World Cup wrapup: Tuesday

World Cup wrapup: Tuesday

By Adam Vaccaro

What happened Tuesday: Coming into the day, we knew that one of the world's top three teams would be eliminated in fighting for the quarterfinals' last spot. Spain's David Villa ensured that Portugal would be the squad sent off. After Spain patiently sought out opportunities and dominated in possession through the match's first hour, Villa collected his own rebound to give Spain a 1-0 lead in the 63rd minute that would hold. La Furia Roja maintained a strong possession advantage after the goal and Portugal was unable to muster much of a comeback bid. The world's No. 2 team eliminates No. 3 and secures a trip to the quarterfinals.

That trip, of course, is one that has long haunted Spain. Despite long being a soccer threat, La Furia's never gone further than the quarters. With only Paraguay standing in the way of breaking through, it seems likely that this will be the year they at last break through.
Also Tuesday: Japan and Uruguay's morning match felt from the start as if it might take the tournament's first penalty shootout to yield a result. After both sides spent the first 20 minutes finding their footing, the first half ended with little in the way of opportunity for either side. The second stage saw a lot of time spent in both attacking thirds with neither team showing particularly strong midfield play, but very few shots threatened to disrupt the scoreless tie. Extra time also failed to produce a goal and after 120 minutes of defensive struggle, the exhausted squads were set to settle things with penalty kicks.

After the first five shots were converted three by Paraguay, two by Japan the Blue Samurai fell behind when Yuichi Komano sent his shot rattling off the crossbar. Paraguay converted its final two kicks to seal the victory, with Benfica striker Oscar Cardozo nailing the clincher. Paraguay, historically considered the outcast of South American soccer, advances to its first ever quarterfinals.

FIFA has budged some on the possible inclusion of technology to assist in officiating. While apologizing to England and Mexico for the mistaken calls that effected the outcomes of their eliminating matches, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said that it would be nonsense not to take another look at incorporating replay in tough decisions along the goal line. This could lead to some level of justice for England, who were infuriated when Frank Lampard's goal was not recognized by officials. But Mexico, who surrendered a goal to a clearly offsides Carlos Tevez, will have to be content with just the apology as offside calls will not be a part of the discussion. Still, this is clearly a step in the right direction.

A day after the resignation of French Football Federation head Jean-Pierre Escalettes, Blatter issued a warning to Nikolas Sarkozy, the president of France who is bent on uncovering the reasons for Les Bleus' horrendous World Cup performance both on and off the pitch. Blatter made it quite clear that government involvement in the team's matters will not be tolerated, threatening suspension from competition for the once-proud soccer country. Sarkozy has already met with Thierry Henry, French captain Patrice Evra, and the man who coached the team to train wreck, Raymond Domenach, and plans on meeting with every member of the squad.

For their part, the French players have expressed some remorse for their childish behavior and horrible performance. The only player to score for France in the tournament, Florent Malouda today referred to Les Bleus' refusal to train before its final match against South Africa as a big disaster. Ya don't say.

What it all means: Spain and Paraguay will meet on Saturday afternoon. La Furia Roja is the number two ranked team in the world. Paraguay? Thirty-first. It's pretty clear who the favorite is here. In Paraguay's favor, however, is Spain's past failures in making it any further in World Cup play. The weight of history can be mighty straining on a team's shoulders in international sports. Paraguay will hope that it checks in particularly heavy on Saturday.

It's a disappointing but understandable finish for Portugal, who survived the Group of Death only to be matched up against a team that so many have pegged to win the tournament. With Cristiano Ronaldo and England's Wayne Rooney both having seen their tournament end in the Round of 16, Argentina's Lionel Messi is unquestionably the biggest star still standing in the 2010 World Cup.

Japanese soccer, who some consider on a similar development path to the US, got a big boost in South Africa. The Samurai won a tough group and took a Round of 16 match as far as it could possibly go. Keisuke Honda, Yasuhito Endo, and Daisuke Matsui established themselves on the international stage in bringing the Samurai to their first knockout round off Asian soil.

What happens Wednesday: After 19 straight days of at least two games a day, the World Cup sees its first break in action before quarterfinal play starts Friday. With so much media in South Africa and no matches to cover, there is sure to be plenty of off-field news to keep tabs on.

Question of the Day: Paraguay's made it to the quarterfinals on the strength of strong defense, but can they compete with Spain? La Albirroja has beaten only Japan and Slovakia and drew Italy and New Zealand. To go from facing that opposition to a quarterfinal match-up with Spain will be like finishing up Twilight and next tackling Dubliners. I've little doubt that Paraguay will prepare itself as best it can, but such contrast in quality of competition could be completely shocking.
Quote of Note: We have to improve in all sectors of play. - Brazil coach Dunga referring to his team, which is unbeaten in the tournament, is ranked No. 1 in the world, and holds an 8-2 scoring advantage over its opposition. Yikes.

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.