The U.S. is through to the knockout stage as Group G runner-up, after a 1-0 loss to Germany.
For some fans, that is a major accomplishment.
But when has it just been enough, in any sport in this country, to only get to the playoffs?
It is nice that the American team progressed to the round of 16, in two World Cups in a row, for the first time.
They will face Belgium on Tuesday at 4 p.m. in the last of eight matches that comprise the next round.
Why should that be enough?
I am sure that the Netherlands, a team that has the same amount of World Cup titles as the U.S., will not be happy to just advance to this point. The German players are not satisfied with winning Group G. They want a title. These teams are “in it to win it.”
All the talk from the U.S. camp is that the coaches and players all expected to be here, in the knockout round. It made a quarterfinal at the 2002 cup in Korea/Japan, and the second round in 2010.
Should the fans not be aiming higher for their squad?
To advance out of a tough group is an accomplishment, but, at this point, it is not enough.
• For the American team to advance, with an abysmal performance again from its midfield, just goes to show how good a job Jurgen Klinsmann has done in other areas. Michael Bradley, for all the press he has gotten before and during the World Cup, has not only been invisible for much of the group stage, he has actually hurt the team. I wrote five months ago, in an article about Bradley’s move to the MLS, that it could hurt the U.S. team, due to the drop off in play from Serie A to MLS. It now looks like that prediction was correct. The two months off, and then his play for Toronto FC, has left him a shell of what he was the last few years.
When I have multiple people, some who are fans of the sport and some who are not, tell me that Bradley has not had a good tournament, it only confirms what I have seen with my own eyes. He gave possession away carelessly in the last minute of the match against Portugal, leading to the tying goal. Thursday, against a German side that had 65 percent possession, he did not show up at all, and in fact gave up possession needlessly multiple times.
The rest of the midfield did not do much either, bar Jermaine Jones a few times, and the game was as one-sided a 1-0 result as could be. The midfield is the Achilles’ Heel for the U.S. and against any team that it will face for the rest of the tournament it will be second best in the match.
Tim Howard has proven that he is one of the best keepers in the world many times over the past few seasons at Everton, and he continues to show just that with every big save he makes in the World Cup. He has saved the Americans blushes multiple times a match so far, and he will need to be at the top of his game again on Tuesday. Belgium will be well-rested, as it made seven changes in its match Thursday against the Korea Republic.
• FIFA suspended Uruguay striker Luis Suarez for nine international matches, gave him a four-month ban on all football, banned him from any stadium for those four months, and also fined him 100,000 Swiss Francs, for his bite on Giorgio Chiellini Tuesday.
Suarez and the Uruguayan Football Association have appealed the ban, claiming there was not enough evidence for the lengthy ban.
“It is an excessive decision, and there was not enough evidence,” said Uruguayan FA president Wilmar Valdez. “I have seen more aggressive incidents. It feels like Uruguay has been thrown out of the World Cup. Everyone knows what Suarez means to Uruguay and to football around the world. Not having Suarez would be a loss to any team.”
This is the third time that Suarez has bit an opponent during a match. The ban means that he will miss all of Liverpool’s matches until November 1, when it travels to Newcastle United. He will miss the first three UEFA Champions League group stage matches as well.
Should the ban have been longer? It seems about right. Someone has to step in here, though, and get this man help. He is a talented player, and by all accounts a good person off the pitch. But that is not the case when he steps on the field. There is no reason to think that he will stop, and each time his attacks have been in higher profile matches.
His fine, by the way, is 20,000 Swiss Francs less than Danish striker Nicklas Bendtner received for exposing his Paddy Power underwear after a goal at the 2012 European Championships.
• I want to tell you, I might as well do, about a boy who can do anything.
That is the song they sing in the terraces at Old Trafford, about a certain special young lad. Adnan Januzaj’s meteoric rise to the top gets better by the day. Last May, Januzaj was on the bench for Sir Alex Ferguson’s last match in charge of Manchester United, after his season in the reserve team squad. Thursday, he started on the wing for Belgium, as it played Korea Republic. He scored a brace in his debut match at Sunderland for United, and now, after he was added late to the Belgian squad, will grow with the very young and talented national team side over the next few years.
At just 19 years old, the sky is the limit for this kid, who should only get better under the tutelage of Louis van Gaal at Manchester United.
Contact Sean Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter at theprodigalsean