South Africa State of Mind

So I'm watching Brazil struggle to get past South Africa, and you'd be right to wonder at times which of these teams is considered among the best in the world. For all of their talent and personal fortunes, Brazil look rather pedestrian, and we nearly went through the wormhole to a USA v. South Africa final. Temporal crisis aside, a few other things crossed my mind...
  • A Tale of Two Ricardos. Ricardo Izecson "Fish-Lover" dos Santos Leite (or Kak√° to you and me) has delivered a couple of shivering body blows that I'm pretty sure would have drawn red if his name is Ricardo "Fish-Kicker" Clark, but the Brazilian Ricardo of AC Milan (soon to be Real Madrid) fame gets...nada. Different standards for the Whistlemen? You think? Just a helpful visual reminder for those keeping score at home...
  • Oooooooooh! Did you see that big bald brute Booth from South Africa getting the "BOOOOOOOOTH" chants every time he came near the ball? Remind you of anybody? Maybe "GOOOOOOOCH" Onyewu? Won't some enterprising club think of the marketing opportunities for this center back combination!?! Hell, better sign up "KUUUUUUUUUUN" Aguerro and "RUUUUUUUUD" van Nistelrooy for the front line as well.
  • Convergence of the twain. Maybe the heat is getting to me, but it looks like the US and Brazil, starting from opposite ends of the tactical/flair spectrum, are both working towards a unified theory of athletic, counterattacking ball punctuated by moments of skill. Seriously, why does Brazil look completely inept when trying to break down South Africa anywhere but on the break? What are Brazil and the US going to do in the final, sit around and stare at the ball, waiting for one side to try a little possession so the other can counter?


  1. "What are Brazil and the US going to do in the final, sit around and stare at the ball, waiting for one side to try a little possession so the other can counter?"

    Yes, that is exactly what they will do. And it will be very difficult for us, because that is a kind of game we are horrible at.

    In the Run of Play's post-game thread, I said something similar:

    Brazil and Italy are very tough match-ups for the US, because the US has been designed to beat Mexico and their possession-oriented game. I think I'd draw a distinction here between teams who designed to impose order on the game and teams designed to take advantage of moments of chaos. Mexico and Spain are the former, and so Spain plays into the American's hands by playing a style we know how to frustrate and beat. Similarities between the win over Spain and the '02 win over Mexico are striking. Italy and Brazil, on the other hand, are the latter; and we aren't a team usually capable of imposing order, so we match up extremely poorly against teams in the latter category with more skill than us.

  2. I agree with your general assessment, though I'd raise the following question as food for thought. Even if Spain "plays into our hands," how many times are we going to pitch a shutout when we concede 29 shots (16 on goal)?

  3. I'd guess less than half the time, probably around a quarter of the time, if we have someone like Howard or (vintage) Keller in goal?

    There's shots on goal, and then there's dangerous shots on goal. While the Spanish had plenty of both, they had more of the former than the latter, because the US did a great job of clogging lanes and forcing the Spanish to take shots from less-than-ideal positions.