Game of goals
The goals kept coming at the World Cup Sunday and — unfortunately for the U.S. — the scoring didn’t stop until the last 30 seconds of its 2-2 draw with Portugal. Both teams stayed alive, while Belgium advanced and Algeria won its first World Cup game in 32 years.
No teams were eliminated Sunday, but South Korea, Russia and Portugal are on the brink.
An already successful World Cup in Brazil reached its midpoint with another thriller, players’ shirts soaked through and sticky from the humid, steamy conditions in the Amazon rainforest. The Americans were moments away from clinching advancement out of the “Group of Death,” when world player of the year Cristiano Ronaldo made an improbable cross for Varela’s diving header and equalizer.
Varela’s score capped another day of goals. One third of the games — or 11 total — have featured four of more goals. Thirty-two games down, 32 to go.
“We’ve got a great chance in the ’Group of Death,’ they say,” U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard said. “I think we had one foot in the door. Realistically we’ve given ourselves every chance to advance. We’re optimistic.”
The U.S. plays Germany Thursday. The winner wins the group, and a draw advances both teams to the round of 16. Even the loser has a chance, depending on what happens in the Ghana-Portugal game.
“Every game now is getting bigger,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Our goal is to go into the next round.”
Algeria beat South Korea 4-2 earlier Sunday for its first World Cup win since 1982 and just the third victory by an African team in 10 World Cup games here. The Algerians became the first African team to score four goals in a World Cup match.
Russia’s hopes of moving to the knockout stages were diminished by its 1-0 loss to Belgium in Rio de Janeiro. Belgium became the sixth country to qualify for the next stage. The others so far are the Netherlands, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica and Argentina. Cameroon, Bosnia, Australia, Spain and England are definitely out.
“It’s spectacular. Everybody has prepared unbelievably well. They are sharp and fit and giving their all,” Netherlands coach Louis van Gaal said of the quality of play. “I haven’t had that feeling had at previous World Cups. ... People aren’t giving it all right up until the final minute — that’s why you get these results.”
It has certainly been a scoring festival in the land of Carnival.
• The goal total for the tournament climbed to 94. In South Africa, the first 32 matches produced 67 goals, seven of them scored by Portugal in just one match against North Korea.
• The first half of the last World Cup included and 10 draws. In Brazil, there have been just six.
• Crowds have been big and loud, particularly for Latin American teams, eight of which could qualify for the final 16.
Things haven’t been so great for Asian teams.
South Korea teeters on the verge of elimination after the loss. Asia is at risk of having no team in the next round.
Australia is already sure to be going home, regardless of whether it wins its last match against dethroned champion Spain. Iran, Japan and Korea could follow Australia out the door, even if they win their last matches.
Korea’s loss worsened Asian teams’ already dismal record to: played eight games, won none, after 11 days of competition.