World Cup: Recaps

Keeping up with the Cup: Groups G & H

The Group of Death died a slow one on Thursday as Portugal and Ghana competed to see who could miss more chances to skip ahead of the US. Ghana came much closer, and better wing play could have been enough to grab them a second goal and a spot in the knockout rounds.

Fortunately for the US, they moved on despite giving up control over their own destiny by conceding to the always-on-form-in-the-Cup Thomas Muller.

For all you need to know about the US game, check out PSP’s Recap and Player Ratings.

Portugal 2-1 Ghana

Cristiano Ronaldo got his goal. It was a ridiculous one, though not in the typical I-can’t-believe-he-did-that way. Instead, Ronaldo was on hand to volley home a poor slap-clearance from Fatawu Dauda. It was a goal that was much more important for the US than it was for Ronaldo himself.

Ghana played the way they have all tournament: They were aggressive, slightly out of control, and always capable of scoring. Asamoah Gyan became the highest scoring African player in World Cup history, reminding everyone just how unmotivated he must have been when he sleepwalked through his time with Sunderland.

Ghana lived and died by their wingers. When they got good service, Gyan was always dangerous. The service was an unreliable as the Ghanaian football association, however, and nobody got on the phone to demand three million quality crosses be sent into the box.

Portugal remains a team in search of a coach. And a striker. And Nani’s maturity. A country with so many talented players, Portugal has not looked like a coherent unit during Ronaldo’s tenure. They lack the discipline to control the ball and make teams play defense long enough that Ronaldo can find space to operate. By forcing the ball to their best player all the time, Portugal became as predictable as John Hackworth’s first substitution.


Ghana can still get another Cup run out of the Ayew brothers, Christian Atsu, and Kevin-Prince Boateng. But they are going to lose veteran leaders. Will they be able to survive a tough African qualifying to make 2018?

Portugal is lost. They should have recruited Jose Mourinho for the summer. Or, at the very least, Guus Hiddink.

Russia 1-1 Algeria

Russia was not very good. In a weak group, they got a number of breaks and still showed that they could not hold off a determined Algeria side. Despite an early goal, the Russians did not assert themselves on the match and when the equalizer came, they had no response.


Um… well done, Algeria. Too bad about the whole “playing Germany next” thing.

Russian needs to find a) a reliable striker, b) a reliable playmaker, and c) any goalie before they host the tournament in 2018.

Belgium 1-0 South Korea

Despite going down a man early, Belgium got a late Jan Vertonghen goal to skip past South Korea into the round of 16. For a team fully capable of being a destructive force on the world stage, the Belgians have not even gotten out of first gear thus far. Eden Hazard has not been a world beater, Dries Mertens has been the driving force of the offense, and Romelu Lukaku looks like he’s playing to drive down his price tag enough to leave Chelsea.

The biggest problems are in the midfield. Axel Witsel is a good player, but he has taken on the burden of distributing and stopping counterattacks; he has no help. Figuring out who to pair with Witsel will go a long way toward solving the Belgian issues.


Belgium plays the US next, therefore Belgium sucks (Aristotle, 2014)

Thanks to injuries to the Portuguese strikers, the US has yet to play against a burly striker capable of holding up play. Lukaku is that, and it means Kyle Beckerman will have an expanded role both surveying the midfield and supporting the center backs when Lukaku has the ball.

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