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Sunday, June 22, 2014

The FIFA World Cup Halftime and Postgame Thread #2 For 6/22/14: Day 11 Recap (Final Version)

Day 11 Best XI 


Algeria is so deserving of having the most members in today's Best XI, a historic performance for their nation. 

The front four of Slimani, Brahimi, Djabou, and Feghouli set the tone with the desire to make things happen and were justly rewarded, especially after Feghouli was robbed of a penalty by referee Wilmar Rhodan. Feghouli and Brahimi are owners of the finest one-two combination goal in the tournament. 

They are joined in the front five by Dempsey, who played maybe his best game in a US uniform, especially considering it was at the toughest spot for him (lone forward).  

DaMarcus Beasley got caught out one time against the dangers of Portugal's speed, his #1 job of the evening, and really only got beat once by Nani (compare that to the evenings of Andre Almeida and Miguel Veloso, more on that in a bit). Thankfully for him, Ronaldo had one of his worst games in a long, long time. And when Beasley did venture forward, the former Chicago Fire prospect provided more positive play for the USA. 

Beasley's fellow fullback Fabian Johnson was simply terrific. It's hard to overlook his primary responsibility of defending, but his constant runs up the field seemed to produce a threat each and everytime. Veloso and Andre Almeida will be quite relieved to not see him again, while Paulo Bento will pray that Fabio Coentrao has a miraculous comeback for their final match against Ghana. 

The other standout German-American in this team is of course Jermaine Jones. His best game as an American, as his sensational goal was the highlight of a terrific, composed two-way display. 

The final member of the Algerian five to get into this team is Rafik Halliche, whose thundering header gave his nation their second goal and whose long ball abetting the third tally in a remarkable first half for the Fennec Foxes. The left centerback also made less mistakes in the second half than captain Madjid Bougherra and fully warrants his spot for the greatest day in his career. 

Overlooked in Belgium's tough 1-0 winner over Russia was the play of Daniel van Buyten. Considering that playing time has been hard to come by for the now former Bayern Munich centerhalf in the last few years, Van Buyten was a solid presence again today with proper positioning and no mistakes. While Vincent Kompany may have had the more glamorous plays throughout, the Belgian captain did leave Kokorin unmarked on a header that should have given Russia the lead.  So far so good for Marc Wilmots biggest question mark this tournament.  

And finally, despite seeing Varela score the latest regulation time goal in World Cup Finals history, Tim Howard still produced vital moments on the evening that kept his US side from going down 2-0 and 2-1 on the night. 

(Tomorrow begins the final games of the group stage as we are halfway through the tournament. Come back again tomorrow at 11 AM ET time for the Group B finales, followed later in the day by the Group A climaxes). 

FT: USA 2-2 Portugal 

Photo from Getty Images

Take a deep breath everyone. 

Silvestre Varela's dramatic equalizer is not only the goal that keeps Portugal alive, but also could be the moment that leads to the US exiting out of the group stage. 

The US did well to prevent going down 2-0 after Geoff Cameron's terrible miskick that fell into Nani for an easy goal. Fabian Johnson was a constant headache all night for Bento's side, as Andre Almeida and makeshift Miguel Veloso just couldn't handle him. 

Portugal was badly outplayed in the midfield, as Moutinho and Meireles didn't show the desire and consistency that Jones and Bradley had on the evening. Worst for Portugal is that this was one game that exposed Ronaldo's lack of track backing so dearly. 

And just when Ricardo Costa and Bruno Alves were having heroic performances, the play on the left side lead to their down fall, especially on Dempsey's onside goal.  

Portugal simply need a miracle on Thursday: They need a heavy win over Ghana and hope that Germany hammers the US. The worse case scenario for Klinsmann's side could be a tired, unmotivated and injury ridden Portugal team set up for a heavy pasting against a Ghana side who have the class to score many goals.  They had to win tonight after the disaster against Germany, but they just didn't have the quality to take that vital 2-0 lead. 

Silvestre Varela's latest heroics for his country after Ronaldo's only relevant moment in the match maybe a reprieve for them, but Paulo Bento's team and their fate look sealed. 

Meanwhile a forgettable evening for Geoff Cameron, who gave Nani a great assist on the first goal and then did not mark off Varela on the dramatic equalizer. Always those deep runners centerbacks have to be cognizant about at all times, and that was painfully the case there for Cameron. 

The former Houston Dynamo will have to regroup quickly as the three days rest to the final group contest after humid Manaus is the toughest turnaround in the tournament. He had such a great season at Stoke City, and was solid the first game with Besler against Ghana. But that is where him playing centerback instead of right back, where he has been one of the best in his position, may have comeback to haunt him tonight.


But even with how sick he may feel at the moment, Cameron would rather be in the current position than Ronaldo and company.  

And both sides would rather be in their current states than be apart of their nervous, pedantic fans. 

(The full Day 11 lookback with team of the day, to come) .....

Halftime: Portugal 1, USA 0

Photo from Getty Images 

Bradley and Jones have been very effective, while Fabian Johnson is a constant threat to Andre Almeida and will test the makeshift leftback's fitness in the second half. 

Ronaldo just hasn't looked a firm threat in this one, but can always produce one moment if Beasley and Johnson get too caught up going forward. 

Geoff Cameron has done okay after his uncharacteristic mistake, but was lucky to not get a second yellow. 

Paulo Bento has got to try and get some burst from Moutinho and Veloso in the midfield, as Bradley and Jones are having too much of a field day in the middle. 

Johannsson or Wondolowski may come in, but there is no urgency for them to come in with the ball controlling and chances created and almost created by the midfield. Bedoya could come off though, as he is not getting used on the left because of Costa and Almeida's weaknesses. 

Pregame Version 


1) A make or break day for Helder Postiga, his international career is on the line today, as he and Nani must be key and make runs in between Besler and Beasley instead of Besler and Cameroon.

2) The communication between Ricardo Costa and Bruno Alves will have to be sound. The Valencia man did not have a good season in La Liga and Europa League play, while the concern over Alves' fitness will only go away with a solid opening. They must watch for clever runs from Zusi and Bedoya out of the midfield.

3) And of course, the main target, where both Johnson and Beasley can't be too aggressive against Nani and Ronaldo.

4) That can only be stopped by Michael Bradley actually harassing Joao Moutinho just as much as him being aggressive offensively, while Kyle Beckerman will have to be that man also back with the fullbacks to prevent Ronaldo's constant threat. The same two for Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles battling Jermaine Jones and

5) And how will Beto play in goal tonight for Rui Patricio. 
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