World Cup: Celebrating a Loss
If you’re a casual soccer fan, or only a U.S. World Cup fan, this is probably what you’re thinking: How can we celebrate a loss? We’re moving on to the Round of 16, but Germany whooped us, and we only snuck through because of something called “goal differential.” That’s not how I want to win. Never mind the fact that everyone was rooting for a tie! Ridiculous.
Hey, at least we’re not biting people, am I right?
You’re right though; Germany dominated. But this is what’s important. First, we live to fight another day. The Germany loss wasn’t great, but we played well against both Ghana and Portugal, two top tier teams on the international level. Ghana, it should be mentioned, is probably one of the top ten teams in the world right now. We’ve never been in that conversation, but we beat a team that is. Second, while Germany certainly outplayed us, I think that had more to do with our mentality entering the game than their superior skill level. Germany is the better team on paper, but if we’d been hungry for a win like we were in the Ghana match, we could’ve given them a better game. We could’ve surprised them. Germany played to win, and we played to tie. No doubt about it. Was it the right mentality? Maybe not.
Looking ahead to Tuesday, Belgium will be tough. They won their group with nine points, meaning they won every single match they played. Still, we have reason for hope. Belgium didn’t have any other teams in their group on par with the U.S. Sure, everyone’s citing the Belgium-U.S. friendly from a couple years ago, which Belgium won, 4-2. But that was a different U.S. team with different players. This World Cup team does what all other U.S. teams have done – counterattacks and uses set pieces – but we also create. I’ve never seen a U.S. team that creates so many opportunities to score without the crutch of a counterattack or a set piece. Creativity is one of the hallmarks of top teams, and the U.S showing glimpses of the same behavior means we’re playing at a new level. Our defensive backs aren’t the best, Michael Bradley has played poorly by his standards, but our offense is clicking like it never has before.
So despite a rocky finish in group play, on we move. Belgium, like Ghana, is a top ten team. We’ll need to play our very best. But if we do, Belgium, like Ghana, will fall. And on we’d move. Let’s make it happen.
Don’t worry, America: No rooting for a tie in this one. Prediction: U.S. wins, 1-0.