Group C, Slovenia 1, Algeria 0—bo-o-o-o-o-o-ring; the kind of game that haters would point to to justify their hatred. Algeria’s long passes rarely connected, and they had a hard time adapting to a crisper, shorter-passing approach. Slovenia was hardly better, scoring only on a goalie mistake almost as bad as Robert Green’s, and that against a side that was down a man. (The red card against Algeria’s Ghezzal was totally uncontroversial; his decision to hand-ball the pass down in the box was a stupid one.) Neither team looked in the same class as their group opponents.
That said, the win puts Slovenia atop the group and therefore makes them dangerous. The U. S. almost certainly has to beat Slovenia now; a draw probably won’t be good enough. The fact that they must win will make the Yanks more aggressive—but will that play into Slovenia’s hands?
Group D, Serbia 0, Ghana 1—much more interesting game than the day’s first one. Not only are both teams are better than Algeria and Slovenia, but the game had a much better flow, especially in the second half. Ghana are an entertaining squad, with their youth, quickness, and speed resulting in some compelling play. Still, Serbia’s center-backs locked down the Black Star attack in the box for most of the game. Lukovic’s second yellow card, in the 74th minute, was a legitimate call, but the Serbs played well down a man, with a couple of real chances on the counterattack (Kingson making a remarkable save on one).
The key, of course, was the 83rd-minute penalty for handball. Kuzmanovic complained vociferously, but none of his teammates did—because the referee was absolutely right in his call. Gyan easily nailed the PK, and that was ball game (though the Serbs did have a couple of chances in the last ten minutes).
Group D, Germany 4, Australia 0—What’s to say? Germany dominated the pitch in every way, especially in midfield, where the Socceroos allowed the Germans far too much possession. For much of the game, Germany put on an impressive of short, crisp passing and gorgeous, on-target crosses. Unlike most of the games so far, the score was indicative of the quality of the two sides. The red card call on Aussie Tim Cahill was certainly rash but almost just as certainly irrelevant to the outcome. Die Mannschaft looks the class of the Cup as we approach the midway point of the first series of matches. I can’t wait for their matchup with Ghana; both teams will probably go through, so their game won’t be determinative of anything, but they’re clearly the best two in Group D, and that makes the game something to watch.