World Cup: Wednesday wrapup

World Cup: Wednesday wrapup

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Wednesday: Argentina survived. England survived. Portugal, Ivory Coast, and Italy all survived. All of these 2010 favorites were able to escape their openers with a point or, in Argentina's case, even a win despite struggling in the attack during a remarkably low-scoring opening round. Today, Spain had the same finishing trouble as its elite brethren but suffered a much more drastic consequence. Switzerland shocked the star-studded Furia Roja, winning the contest 1-0. Spain controlled the game throughout but the Swiss defense was impenetrable and Gelson Fernandes's scrappy 53rd minute goal caught the tournament favorites by surprise in what is by far 2010's most stunning upset thus far.

Also Wednesday: June 16 marks Youth Day in South Africa, a celebration and memorial in honor of the youth that died in sparking the fight against apartheid. On such an important day for the nation, a Bafana Bafana victory on home ground would have made for an emotional and moving tale. Unfortunately for the Boys, Uruguay put forth the better effort. Diego Forlan, Los Charruas' top scoring threat, became the first player in the tournament to score twice in leading his team to a 3-0 victory. Things will get tougher for the hosts: keeper Itumeleng Khune was shown a red card and will be suspended for the team's final match against France.

As thoughts and attention shifted to group play's second set of matches, Chile made a statement in its debut as it put on one of the early tournament's most impressive performances against Honduras. The score was modest at 1-0 but Chile's 19-7 shot advantage and impressive possession rate line up with what the eyes told us: La Roja dominated. Chile's win was its first in the World Cup since 1962. Jean Beausejour got the first half goal but 21-year-old striker Alexis Sanchez put on a show that lived up to his Boy Wonder nickname. Maybe this isn't just a potential 2014 behemoth. Maybe it's a team to watch right now.

What it all means: Group H was supposed to be Spain and everyone else, but the favorites will have some work to do to win it now. Switzerland and Chile are both up-and-coming teams that now sit atop the group. Spain meets Honduras next week and will look to unload on the group's weakest to get back on track. If you're cheering for the underdogs, you'll hope to see La Furia Roja fall in even more shocking fashion and for the Swiss and Chile to draw. Such a result would bar Spain from the second round. It's unlikely, but that such a result can even be considered is testament to the gravity of Switzerland's win today.

Uruguay takes the lead in Group A and looked dominant in so doing. They'll see Mexico next week. The full implications of that one will be unknown until the end of tomorrow's tilt between France and El Tri, but we do know that a draw would advance the team out of the group. Uruguay did very well to score three times joining only Germany as having scored more than twice in the tournament as it gives Los Charruas an impressive goal differential, which could be an important factor in this still very undecided pool. As for South Africa, it was disheartening to see their supporters file out with fifteen minutes left to play.

Perhaps most importantly, Wednesday gave us the tournament's best full day of soccer yet. The quality of play has been criticized in the past week, but today featured three strong matches with important results. And the best news? The tournament's still just getting started.

What to watch on Thursday: Group B could see a reshuffling in its standings as Saturday's winners, South Korea and Argentina, will meet in the early match. The Taeguk Warriors currently sit atop the group as their two goals against Greece puts it ahead of Argentina on goal differential. South Korea's victory last week made advancing to the second round seem very possible. A decision against Argentina would make capturing the group's top spot probable. Albiceleste outplayed Nigeria last week but only scored once; look for emphasis in the finish from Lionel Messi and company.

Also Thursday: France has been in a rut for most of 2010 but Group A remains wide open. Les Bleus don't match up very well with Mexico, but they'll likely come into the contest determined. This will be France's most important and probably most difficult match, and a decision would put the team in great position to advance as they'll meet a weakened South Africa next week. For El Tri, a victory would keep the group's favorite on pace with Uruguay.

Both Greece and Nigeria still stand a shot of advancing from Group B, but if either team can get three points out of tomorrow's match, the feat for will be much more likely for the winner. Greece doesn't have much of a shot against Argentina next week and Nigeria won't be favored against South Korea. A draw against one another, then, won't do either side a whole lot of good. Both of these teams are talented and neither should feel done just yet, but only a win will do. Look for loads of urgency from either side in this match.

Question of the Day: Could Spain possibly be feeling the pressure of history? La Furia has never made it past the Cup quarterfinals and is known for falling short of expectations. The current squad, though, has been near unstoppable for over two years. Is the history of World Cup failure already in the team's head?

Full schedule (all times EDT): Argentina v South Korea Soccer City Stadium, Johannesburg 7:30 a.m.; Greece v Nigeria Free State Stadium, MangaungBloemfontein 10:00 a.m.; France v Mexico Peter Mokaba Stadium, Polokwane 2:30 p.m.

Quote of Note: They deserve to lose for taking Switzerland lightly. - New England Revolution striker and CSNNE World Cup analyst Taylor Twellman, via Twitter, on Spain's surprising loss.

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.