America's fixation on two of the premier matches in the group stage made this a day to circle on the calendar But know that the day is past, it's worth reflecting on exactly how things panned out, both for the good and the bad.
ON: Thomas Muller--The first (official hat trick) of the cup came against an unlikely rival, but the German execution did what it has always been designed to do--destroy anything that gets in its way. Even one of the top 5 teams in the world.
OFF: Pepe--Stupidity, thy name is Pepe. Sure Muller's dive to the ground in supposed "eye-gouge" agony was frustrating, but harassing, intimidating and finally headbutting solves absolutely nothing If there's one consolation, it's that all the mockery of his moronic decision may push young players to never, under any circumstances imitate him.
ON: Carlos Quieroz--The Portugese mastermind had a clear cut strategy, distract and frustrate the Nigerian attack at every turn, stack players in the box until there's no way through and make the most of a little mistake. Holding on to that strategy in the face of the Super Eagles early gains served Team Melli very well. And while I think they could well have grabbed a win a little more focus in building out of the midfield, a point for a team widely critiqued as the worst in the field is awfully promising.
OFF: Stephen Keshi--The first African manager to take his home nation to a world cup (beating Ghana's James Appiah by 3 hours) did himself no favors by refusing to alter strategy in the face of quality defense. When attacking up the middle didn't work, he had defenders boom the ball...down the middle...and then do it again...and again...One of the ugliest performances of the cup so far, bodes ill for the next matches.
ON: Tim Howard--TIMMY! was the saving grace of a spotty American back field tonight. Every time the final four ceded an inch of space, a thunderous cross or shot was rocketing into the box. Time after time, Timbo saved the day. Sure Dede Ayew equalized (courtesy of a brilliant Gyan back heel), but most other keepers at the cup would have folded long before that moment. There are questions about the American defense...but not the man between the posts.
OFF: Ghana's Mojo--I've travelled to Ghana a couple times now. I take pride in speaking a local dialect, and know that my back up World Cup squad is most definitely the Black Stars. I also know that Ghana believes in a certain kind of swagger, a particular form of magic, and they use it to their advantage to never ever play intimidated in a match. It threw off the last two American squads who underestimated the rival...but it ran out today. Whether or not it comes back in time for Germany is a major question.
Tomorrow I go back to work with a day long teacher training. So Belgium/Algeria and Brazil/Mexico may not hit my radar. Sill and all, I'll be glad to catch up as soon as I can.