World Cup: Sunday wrapup

World Cup: Sunday wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Sunday: Asamoah Gyan's penalty kick found the upper left corner and put Ghana ahead of Serbia 1-0 in the 85th minute, launching Loftus Versfeld Stadium into celebration. The score would hold and Black Star players would run the field waving their nation's flag; the victory marked the first ever by an African team on African ground in World Cup history. Serbian midfielder Zdravko Kuzmanovic won't remember the match fondly, as it was his handball inside the box that set up the late and deciding spot-kick. While Africa's first victory of the tournament grabs the headlines and the continent's emotions, another first came of Gyan's conversion: his goal was the first scored by a striker since play began on Friday.

Also Sunday: Efficiency, organization, and tactical brilliance have long been the hallmarks of German soccer. Against Australia, the current incarnation showed that the formula still works. Die Mannschaft actually seemed a bit taken aback by its competition in the opening minutes but were able to quickly assess the Socceroos and posted its first goal inside of the ten minute mark. By match's end Germany had completely dissected Oceania's finest, posting a 4-0 score and establishing itself as the class of Group D. Germany got its goals from four different players and in so doing showcased both individual brilliance (such as Thomas Muller's 68th minute strike) and fantastic team play (Mesut Ozil's spot-on delivery across the box to set up Lukas Podolski in the 8th minute).

For the second time in less than 24 hours, poor goalkeeping dictated the result of a Group C match. Algerian keeper Faouzi Chaouchi, like England's Robert Green before him, was in the right spot to stop the deciding bid, but Robert Koren's weak shot from 18 yards managed to roll past the keeper and stake Slovenia to a late 1-0 lead. Considered by most the least talented squad in Group C, Slovenia now sits atop the group's standings, having picked up a quick three points.
What it all means: America and England alike were hoping for a draw out of Slovenia and Algeria. Instead, Slovenia managed to pick up the victory and now is in control of the group that many thought would be a cakewalk for its Western nations. The good news for the Yanks and the Three Lions is that neither team looked very strong at all on Sunday morning. The bad news is that it hardly matters: a draw against either of its supposed superiors and the Dragons, whose only real strength is keeping teams off the scoreboard, could cost one of the group's favorites a spot in the Round of 16.

After the first set of matches, Germany sits comfortably atop Group D. As a result of Tim Cahill's red card against Die Mannschaft, the Socceroos will be without its star player when it faces Ghana on Saturday. This will be a tremendous opportunity for the Black Stars. Victory will grant them access to the Round of 16 and further electrify the continent, assuming Germany defeats Serbia.

In addition to Cahill, Serbia's Aleksander Lukovic and Algeria's Abdelkader Ghezzal were issued red cards on the day. They join Uruguay's Nicolas Lodeiro as having already received an ejection and suspension in the young tournament.

What to watch on Monday: The day's best soccer will likely come early on when Denmark meets the Netherlands at 7:30 a.m. Holland's quick, up-tempo, creative brand of soccer has long been the Dutch tradition and this squad's personnel in the attack is among the tournament's best. Denmark is strong defensively and may compete with the perennial contender but is the clear underdog.

Also Monday: Like Group D, Group E features one team (Netherlands) that should move on and three others that all could stand a chance. In addition to Denmark, Japan and Cameroon could each conceivably advance to the knockout round. Saturday's match, then, between the two has huge implications. Cameroon features superstar Samuel Eto'o, who won the Champion's League with Inter Milan a few weeks ago. The African team will go as he takes them, especially given that in World Cups past, scoring has been a major issue for the Indomitable Lions. Japan's finesse play and up-and-coming attitude should serve as a solid first test for Cameroon.

In the afternoon, the 2006 champions will play their first match of this year's final when Italy and Paraguay match up in Cape Town. Italy returns a remarkable nine players from its Cup winning squad, giving the team valuable experience. That also means, of course, that they're quite old. This year's World Cup represents for Italy a study in just how young a man's game the tournament is. Paraguay will look to take advantage of Italy's age with a quick counterattack that it has utilized to make up for an often punchless attack. With qualifying victories over Argentina and Brazil, La Albirroja could certainly pose a threat to the defending champs on Monday.
Question of the Day: How has the injury to Paraguay's high-scoring striker Salvador Cabanas effected the team? Cabanas survived a gunshot wound to the head in late January, which cost him the opportunity to take part in the tournament. His recovery has been remarkably quick and the event may serve as a rallying point for the team, but to be without its top offensive threat under such emotional circumstances, obviously, could be detrimental to Paraguay.

Full schedule (all times EDT): Netherlands v Holland Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg 7:30 a.m.; Japan v Cameroon Free State Stadium, MangaungBloemfontein 10:00 a.m.; Italy v Paraguay Green Point Stadium, Cape Town 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: For myself, my job, this is a great victory. Im sorry for the Serbian team. I love its players. I tried to perform my duties in a professional manner and it is very difficult to play against Serbia. - Ghana coach and Serbian Milovan Rajevac following his team's 1-0 victory.

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.