The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

JUNE  2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.







World Cup 2006

By Jerry Keys

A few months ago, you noticed an article about the World Cup.  Next month, it will be in full swing.  It occurs every four years, every other even numbered year that do not involve a Presidential election.  As the case in 1998, hopes are high for the U.S. men's soccer team.

When the U.S. hosted the World Cup in 1994, the Americans slipped by Columbia after Colombian soccer god Andres Escobar stretched to cut out a cross, deflected the ball into his own net. The U.S. went on to win 2-1 and advanced to Round 2 (Escobar was assassinated less than two weeks after returning home, the gunman shot him 12 times and uttered "Goal", after each shot).  The Americans lost a heartbreaker, 1-0, to the eventual champions Brazil.

The 1998 World Cup was an unforeseen disaster for the U.S.  After an

Jerry Keys

"32 Teams, only

1 Champion"

"expected" loss to powerhouse Germany, they were expected to demoralize their next two opponents, Iran and Yugoslavia.  The U.S. was defeated in both matches, managing to score only one goal in all three games combined. 

Fortunes changed four years ago when the U.S. once again advanced past Round 1.  The U.S. tied host country(ies) South Korea (Japan was the other host country), defeated Portugal, and lost to Poland.  At about 2:00 a.m. the second round game was played (keep in mind, the game was played halfway around the world), the U.S. against their newly hated rivals, the always-tough Mexico team.

The game was sparked by a number of flagrant fouls by Mexico but the U.S. played a near-flawless game and prevailed 2-0.  Next stop:  the quarterfinals (World Cup equivalent to NCAA basketball's Elite 8) against Germany.  Germany defeated the U.S. 1-0 and went on to lose the championship game to Brazil

But a question often asked is, "how did the U.S. reach the World Cup?"  It all began almost three years ago.  To qualify for the World Cup, a team must go through three rounds of play, the preliminary round, the semifinal round and the final round.

In the preliminary round, it is played as a cup system involving 10-three team groups and 2-two team groups.  The 12 group winners advance to the semifinal round. Matches began in February 2004.  The U.S. was placed in the North/Central

America region.

The U.S. was in Group 1 and was the top seed.  The two lower seeds, Grenada and Guyana, played for the right to face the U.S.  Grenada prevailed but was defeated by the U.S by scores of 3-0 and 3-2.  The United States advanced to the preliminary round.

In the preliminary round, the 12 advancing teams are paired into 3-four team groups.  Each team plays two matches each with their three opponents. The top two teams in each group advances to the final round.  The U.S was in Group 1 with Panama, El Salvador, and Jamaica.  The Americans advanced (Panama did as well with the #2 seed) by compiling a 3-0-3 record.  The U.S. defeated El Salvador twice (2-0 each time) and Panama 6-0.  All three ties were 1-1, twice to Jamaica

and the other to Panama.

In the finals, the six teams square off two times each against their five opponents.  The top three teams advance to the World Cup and the fourth team is matched with the fifth best Asian team for one spot in the World Cup.  In finals action, the U.S. posted a 7-2-1 record, tying them with Mexico for first place. 

The Unites States defeated Trinidad & Tobago (2-1, 1-0) and Panama (3-0, 2-0) twice, and Guatemala (2-0), Costa Rica (3-0), and Mexico (2-0).  The one tie was to Guatemala (0-0) and the two

losses were to Mexico (2-1) and Costa Rica (3-0).

The three teams that advanced to the World Cup are the United States, Mexico, and Costa Rica (5-4-1).  The fourth team, Trinidad & Tobago, earned a World Cup spot by defeating the #5 team from Asia, Bahrain, 1-1 and 1-0. 

The U.S. Round 1 schedule is June 12 vs. the Czech Republic, June 17 vs. Italy, and June 22 vs. Ghana.  Each group will send the top two teams to Round 2.  Each top seed will play a #2 seed. 

The U.S. should post a 2-1 record in Round 1, defeating Ghana and the Czech Republic (this game is the most pivotal) and succumbing to world power Italy.  If everything plays out that way, the U.S. will be a 2E seed (seed #2 from Group E) and will face the 1F seed (seed #1 from Group F) Brazil.  Which is where it all stops.  Brazil is the New York Yankees (and then some) of the soccer world.

The United States would fare better (and have a better chance) by upsetting Italy and going in as the 1E seed and facing the 2F.      Although making it to the quarterfinals once again may not seem like a step forward from 2002, take into consideration they have to beat just to get there.  If the U.S. loses to Italy in Round 1 and advances as a #2 seed, they must face #1 Brazil; if they beat Italy in Round 1, they will be in a better position for Round 2 by facing either Croatia, Australia, or Japan; all beatable foes.

Round 1 action will begin on June 9 and last until June 23.  Round 2 will be from June 24 to 27, Elite 8 on June 30 and July 1, Final Four July 4 and 5, 3rd place match on July 8, and the championship on July 9