|Belgium is just better — it’s not a crime|
|Saturday, July 05, 2014 8:00 PM|
By JIM METCALFE
What to make of the United States losing a 2-1 heart-breaker in the World Cup quarterfinals to Belgium?
I will lend my voice — or my keyboard, since this is a computer — to the many that have praised the work of long-time US goalkeeper Tim Howard.
He was outstanding/awesome/incredible — some might even write mediocre! — against incredible pressure, especially considering the circumstances and environment in which the teams squared off.
Let’s face it: the Americans would have lost in regulation had it not been for his heroics, the Belgians were that dominant.
At some point, though, when you give a team as skilled as Belgium that many chances — that many relatively open looks — you could have an octopus back there and he wouldn’t be able to stop all of them.
I put the “blame” where it belongs: in the midfield and back line.
Even there, it isn’t so much blame — they are very competent players we have in those spots and they belong on the World Cup roster — as a lack of real execution of the game plan.
The reason the Belgians had so many good looks is because our team’s ball possession was so poor.
Ask any coach around here — or any where, for that matter, at any level — and they will tell you that you can run the most sophisticated schemes, have the greatest “shapes” — a word that gets bandied about a lot during the World Cup — in their offensive or defensive sets but it doesn’t matter if you never have the ball.
I for one just think it came down to the better team winning the match.
Their players simply have worked at the game a lot longer and a lot more than “our” boys; they have grown up with it and played it at a higher level for a lot longer.
Let’s face it: America has at least three sports with far more popularity than the “Beautiful Game” — football, basketball and baseball — and it isn’t even close.
I think you could make an argument that tennis (particularly when the Americans were far more dominant) and golf (especially when Tiger Woods is winning) are distant “seconds” with soccer perhaps edging its way past those two — tennis is falling since we are suffering through a “power” failure at the national level.
I have my own opinion about the decline of national tennis in America — partly the limitations self-imposed by the so-called “academies” that are nothing but money-making machines — but I leave that for another day!
I know I have seen a growth in soccer teams at the high school level since I started covering sports in August of 1990 — by the way, is anyone going to throw me an anniversary party?
You know if no one does, I will be deeply, profoundly, eternally — even just a teeny, tiny bit! — damaged beyond repair!
Happy Fourth of July, my 14,324 faithful readers and fans!