The U.S. team plays again Wednesday morning, and it could be playing for the last time in these games. This World Cup has already seen epic upsets and the Group C results have been no exception. Startlingly, Slovenia is at the top of the group, with four points (one for a tie, three for a win). Pre-Cup favorites England and the U.S. (in more or less that order) each have two points, one for each of their ties, and Algeria rests at the bottom with one.
So what does the U.S. have to do to advance? A win against Algeria today would secure it, and could even, depending on the outcome of the England-Slovenia game, secure them first place in their group (important to determine who they would play in the next game). The U.S. could also advance with a tie, though only if England either loses or ties its game in a way that allows the U.S. to maintain its two-goal lead on England in the overall goal differential. In that scenario, the U.S. and Slovenia would advance.
How likely are these scenarios?
- U.S. Needs to Score, Algerian Keeper Good Business Insider's Gregory White notes that the "youthful Algerian keeper, Rais M'Bolhi, will be key. He shut out England in his first match, though the way they played, that isn't saying much."
- Biting Nails Rojas at The Crossed Pond adds the 2 a.m. post of a true soccer fan. "I can't sleep for worrying about this game," he moans. "Perhaps staking out the liveblog in advance will prove soporific. I smell catastrophe in the wind."
- Try Not to Bomb the First Half This Time Andrew Keh, previewing the Wednesday matches for The New York Times, points out that "the American have conceded early goals in both of their matches." He predicts that Landon Donovan will continue to be crucial on offense.
- '5 Keys' The first half is indeed important, agrees ESPN's Jeff Carlisle, who urges the U.S. to "release the hounds." The team will also need to neutralize Karim Ziani and Karim Matmour, the main dangers from the Algerian side. Oguchi Onyewu and the rest of the American defense will need to hold firm, unlike in previous games, keeping a special eye on so-called "set pieces," meaning free kicks and corners. "Get Jozy on the score sheet" is Carlisle's final suggestion: Jozy Altidore is the U.S. striker, and U.S. strikers have been awfully quiet ever since the team's stellar performance in 2002.
- These Americans Do Know There's a Game On, Right? "With their chances of progressing in this World Cup hinging on the outcome of their final Group C match against a team of no-marks ranked eleventy-tumpty places beneath them in the Fifa rankings, it is obviously the only show in town. At least you'd think it would be," snipes The Guardian's Barry Glendenning, remarking that "the lead sports illustration on the front of the Washington Post website features a photo of a fat baseball player helping to slug the Nationals to victory against the Kansas City Royals."