German Quagmire

by Kieran Healy on June 12, 2006

The U.S. “got schooled”: by the Czechs. The Times says that Dubya gave the team a call beforehand:

bq. Eager to prove they are among soccer’s elite after their surprising quarterfinal finish in South Korea four years ago, the Americans brought their most-talented team ever to this year’s tournament. They even got a pregame pep talk from President Bush, who called from Camp David before the game and wished them well.

Today’s result shows diplomatic good wishes won’t do it, so that leaves the other two standard policy tools for strategic foreign intervention. First choice would be a large foreign aid package. Seeing as Italy is the U.S.’s next opponent bribery stands a very good chance of working. Something to bail out “Juventus”:, for instance. Failing that, it’s airstrikes on Turin.

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Jacob Christensen » Soccer Politics
06.13.06 at 12:18 am



Scott Martens 06.12.06 at 1:27 pm

Wasn’t there a war in Latin America triggered by a World Cup qualifying match?


Kieran Healy 06.12.06 at 1:30 pm

Yeah, between “El Salvador and Honduras”: in 1969.


Filter 06.12.06 at 1:43 pm

“Seeing as Italy is the U.S.’s next opponent bribery stands a very good chance of working”.
Many thanks from your faithful Italian readers.


Arthur Davidson Ficke 06.12.06 at 1:48 pm

Actually, I don’t think anyone in America really gives much of a damn about the game. Bigger news by far is the accident of the Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger who is in surgery after a motorcycle accident this morning.


Thomas Nephew 06.12.06 at 1:58 pm

Well, I gave a damn about the game. Wish I hadn’t, though.


jet 06.12.06 at 2:01 pm

The US has a soccor team?


Chris Bertram 06.12.06 at 2:03 pm

I especially enjoyed the bit of BBC commentary which said that the USA is a similar country to the Ivory Coast. You don’t hear that often! (It is obviously false, btw, since the Ivory Coast play much better football.)


Robin 06.12.06 at 2:30 pm

I gave a damn too and am still hoping for some kind of miracle.


Kieran Healy 06.12.06 at 2:36 pm

Well, if Italy sleep out their first game (as has happened before) then there may be some hope.


jake 06.12.06 at 2:41 pm

although there is a sort of war between the North and South in the US as well.
As for people in the US not caring about the game, I suppose that’s sort of true, except for all the non-citizens who watch. I ended up watching the CdI-Argentina game with a German, an Englishman, a Honduran, a Colombian, a Kiwi, a Brazilian, and a Dutchman. It was a lot of fun.


Grand Moff Texan 06.12.06 at 2:46 pm

They even got a pregame pep talk from President Bush, who called from Camp David before the game and wished them well.

No wonder they were running in mud. The last thing I would like to know is that I’m representing that worthless sack of shit in any way, shape, or form.


Grand Moff Texan 06.12.06 at 2:49 pm

Actually, I don’t think anyone in America really gives much of a damn about the game.

Well, you would be wrong, although I wish you were right. If I didn’t care it wouldn’t hurt.

Most Americans, however, won’t care until the US has a dominant team. Funny, that. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is enjoying an outcome that the US can’t contest with an airstrike.


joel turnipseed 06.12.06 at 3:02 pm

Well… looks like Italy’s going to beat Ghana, which means the U.S. squad is going to need a miracle (or two) to get past this round. The Czech side really made them look silly today.


mark 06.12.06 at 3:12 pm

I suppose the obvious, snarky response is to note the Ireland was unable to pub-bomb their way into a group spot. But that would be as classless as Mr. Healy’s main post.


Seth Edenbaum 06.12.06 at 3:39 pm

Soccer is a game many Americans actually play unlike baseball and American football, which are used by men mostly as excuses to sit on their asses, drink beer and pretend.
Soccer is very popular in the US. Basketball is the one game Americans both play and watch.


Seth Edenbaum 06.12.06 at 3:42 pm

[Anyone who watches Univision will understand]


a 06.12.06 at 3:55 pm

“Soccer is very popular in the US.” Isn’t its popularity limited to the suburbs and the Middle Class? Soccer needs to get into the hearts and minds of the American under classes, who know how to take their sport seriously.


jhupp 06.12.06 at 4:13 pm

Okay, there are Americans who care (and I am one of them). And we are floored. I am not that bothered by the loss; count me among those who don’t think the Czech ranking is horribly overinflated. But I am floored by how bad it was. 3-0 is an utter stomping. The defense was constantly cheating forward and getting beaten badly on counterattacks. Worse, we didn’t appear to have any semblance of a strategy at all for the attack.

This was horrible.


Seth Edenbaum 06.12.06 at 4:18 pm

I’ve made the your argument and been ‘corrected’ more than once. Soccer is played in high schools all over the US: witness “Soccer Moms.” It’s less popular as a viewers’ sport, and class still has a lot to do with that, but its role has mutated from that of the prep-school game it used to be.


Chris Bertram 06.12.06 at 4:56 pm

Looking on the bright side for the US, I thought Eddie Johnson looked fairly useful.


pp 06.12.06 at 5:22 pm

Soccer isn’t in the minds of america’s underclasses???
prep school sport????
Were talking soccer, not lacrosse.
No statistics here but I think that the latin and other recent immigrant communities are generally at the low end of the income segment and they seem to be rather taken by the sport.


DivGuy 06.12.06 at 6:04 pm

Looking on the bright side for the US, I thought Eddie Johnson looked fairly useful.

I still believe that Landon Donovan and DaMarcus Beasley are useful players.

Mainly, my take is that the US played a stupid game, and played in poorly. Their skills are in speed and raw athleticism, but they inexplicably tried to run an offense based on a slow build and skillful entries. Now, they ran that slow build offense about as poorly as any national side ever has, but it was a terrible idea in the first place.

Beasley never got the ball in the open field, Donovan only once or twice. Bobby Convey choked about as hard as I’ve seen.

And that’s without talking about hte defense. Let’s not talk about the defense.


Cala 06.12.06 at 6:06 pm

Soccer’s played everywhere in the U.S. It’s just that in my experience, it’s usually everyone’s back-up sport. It’s what the football squad does for conditioning in the off-season, or what the kid just too short for the varsity basketball team does for sports, or the slower track kid does.

But it’s not watched at a top level as much, unless you watch the Hispanic stations. As a result, the talented young athlete will be likely funneled into one of the money sports; it’s not uncommon for kids to play two or three sports until high school and then concentrate on a) their best sport or b) their favorite, and their favorite is often decided by the ones where their dreams are.

In any case, the solution, obviously, is foreign aid to the needy American team, so we can mount a search and rescue for our missing offense.


nick s 06.12.06 at 7:13 pm

Could someone please explain the US gameplan today? Was there one? That was a real drubbing; and now they have to hope that the Italians have their traditional first-round shocker on Saturday. And even then, that they can score a goal.


foolishmortal 06.12.06 at 7:20 pm

Re: OP and future strategy:
The British FA has learned that Luca Toni, Andrea Pirlo and Fabio Cannavaro have sought to purchase large quantities of referees. We cannot allow the smoking gun to become a 3-0 scoreline. Thus, while the US team fervently wishes to avoid it, we must reluctantly confine these players to our training facility at Guantanamo Bay.

Re: Our (most recent) national shame:
I suppose since I’m not to care about football it shouldn’t bother me, but goddamn it does: we got schooled. Since Euro 2004 I’ve been a big fan of the czechs, and losing to them is not shameful, but the way we did it was. Sure, we went through the motions of playing a match of football, but there was no creativity, no passion, and sure as hell no skill.

Rosicky’s goals don’t bother me quite so much: the first was pure brilliance and the second was made possible by our need to send loads of men forward. The first, however, was utter crap. If our left back Lewis, who plays left wing for Leeds(!), was forward, mastroeni should have covered. If neither did, convey should have filled in. But nobody did and the czech left winger had more space than NASA.

And none of this excuses our lack of creativity or teamwork. The only player to come away with any credit was Reyna.


Cala 06.12.06 at 7:44 pm

Especially worrisome are the Italian ties to Ghanian yellowcake cards.


Randy Paul 06.12.06 at 9:33 pm

Note to Bruce Arena: there’s a technique called marking. Have your players use it next time. Also, remember: who controls the midfield wins the game.

The best hope for the US v Italy is the fact that the game is taking place in Kaiserslautern, which is full of Americans and where I fell in love with the sport.


eb 06.13.06 at 12:09 am

Could someone please explain the US gameplan today? Was there one?

Judging by their use of possession, it looked like they were trying to protect a 1-0 deficit.


dale 06.13.06 at 5:21 am

the us won’t be able to compete with the other nations meaningfully until US leagues become as competitive as those of other nations. while i appreciate that some US players are playing in other leagues, most aren’t. what you saw was the difference between top competitors and other competitors, and you can’t buy that – it’s pace, attack, ruthlessness and guile in motion and there’s no substitute.

i come from south africa, and we have the same problem. while here, the sport is massively supported, the infrastructure is more corrupt/inept (depending on the extent of your charity) than even italy. the nett result is that the actual standard and intensity of play in the year-round leagues is pretty low, lacksadaisical (sp?)and otherwise pressure-free. (my brother goes so far as to call it cargo-cult football, and to an extent he’s right.)

this gets shown up every 4 years.

the US seems to be in a similar predicament. which is odd. when you think of the large mexican-american and hispanic population, the basis of an intital audience exists, and certainly the cash to pump into the game exists. so maybe there’s a disconnect betwen the potential audience and the current leagues or something.

further note:


“it looked like they were trying to protect a 1-0 deficit”

…is really funny.


dale 06.13.06 at 5:25 am

and on a further note, we (south africa) tends to appoint most of our national coaching team en masse from within the ranks of local leaugue coaches and assistants. which helps carry over that bush-league flavour we like so much. you might be doing the same.


shpx.ohfu 06.13.06 at 8:34 am

They even got a pregame pep talk from President Bush

Sadim does it again.


Rob G 06.13.06 at 8:57 am

foolishmortal, I don’t think Leeds merits an exclamation mark (unless you were being sarcastic). And I write that as a born and bred Leeds fan.

I wouldn’t be too concerned about the US team. They just need a Serbian coach, next time one of their roving band is available.


Grand Moff Texan 06.13.06 at 9:47 am

The problem with soccer’s popularity in the US is that it doesn’t fit well into our TV format. Too hard to advertise.

People watch golf, figureskating, and poker on TV, fer cryin’ out loud.


Bro. Bartleby 06.13.06 at 12:05 pm

Somehow Bro. Clarence got hold of a soccer ball, and for the past two days has been kicking it between his two feet (must be a soccer term for that?) as he makes his way to and fro, most of the brothers are ignoring him, although Bro. Juniper did sneak up from behind and was able to swipe at the ball with his sandaled foot, but a quick move by Bro. Clarence left Bro. Juniper on him hindside with photocopies of the Nag Hammadi manuscript scattered everywhere.


Seth Edenbaum 06.13.06 at 12:32 pm

“People watch golf, figureskating, and poker on TV, fer cryin’ out loud.”

Soccer is constant play. The only way to have ads is to scroll them accross the screen or give them a box in the corner. Lots of people watch the superbowl for the multimillion dollar commerical/mini-film/rock videos.

The difference between capitalism as an aspect of culture and culture as an aspect of capitalism.


Cala 06.13.06 at 5:35 pm

Oh, come on. It’s not as though soccer exists in a wonderful advert-less paradise but gets stomped! upon! by American capitalism while European socialism holds hands. Ad styles are different, certainly, but the ‘culture as an aspect of capitalism’ argument just doesn’t hold up given ‘Samsung’ and other advertisers emblazoned on team’s chests.

We’d just have to market it more like NASCAR: plaster ads on everything.


Seth Edenbaum 06.13.06 at 10:30 pm

“European socialism”

It’s called “Social Democracy” I think.


The Continental Op 06.13.06 at 10:57 pm

Is it safe for me to admit that I am totally rooting for my Czechs to win the World Cup, and that I was thrilled with the whupping they dished out to Team USA? And can the pundits now please stop talking about how overrated the Czech team are?


ajay 06.14.06 at 9:27 am

“Today’s result shows diplomatic good wishes won’t do it, so that leaves the other two standard policy tools for strategic foreign intervention…”

Five, actually. Let Sir Humphrey explain – the context is learning that a visiting African leader is set to give a rather inflammatory speech:

“Well, Minister, we have the usual six options. One, do nothing. Two, issue a statement deploring the speech. Three, make an official protest. Four, cut off aid. Five, cut off trade relations. Six, declare war.
“But if we do nothing we implicitly agree with the speech. If we issue a statement we just look foolish. If we make an official protest it will be ignored. We can’t cut off aid because we don’t give him any. If we cut off trade relations he will be unable to negotiate the oil rig contract. And, if we declare war, it might just look as though we were over-reacting.”


Rob G 06.14.06 at 12:32 pm

The U.S. did look a bit under the weather. Maybe they needed some ∗ liver oil.

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