Argentina-South Korea

Argentina-South Korea

By Matt O'Leary
CSNNE.com

Argentina produced one of the best performances of the World Cup with a 4-1 romp over South Korea. The Germans had made a strong case for top title challengers with their slightly surprising 4-0 rout over Australia earlier in the week, but Argentinas performance at Soccer City matched that of the Germans. The Argentinians looked very dangerous going forward and probably could have scored 6 or 7 against the Koreans.

Soccer City Stadium was full of Argentina fans and they were in top spirits even before the kickoff. Getting into the national stadium proved as difficult and as stressful as it was for the Netherlands-Denmark game on Monday. We drove in from the opposite direction hoping to park closer to the stadium and to avoid traffic. We were unsuccessful in both regards. We sat in an hour and a half of traffic on Monday, and today had to sit in bumper to bumper traffic for about 45 minutes before finally giving up and parking in a patch of dirt on the side of Nasrec Road.

Local African guys were again showing their entrepreneurial characters by parking fans cars and charging 50 rand each. Each patch of dirt had a different group of guys running the show but the South African police were not too far away, keeping an eye on things. Every cardboard sign held up by the local entrepreneurs advertised the same thing; safe parking. The guys that parked our car promised that it would not only be safe but that it also would not be blocked in, an improvement on our prior parking situations. They made us sign something so I have no idea what that was or what their thinking was behind it, but we found our car safe and sound after the game and all the guys had been very friendly.

Walking to the stadium, it was the usual set up of locals trying to sell you everything from flags to cell phones. One girl, no older than ten years old, held her cardboard sign in front of us and asked if we wanted safe parking even though we were walking past her and were no longer in a car.

Inside the ground, the Koreans had a bigger fan contingent than I was anticipating and from my viewpoint there were three large red sections of South Korean fans. There were probably at least 1500 in each of the three sections, and the group behind one of the corner flags spent the entire match standing. Two humongous South Korea flags were sprinted up the lower sections of the stadium during their national anthem. It was very impressive and covered maybe 25-35 rows of fans, an operation only the Koreans could pull off.

The sky blue and white of Argentina dominated Soccer City though, and once they broke out in song it could be heard throughout the stadium. I wish I understood the words to a particular song because once they started singing, every Argentinean fan in the stadium stood up and bounced on the balls of their feet until the song ended. I never thought the Argentinean fans would produce a better atmosphere than the Dutch but they certainly did and it only got louder every time their heroes hit the back of the net.

Argentina played a fluent, attacking style with Lionel Messi and Carlos Tevez leading the line. Gonzalo Higuan eventually got his hat-trick but for me, Messis eloquent skill and Tevezs unstoppable work rate were more important for Argentinas overall performance. They proved themselves to be one of the favorites and should they hang on to win Group B and the Germans win Group D, the two historic nations could square off in the quarterfinals.

Argentina will have an easier path in the round of 16, as they will play against the second placed team of Group A (probably Uruguay or Mexico). The Germans, however, will probably match up against either the USA or England in the last 16 and either contest would prove a strong challenge.

Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

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Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team

NEW YORK - Jurgen Klinsmann was fired as coach of the U.S. soccer team Monday, six days after a 4-0 loss at Costa Rica dropped the Americans to 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying.

Los Angeles Galaxy coach Bruce Arena is the favorite to succeed Klinsmann, and his hiring could be announced as early as Tuesday. Arena coached the national team from 1998 to 2006.

Qualifying resumes when the U.S. hosts Honduras on March 24 and plays four days later at Panama.

"While we remain confident that we have quality players to help us advance to Russia 2018, the form and growth of the team up to this point left us convinced that we need to go in a different direction," U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati said in a statement. "With the next qualifying match in late March, we have several months to refocus the group and determine the best way forward to ensure a successful journey to qualify for our eighth consecutive World Cup."

A former German star forward who has lived mostly in Southern California since retiring as a player in 1998, Klinsmann replaced Bob Bradley in July 2011 and led the team to the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title and the second round of the 2014 World Cup, where the Americans lost to Belgium in extra time.

The USSF announced in December 2013 a four-year contract extension through 2018, but the successful World Cup was followed by poor performances. The U.S. was knocked out by Jamaica in last year's Gold Cup semifinals and lost to Mexico in a playoff for a Confederations Cup berth. The team rebounded to reach this year's Copa America semifinals before losing to Argentina 4-0. But this month Mexico beat the Americans 2-1 at Columbus, Ohio, in the first home qualifying loss for the U.S. since 2001.

And last week, the Americans were routed in Costa Rica, their largest margin of defeat in qualifying since 1980. They dropped to 0-2 for the first time in the hexagonal, as the final round of World Cup qualifying in North and Central America and the Caribbean is known.

While there is time to recover, given the top three teams qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia and the fourth-place finisher advances to a playoff against Asia's No. 5 team, players seemed confused by Klinsmann's tactics, such as a 3-4-1-2 formation used at the start against the Mexicans.

"Today we made the difficult decision of parting ways with Jurgen Klinsmann," Gulati said. "There were considerable achievements along the way ... but there were also lesser publicized efforts behind the scenes. He challenged everyone in the U.S. Soccer community to think about things in new ways, and thanks to his efforts we have grown as an organization and expect there will be benefits from his work for years to come."

The U.S. had not changed coaches in the middle of qualifying since the USSF made the position a full-time job and hired Bob Gansler in 1989 to replace Lothar Osiander, who also at the time was a waiter at a San Francisco restaurant.

Klinsmann made controversial decisions, such as dropping Landon Donovan from the 2014 World Cup roster while taking along relatively inexperienced players such as John Brooks, Julian Green and DeAndre Yedlin. Brooks and Green were among five German-Americans on the 23-man U.S. World Cup roster, which drew criticism from some in the American soccer community.

He coached the team to a 55-27-16 record, including a U.S.-record 12-game winning streak and victories in exhibitions at Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. He has worked in the past year to integrate more young players into the lineup, such as teen midfield sensation Christian Pulisic, Bobby Wood and Jordan Morris.

Arena, a 65-year-old wisecracking Brooklynite known for blunt talk, was inducted into the U.S. National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010. He coached the University of Virginia from 1978-95, then coached D.C. United to titles in Major League Soccer's first two seasons before losing in the 1998 final. As U.S. coach, he led the Americans to the 2002 World Cup quarterfinals in the team's best finish since 1930.

He was let go after the team's first-round elimination in 2006. Gulati unsuccessfully courted Klinsmann, who won the 1990 World Cup with West Germany and the 1996 European Championship with Germany, then coached his nation to the 2006 World Cup semifinals.

When Gulati and Klinsmann couldn't reach an agreement, the USSF hired Bradley, who coached the team to the second round of the 2010 World Cup. A year later, the Americans stumbled in the Gold Cup, and Klinsmann replaced Bradley.

Arena coached the New York Red Bulls of MLS from July 2006 to November 2007, then was hired the following August by the Galaxy. He led the team to MLS titles in 2011, '12 and '14.