I try to remain objective when I write about sports, but in this case I have to admit that I was loud and demonstrative when Landon Donovan scored a late goal to put the United States into the round of 16. I want the Americans to go as far as possible in the World Cup in the hope that success will bring soccer the kind of attention in the U.S. that it receives in most of the rest of the world.
However, the fact is that the U.S. team has not looked so great. It took a major goalkeeper error to manage a draw with England. Then the Americans could do no better than a tie with Slovenia, a nation so small that there are more Americans in prison and jail than there are Slovenians in Slovenia. And it took extra time for the U.S. to beat Algeria, a team so weak it has scored only one goal in its last seven games.
Fortunately for the Americans, their next opponent, Ghana, has to be the weakest team in the round of 16. In their three World Cup matches, they scored just two goals and both of those were on penalties. To put it another way, the Ghanaians ran up and down the field for more than four and a half hours and failed to score even once from the flow of play.
After watching the best of the European and South American teams, it sometimes makes me wince to watch the Americans. How about working more on short passes and ball control? Still, the U.S. team is earnest and hard-working.
I have been in Europe throughout the World Cup and I have noticed that, truth be told, most soccer fans here have not yet paid much attention to the Americans. Yesterday I watched the boring Brazil-Portugal match in a bar in Venice, Italy, with a bunch of Brazilians (and some gondoliers who were on strike). When I mentioned the U.S. team to the Brazilians, I drew blank stares, as if they hadn't noticed that there was a team from the United States in the World Cup. It's not that Europeans and South Americans are anti-American, but rather that they are more focused on the traditional soccer powers.
The Americans have gained admiration for their ability to come from behind, and their positive attitude has led many Europeans to view them like a big friendly dog that knocks over furniture with its tail without noticing that it does so. Consequently, I think that many Europeans who do tune in to the U.S.-Ghana match will be rooting for the Americans.