Paul Oberjuerge header image 2

Two Matches and Some Good News/Bad News

March 29th, 2016 · 1 Comment · Abu Dhabi, Football, Maradona, soccer, World Cup

The two national soccer teams I follow had successful results today.

The UAE got a brilliant goal from Omar Abdulrahman, the best player in the Mideast, as the Emiratis secured a place in the final round of Asia qualifying for the 2018 Russia World Cup with a 1-1 draw versus Saudi Arabia.

Abdulrahman not only made the killer pass to split the Saudi defense, he then covered 30 yards to get into scoring position and bury a shot in the upper-left corner.

And the United States got back on course in the second-to-last round of Concacaf qualifying for the World Cup by thrashing Guatemala, 4-0.

And then there is some bad news, which I will get to at the bottom.

The UAE match was, at the end, something of an anti-climax, though the kandura-clad crowd of 28,000 or so at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi (including a roly-poly Diego Maradona in a luxury box) was quite happy to see its team take a point from the Saudis — who always give the UAE trouble.

As it turned out, by the middle of the match, the UAE was sure to qualify for the 12-nation final round of qualifying, thanks to results elsewhere. But the one point made them the third-ranked second-place team to advance, ahead of China.

On the other side of the world, the Americans did what they were supposed to do against a weak Guatemala side.

We would hardly have been paying attention to this match if the Yanks had not lost, limply, 2-0 at Guatemala last week, dropping the U.S. into third place in a group where only the top two advance.

It was the first U.S. loss to Guatemala since 1988, snapping a 21-match unbeaten streak against the little Central American side.

The Yanks are now back in second place, with seven points from four matches, to Guatemala’s six points. Ahead, is an away game to St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which is having trouble competing (outscored 19-3, zero points), and a home match against Trinidad & Tobago, which leads the group on 10 points.

The result was bad news in a semi-complicated, Byzantine sort of way.

I was hopeful Jurgen Klinsmann, the mostly clueless and often spiteful U.S. coach, would be fired if the U.S. lost in Columbus.

But the damage that defeat would have done to the American national team would be significant, in that they would likely would miss out on the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.

I was sitting here inventing ways the U.S. could lose to Guatemala and get Jurgen fired — and still finish second in the group with a new coach — and it was doable, if not likely.

One way through would have been for the U.S. to win its final two to finish on 13 points, with Guatemala not losing at T&T, with the latter finishing on 10 or 11 points.

The other way would require Guatemala to lose away to T&T, while the U.S., under this coach-who-is-not-Jurgen, rallies for two victories to finish ahead of Guatemala, 13-12. (This would be a likelier scenario.)

Now … Jurgen has new life, for about the third time. He probably will serve out his contract, which runs through the World Cup in 2018, barring something like a failure to reach the hexagonal … or three defeats to open the final round of six teams.

I was amused to read that fans rented a plane to drag around a sign that read “#KlinsmannOut” and included the message: “He’s a tiny little bit behind” — a mocking reference to Klinsmann’s assessment of Landon Donovan when the former dropped the latter from the 2014 World Cup team.

Donovan, by the by, before the match tonight said Klinsmann ought to be fired in the Americans lost at home to Guatemala.

Turns out, not even Klinsmann could pull off that one. He moved people back to their best positions, inserted Graham Zusi (recalled over the weekend), and it finished 4-0.


1 response so far ↓

  • 1 SCOTT DRAPER // Mar 30, 2016 at 11:57 AM






Leave a Comment