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The World Cup Hat-trick: U.S. is stunned at last second; Group H up for grabs

Chris Mackowiak - OTNP Sportscaster

Wednesday, June 25, 2014 • 3:13pm

The Hat-trick is a piece that focuses on three key points following action or events in the soccer world. In this case, OTNP Sportscaster follows a day of World Cup action in which the Group G clearly defined itself as the "Group of Death" and Group H continued to be unpredictable. 
1) The United States' comeback in the 2nd half: The game was rough at the inception for the Americans when a blown clearance by D Geoff Cameron led to an easy goal for Nani in the 5th minute. A rattled team seemed to slowly turn the corner on a hot humid night in Manaus toward success despite F Jozy Altidore being out for the match. First half highlights for the American offense included long, dangerous strikes close to the target while D Fabian Johnson also found himself rising to the occasion by offering wing pressure on the Portuguese defense. The team was able to account for more shots on goal in the first half than all of the match against Ghana. The United States definitely deserved a tying goal in the first 45, but they were unable to discover the back of the net; however, a strong defense and stout goalkeeper in Tim Howard emerged from the fire. Tim Howard's ability to block the net as a wall would have made even the Great Wall of China proud. 
In the second half, the Americans continued to find many offensive chances while also holding back an antsy Cristiano Ronaldo. The passion of Jurgen Klinsmann on the sideline reflected that of American fans across the country with each passing shot. It was finally a long shot from outside the box that would curl in the back of the net for the powerful defensive midfielder Jermaine Jones in the 64th. Portugal seemed to freeze in the moment as the ball flew with ease around a frozen GK Beto (in my opinion, he could have dove and saved the goal for Portugal). The American celebration conveyed the pride that the team had been playing with to that point; a second goal to complete the comeback seemed inevitable. It was then in the 81st minute that the ball would land in the back of the net off the chest of Clint Dempsey and into the back of the net. The moment followed brilliant play from the Americans as a drive and cross from D DeAndre Yedlin (sub for Bedoya) would deflect to the feet of Bradley, who's shot would deflect to the feet of Zusi, who would choose to fake a shot while aiming a pass to an unmarked Dempsey. Dempsey, the Seattle Sounders forward, has recently continued his MLS success this season as a leader for this American squad. The lead was a dream come true for the fans and a nation embarking to create an imprint in the international soccer community, sadly it was just not enough to match the magic of Ronaldo…

2) U.S.A. future in Group G filled with hope: The United States came through today by simply not losing, which was the prime mission against Portugal. By drawing with the European powerhouse, many doors open up for entrance into the next round for the Americans. They can advance on a better goal differential (much better than Ghana or Portugal) or a win/draw against Germany. So for all the Dooms-Dayers at the moment…think about how the team played today considering what the U.S.A. didn't have: Jozy Altidore who has been an offensive weapon lately. If the Americans continue their same play, they could go deep in this tournament. I have full confidence in this team now and the coach; Jurgen Klinesman found the American spirit over the last couple days and you can see it on the sidelines and the way he speaks. This is a team riding the American fandom and pride…..we don't go down without a fight. Dempsey said it best following the game today as he described it as "MLS-style"; if that's what the 2014 World Cup has become, it is playing right into the feet of the Americans as their physical play with contend well with the competition.

3) What is with the Group H teams? Group H still after the second group of matches feels like a mystery to me. Yes, we have found one of the two teams advancing in Belgium, but they achieved this feat in the ugliest of ways. The top team clearly in this group with also being chosen by many to dominate and easily clear through Algeria, Russia, and South Korea is finding difficulty. Just days ago, Belgium had to find two second half goals to defeat Algeria, and then they followed that performance with a surprising one against Russia in which Belgium scored in the 87th minute, on the brink of destruction. This Russian squad has not even impressed of late; they looked extremely poor against South Korea last week, leaving them with one point overall. So while people across the world criticize Argentina, why not take a look at a much more disappointing team in Belgium? They have the talent but where are the results? If I was their manager, I would be giving the 19-year old Origi the starting job at striker against Algeria following his goal against Russia, and not Romelu Lukaku. However, Belgium still has a berth into the round of 16; this leaves three teams (Russia, Algeria, South Korea) to fend for the final spot. My pick is definitely with the Algerians following their four goal performance against the Koreans, but in a World Cup filled with surprises, who knows? In retrospect, I desired to draw attention to Group H today for those that are fans of Group G teams because I feel as though the teams that move out of Group G will have a nice first step in the round of 16 against these Group H teams. Whether if I'm the #1 or #2 Group G seed, I would be happy because I would either have low-skill and depth (Algeria) or lack-of-performance (Belgium). Either way, for the United States, a draw with Germany could mean a quick berth into the quarterfinals…..just a thought

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