By Matt O'Leary

In my third and final game at Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria, the two teams rooted at the bottom of Group E squared off against each other. Cameroon would be mathematically eliminated with a loss, while Denmark would need a minor miracle in order to qualify if they were to lose the match to Cameroon.

With high stakes riding on the game, both teams started out brightly. Instantly Cameroon looked like the faster of the two teams and created an opportunity within the first few minutes. It was my first time seeing Inter Milans Samuel Etoo play live and he was very impressive. He was constantly running across the forward line and checking back to the ball, and he found the back of the net in the tenth minute.

It was a simple error by the Danish defense as their right-back and centre-back failed to communicate and lost the ball in their own third. From there it was played to Etoos feet just inside the 18-yard box and he fired home to give Cameroon the lead. The stadium lit up when the goal went in and though there were not too many native Cameroon fans in attendance, the majority of the stadium was supporting the Cameroonians. With Bafana Bafana on the brink of elimination, it seems that native South Africans have taken to cheering for their home continent as well as their home team. It was mainly neutral fans sitting in my lower block section opposite the cameras, and they had all cheered after Etoos early goal and then fell silent together after Nicholas Bendter equalized for the Danes twenty minutes later.

Just as the Danish fans had been overrun by the colorful Dutch fans at Soccer City last Monday, they were similarly outnumbered in Pretoria. At Soccer City, the bigger sections of Danish support stood for the entire match but this wasnt the case in Pretoria. There was an eerie calm surrounding the Danish support, almost like they were collectively holding their breath until the final whistle. Perhaps they were so quiet because Cameroon was the team creating more scoring opportunities, and also the team that looked more likely to take the lead. The results of the tournaments opening ten days suggested that Cameroon would not be the side to score the all-important second goal. African sides had won just once in their first ten matches, while being slightly unfortunate and unlucky in some of those games.

The all-important second goal was all that Denmark needed to claim the vital three points. Similar to their first goal, it was a long ball that the Cameroon defense did not deal with, and the speedy Danish right winger cut inside the area and placed his shot in the corner of the goal. The stadium seemed to be in shock; Cameroon had held all the possession and chances in the opening fifteen minutes of the second half yet it was Denmark that took the 2-1 advantage.

The goal deficit encouraged some attacking substitutions from the Cameroon head coach but his side failed to break down the Denmark defense. After taking the lead, Denmark sat back and played their four midfielders right in front of their four defenders, making it very difficult for Cameroon to penetrate up the middle. They were forced to resort to whipping crosses in from the wing but the height advantage that Denmark possessed made it hard on the Cameroon forwards, and to be honest I dont remember a decent headed chance for the Cameroonians the whole game.

The Western Africans were pressing so many men forward that it looked possible that Denmark would score on the counterattack. The Danes had a couple of counter opportunities but they failed to materialize, and in the end the three points were more important than the additional goal and the win pushes Denmark in to third place in Group E. The Cameroon players were left lying on the pitch after the final whistle, knowing that despite outplaying the Danes for much of the game, they were the first team mathematically eliminated from World Cup 2010.

Jurgen Klinsmann fired as coach of United States soccer team


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.