Jon Marthaler's World Cup analysis

  • Article by: JON MARTHALER , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 25, 2014 - 11:02 PM

In 2002, the Germans ended an American run in the quarterfinals.

It has been barely 12 years since Germany broke the hearts of USA soccer fans, but that game — in the World Cup quarterfinals in 2002 — seems as if it took place a generation ago. The Americans reached the final eight, improbably, but though they outplayed heavily favored Germany in the match, they lost 1-0.

Thursday, the Americans meet the Germans again, this time in the group stage. Depending on the result between Portugal and Ghana in the group’s other game, played at the same time, the U.S. vs. Germany match could be a win-tie-or-go-home affair — a similar scenario to 2002.

American fans have grown used to their team comfortably qualifying for the World Cup and being competitive once they arrived, but 12 years ago, neither was a foregone conclusion. The Americans barely qualified for the 2002 World Cup, and when the tournament started, most pundits picked the Americans to again be embarrassed. Instead, a confident USA side strolled to a 3-0 lead in the first half of their opener, against Portugal, a team that many picked as a contender to win it all. The Americans held on for a 3-2 win that propelled them all the way to the knockout round, where they throttled Mexico 2-0 to earn a berth against the Germans.

Longtime American fans can hardly forget that game against Germany. The USA had the majority of the scoring chances, and German defender Torsten Frings used one arm on his own goal line to stop a volley from Gregg Berhalter, an illegal denial of a goal that was ignored by the referee. Germany’s Michael Ballack scored the winning goal in the 39th minute, and the result could only seem wildly unfair to American fans; the USA had created the chances, but Germany had won the game.

ESPN’s Michael Davies is English and, therefore, knows all about losing to Germany at soccer. He summed it up succinctly at the time, writing: “The Americans just got their hearts broken by the Germans after outplaying them. Welcome to the glorious world of international football, America.”

None of the Americans who played that day are on the 2014 roster; only DaMarcus Beasley even sat on the bench. In many ways, though, the players on this squad are just the latest pilgrims on the 12-year journey to get back to the same level of “the glorious world of international football” — and it’s the Germans that once again stand in their way.

The USA has yet to realize the promise of that unlikely quarterfinal run in 2002. That tournament was in some ways the rebirth of soccer in the USA; Major League Soccer went from contracting to expanding in the wake of the tournament, and countless people became fans of the men’s national squad, still America’s most popular soccer team. It has not led to more success for the team, though. Since that win over Mexico, the USA has not won another knockout-round game.

A win or draw Thursday would not only get the USA back into the knockout round, but also help erase the memories of that 2002 game, when the unexpected should have happened but didn’t.

Twelve years later, it is not implausible that the USA might pull off a positive result. A loss, though, could mean that Ghana or Portugal goes through — and the USA would have to go home and wait another four years, again, to surprise the world as it did in 2002.

 

Jon Marthaler is a Twin Cities-based writer and regular contributor to the SoccerCentric blog on startribune.com.

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New Orleans 28 FINAL
Carolina 10
Tampa Bay 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland
Arizona 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Philadelphia 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Houston
NY Jets 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Jacksonville 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
San Diego 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Miami
Washington 11/2/14 12:00 PM
Minnesota
St. Louis 11/2/14 3:05 PM
San Francisco
Denver 11/2/14 3:25 PM
New England
Oakland 11/2/14 3:25 PM
Seattle
Baltimore 11/2/14 7:30 PM
Pittsburgh
Indianapolis 11/3/14 7:30 PM
NY Giants
Washington 105 FINAL
Orlando 98
Detroit 91 FINAL
Minnesota 97
New York 95 FINAL
Cleveland 90
Utah 102 FINAL
Dallas 120
Oklahoma City 90 FINAL
LA Clippers 93
Boston 3 FINAL(OT)
Buffalo 2
Winnipeg 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Los Angeles 0 FINAL
Pittsburgh 3
Chicago 5 FINAL(SO)
Ottawa 4
Philadelphia 3 FINAL
Tampa Bay 4
Arizona 1 FINAL
Florida 2
San Jose 3 FINAL(SO)
Minnesota 4
Anaheim 0 FINAL
St. Louis 2
NY Islanders 0 FINAL
Colorado 5
Montreal 2 FINAL(OT)
Vancouver 3
(2) Florida State 42 FINAL
Louisville 31
Troy 10 FINAL
Ga Southern 42
Cincinnati 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 7:02 PM
Memphis
Air Force 11/1/14 10:30 AM
Army
ULM 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Texas A&M
(19) Oklahoma 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
Northwestern 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Iowa
(24) Duke 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Pittsburgh
Maryland 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Wisconsin 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Rutgers
Rice 11/1/14 11:00 AM
FIU
(21) East Carolina 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Temple
UCF 11/1/14 11:00 AM
Connecticut
Boston College 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Virginia Tech
North Carolina 11/1/14 11:30 AM
Miami-Florida
Washington 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Colorado
Central Mich 11/1/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
Western Mich 11/1/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Western Ky 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
NC State 11/1/14 2:00 PM
Syracuse
Virginia 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Georgia Tech
Purdue 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(17) Nebraska
BYU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Middle Tennessee
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(20) West Virginia
Indiana 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Michigan
Florida 11/1/14 2:30 PM
(9) Georgia
Georgia State 11/1/14 2:30 PM
Appalachian St
Kentucky 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Kansas 11/1/14 3:00 PM
(12) Baylor
Texas State 11/1/14 3:00 PM
New Mexico St
Houston 11/1/14 3:00 PM
So Florida
USC 11/1/14 3:30 PM
Washington St
Arkansas State 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Idaho
South Alabama 11/1/14 4:00 PM
Louisiana
New Mexico 11/1/14 4:30 PM
UNLV
UAB 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Fla Atlantic
(4) Auburn 11/1/14 6:00 PM
(7) Ole Miss
Old Dominion 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Vanderbilt
Colorado State 11/1/14 6:00 PM
San Jose St
Arkansas 11/1/14 6:15 PM
(1) Miss State
Stanford 11/1/14 6:30 PM
(5) Oregon
Tennessee 11/1/14 6:30 PM
So Carolina
Texas 11/1/14 6:30 PM
Texas Tech
Southern Miss 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
(6) Notre Dame 11/1/14 7:00 PM
Navy
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(11) Kansas State
Illinois 11/1/14 7:00 PM
(13) Ohio State
(14) Arizona 11/1/14 9:30 PM
(25) UCLA
California 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Oregon State
San Diego St 11/1/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Wyoming 11/1/14 9:45 PM
Fresno State
(18) Utah 11/1/14 10:00 PM
(15) Arizona State
Utah State 11/1/14 10:00 PM
Hawaii
Bowling Green 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Akron
Toledo 11/4/14 7:00 PM
Kent State
Buffalo 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ohio U
Northern Ill 11/5/14 7:00 PM
Ball State
(22) Clemson 11/6/14 6:30 PM
Wake Forest
Sporting Kansas City 1 FINAL
Red Bull New York 2
Hamilton 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Ottawa 11/7/14 6:00 PM
Toronto
Calgary 11/7/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Montreal 11/8/14 3:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 11/8/14 6:00 PM
Saskatchewan

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