By Sherrie Li
By Falling James
By Amanda Lewis
By Amy Nicholson
By Amy Nicholson
By Jennifer Swann
By Scott Foundas
By Sherrie Li
WRITING IN LONDON'S DAILY TELEGRAPH, DAVID Miller dubbed Korea's 1-0 defeat of Portugal a victory for "Frenzy Football," a style of play "based on fanatical fitness." The aim is to never give opponents a moment to think and to wear them down through sheer lung power as much as talent. Only when they came up against the U.S. side, which is also hyperfit, did the Koreans falter. But the problem with playing like this is that you can't maintain it for very long. For the length of a World Cup, in front of your own delirious fans, maybe; but for an entire club season? I think they'd all die of exhaustion. Or we would, watching them. But in Korea's shocking 2-1 victory over Italy, frenzy football paid off. By the end of the game, it was the Italian players who were exhausted while the Korean fans were still singing their hearts out.
If the Koreans' play is frenetic, then Senegal's is hypnotic, with sinuous striker el-Hadji Diouf in the role of snake charmer in chief. He appears to do everything in slow motion, lulling defenders to sleep. But when he finally makes his move, he gets past them in the blink of an eye. Senegal is a superb attacking team, but unlike the Brazilians, they also "keep their shape." Their defenders really do defend, and aside from giving away three goals to Uruguay in the second half of their third group-stage game, they've maintained a remarkable discipline. Almost too much so. It took extra time and a golden goal for them to beat Sweden in their second-round match, and reluctance to go all-out on attack almost cost them the match. Sweden's Anders Svensson hit the outside of the post, and, a few minutes later, Senegal's Henri Camara hit the inside of the post -- and the ball went in. That was the difference. But the Senegalese are in the quarterfinals now, and have as good a chance of winning the whole thing as anyone.
A LARGE SLICE OF THE AMERICAN POPULATION AND pretty much everyone else in the world were rooting for Mexico to defeat the United States, but it was not to be. Rather like France-Denmark, this was a game in which one side dominated play but couldn't score, while the other team snapped up its chances and won 2-0. The major difference being that once America got its second goal in the 65th minute, Mexico wilted pitifully. Had the referee spotted John O'Brien's deliberate handball in the penalty area 10 minutes before the second goal, it might have been a different story. Nonetheless, the U.S. did what it did perfectly, and its two goals had nothing to do with luck and everything to do with pace down the flanks, accurate passes and bull's-eye finishing. They deserved to win.
For the Mexicans, it was undoubtedly a bitter defeat, a shameful way to end what was turning into a great World Cup. As frustration boiled over, Rafael Marquez was sent off for a vicious foul on Cobi Jones, and there was a noticeable lack of shirt swapping at the end. In fact, there was none. The Mexicans embraced each other rather than their opponents and disappeared down the tunnel. If not excusable, it's understandable. You get no credit for beating the U.S., and suffer humiliation when you lose. Bruce Arena's team is breaking other nations' hearts -- first Portugal's, now its next-door neighbor's -- but, in soccer terms, has no heart of its own that can be broken in return. We'll applaud if we win, shrug our shoulders if we lose. And with a mediocre German team facing us in the quarterfinals, further heartbreak is definitely in the cards.
It's certainly a bizarre tournament. Zinedine Zidane is back home watching it on television (if he can bear to), Landon Donovan is scoring in the quarterfinals, and almost every match is played in a stadium with thousands of empty seats. It's really the perfect setting for an American triumph: Years of soccer tradition are being brashly upended, and like us, the co-hosts, Japan and South Korea, would usually prefer watching baseball.
Join My Voice Nation for free stuff, film info & more!
Find everything you're looking for in your city
Find the best happy hour deals in your city
Get today's exclusive deals at savings of anywhere from 50-90%
Check out the hottest list of places and things to do around your city