June 13, 2010

Slovenia 1, Algeria 0: In a result that is much more beneficial to the U.S. of A. than it is to England, the least-populous nation in the tournament stole a win against a team of French mercenaries disguised as the Arab World's only representatives. With a win or tie on Friday, the Americans will almost certainly clinch advancement should they beat the Algerians the following week, who will probably be mathematically eliminated by then. Highlights today include another classic screw-up by a goalie on the Slovene's only goal, and perhaps the dumbest hand-ball / red card in Cup history. A TiVo classic.

UPDATE: In light of the gathering consensus that Slovenia's win was actually a bad think for US chances, and/or the notion that America faces a must-win situation Friday, let me explain. Today's win puts Slovenia two points ahead of both England and the US, with Algeria holding up the rear. If the US ties Slovenia Friday, it would remain two points ahead of the US, and at the worst, tied with England, which plays Algeria later the same day.

However, in that scenario, the prognosis definitely favors the US. Our final game is against Algeria, which will likely have been eliminated by that point. A win over Algeria will give the US five points overall, thus requiring either Slovenia (or England) to win their last game against each other to stay ahead. Were that to happen, the US would finish ahead of the loser of that game, and would advance.

But even if England and Slovenia were to draw, creating a three-way tie for first, the US would still advance on the tie-breaker were they to defeat Algeria by more than one goal (on goal differential) or if they were to outscore Slovenia in winning by a goal (on goals scored). So the combination of a draw with Slovenia and a win over Algeria will, more likely that not, get the US into the next round. Since Algeria is likely going to be playing only for pride at that point, with the coach clearing his bench to give his back-ups some World Cup experience, the US' chances would remain good.

On the other hand, if Slovenia and Algeria had finished tied today, even at 0-0, Algeria would still be playing for advancement next week against the US, no matter how badly it does with England on Friday. With something to play for, they would give the US a much tougher battle; a draw, in fact, would be much more likely than it would be if they were simply playing out the string. Slovenia, on the other hand, would still be even with the US going into its final game (assuming that they tie the US), and would still have a good chance of advancing should it win or tie England.

So the result today does not mean the US needs to beat Slovenia Friday, or significantly reduce their chances of advancing. Got that?

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