-back Cups without winning, everyone else might be playing for second in four years.
Argentina was clearly the second-best team on the field Saturday against Germany. Germany scored in the first five minutes and Bastian Schweinsteiger was easily the Man of the Match. For a team with a couple of players not on top form up front coming into the Cup, the Germans have been outstanding and Miroslav Klose continues to show why he's one of the top strikers in World Cup history. Two more goals Saturday give him four, or one more than he had in 25 Bundesliga matches with Bayern Munich this year. Germany wasn't 4-0 better than Argentina and it was 1-0 well into the second half. The Germans scored three late goals to blow it open. There were questions about Argentina coming in and though they appeared to be answered prior to Saturday, clearly the concerns were warranted.
Spain had never won a quarterfinal prior to Saturday. Hard to believe, huh? And at one point against Paraguay, it looked like Spain was going to be denied again. But then Iker Casillas stopped a penalty kick. About a minute later, Spain converted a penalty kick - but it was wiped out by players encroaching into the penalty area and the rekick was stopped by Paraguayan keeper Justo Villar. It was a surreal series of events. Neither team played great, but David Villa got the gamewinner to send Spain through against Germany.
It's going to be hard to argue with Uruguay-Ghana as the game of the tournament, simply based on the finish. After 119 minutes and about 45 seconds, Luis Suarez, a Uruguayan striker, stopped a sure Ghana goal when he used his hand. He was immediately red carded and Ghana was awarded a penalty kick and an almost surefire win. Frankly, it probably should have been ruled like goaltending is in basketball, but that is an argument for another day. The penalty here is a red card and a PK and Ghana had every chance to win this game and become first African team in the World Cup semifinals. Asamoah Gyan's strike caromed off the top of the crossbar and out of play and the ref blew the final whistle, sending the match to penalty kicks. Ironically, sadly, tragically, Gyan had a beautiful strike for one of Ghana's PKs, but Uruguay keeper Fernando Muslera made two saves.
So that sets up Netherlands vs. Uruguay Tuesday and Germany vs. Spain Wednesday. Look for a preview in a day or two.
The day ended with a disappointing 1-1 road draw for the Union against Chivas USA. While it was nice to get a point for a team that had just one win in its first eight road games, it was not a good all-around performance. For some reason, Alejandro Moreno didn't play and it showed. Danny Mwanga scored his fifth goal and Sebastien LeToux was good as usual. But without Moreno, there was just some push offensively lacking and once the Union went up 1-0, it seemed like the players were content to try to ride that out for almost 70 minutes. It didn't work, though it probably should have been 2-0 when a goal was disallowed on a blown offsides call.
Four straight at PPL Park should help this team make a playoff push.