Soccer gods were on Germans’ side
June 22, 2002
The United States are out of the World Cup and it shouldn’t be. Don’t believe me? Just ask the one person who wouldn’t have felt one shred of happiness if the U.S. had won.
“I think the soccer god’s were on our side and I’m talking about for Germany,” said Werner Christen, Douglas High girls soccer coach and staunch German supporter. “We might have gotten a little lucky.”
The Americans outplayed Germany and outshot Germany. They just couldn’t outscore Germany. Some say that’s the game and it is. The U.S. didn’t outplay Mexico to reach the quarterfinals, yet still won 2-0. We deserved a similar fate on Friday. We deserved to be in the World Cup semifinals. The soccer gods were on Germany’s side, as well they should have been. How demeaning it would be for Germany, a three-time champion, to lose to the U.S. in a sport our country ranks behind badminton, horseshoes and cow tipping.
“It would’ve been devastating,” Christen said.
The United States doesn’t care about soccer, but it loves a winner. In the past two weeks, it has already beaten two nations in Portugal and Mexico that care more about soccer than politics, sunshine and life. In England, a poll was conducted asking how many men would not have sex with their wives the night before their team’s cup opener because doing so might bring bad luck. Over 30 percent said they wouldn’t. Ridiculous. How can the U.S. compete with that? Then again, what do their wives look like?
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“I think the Germans said they respected the U.S. before the game,” Christen said. “Now I think they really do.”
Claudio Reyna, Landon Donovan, John O’Brien and the rest of the lads can think about that on the long flight home. It won’t reverse the score, of course. 1-0 will forever be 1-0. But they might find comfort in that they may have reversed Americans perception of soccer, from a wimpy suburban hobby to something our country’s best athletes might want to play. And for those who still think soccer is wimpy, you must not have watched yesterday’s game. Germany’s Christian Ziege, a bald-headed defender with a face not even his mother could adore, fits in more with the Gustapo than Germany’s national team, which already has enough big, ugly players.
After the game, Christen talked with his uncle in Munich. The general mood in Deutschland was that the Germans dodged a bullet. Wrong. They dodged several bullets.
20-year Landon Donovan missed two outstanding chances in the first half that should’ve given the U.S. the lead. More accurately, perhaps, isn’t that Donovan missed those two shots but that Germany’s Oliver Kahn showed why he’s the world’s best goalie. Kahn stopped a Donovan goal that no goalie with a tennis racket should stop. In the 39th minute, Michael Ballack score off a free kick, a weak header that found its way underneath U.S. goalie Brad Friedel.
Then, the gods took over.
In the second half, defender Gregg Berhalter’s shot bounced off Kahn and would’ve found the net if not for Germany’s Torsten Frings’ left arm, which stopped the ball from crossing the goal line
Germany 1, United States 1.
Not a chance. Scottish ref Hugh Dallas didn’t call a penalty and Kahn eventually smothered the ball. The idiot ESPN announcers questioned whether the ball hit Frings or Frings hit the ball. In AYSO, where making that call decides which team buys pizza after the game, that’s a good point. But in the World Cup quarterfinals, if someone’s arm stops the ball from scoring, it’s a penalty kick. It’s a penalty kick. It’s a penalty kick.
The United States threatened twice more but Kahn was brilliant. So were the United States, which had beaten the Germans twice in the last three meetings before Friday’s game. Three weeks ago, the Germans had more World Cup titles than the U.S. had World Cup wins since the end of World War II, our last meaningful win over Germany. The U.S. is still many World Cups away from winning one. The way it played Friday gave us hope it may happen one day. Four years ago at the World Cup in France, the U.S. finished last out of 32 teams. After losing to Germany, Iran (what?) and Yugoslavia in ’98, being able to trap the ball would’ve been sufficient progress this time around.
Now, a day after witnessing American soccer greatness, trapping the ball in the World Cup semifinals would’ve been the next logical step. Christen knows it. The Germans know it. The 2006 World Cup is in Germany and if the two teams were to meet again, it doesn’t matter how much progress the U.S. has made. Christen wouldn’t change a thing.
“There’s no gray area there. I’m for Germany,” Christen said. “I root for the United States in anything else. It’s just a soccer thing. I even root for the German women.”
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