It’s incredible how one goal can make such a difference. With the game between Algeria and the United States still at nil-nil in the 90th minute Wednesday, the USA men’s national team was on the precipice of getting knocked out of the tournament. But the last-gasp winner by Landon Donovan changed everything in so many ways.
Donovan’s goal was so decisive that it meant that:
- The United States finished first in the group,
- England finished second,
- As a result, the United States finished above England so the bragging rights for Group C go to the USA, not England,
- Over the course of the three games, the United States scored four goals compared to England’s two,
And fifth, and most importantly of all, with the United States finishing in first place, they go into the easier route to the final than England. And this is a massive difference. When the United States plays Ghana on Saturday, a win will help them play either Uruguay or South Korea in the quarter-final. And if they can beat either team, they’ll be in the semi-final and may play – depending on how the teams do – Brazil or Spain, both of whom are definitely beatable based on how the US did against last summer in the Confederations Cup.
On England’s side in the bracket, they’ll need to overcome Germany. Next up, if they beat Mexico, would be Argentina. If they managed to beat Argentina, which would be a massive task, England would play possibly either Italy or Holland, two teams that are always very difficult to beat.
When the game was nil-nil against Algeria and hit the 90th minute mark, it was a strange situation. England was still leading 1-0 and were in the driving seat. However, an equalizer by Slovenia would have sent the United States and Slovenia through, so I’m sure many US fans were hoping for England to slip. At the same time, England fans seeing that the USA scoreline against Algeria was still 0-0 were licking their chops at the prospect of the United States getting knocked out of the tournament.
As it happened, Donovan’s goal changed everything. For me, it put the United States back on the soccer map. Not only because they finished the group above England but because they did it in such style and against such adversity. In two of the three games, the United States had to come back from being a goal down to tie the game. In both of England’s games where they scored, they scored first. So we haven’t seen evidence of how England does when they go a goal down. Plus, the United States were robbed of two genuine goals that should have been allowed. Even against such adversity, the United States raised their game and ended winning the group which is testament to the character of this team and country.
But most important of all, the United States gained the respect of the world. In their first game, the US got lucky against England. But in their second and third games, they raised their game and played in two of the most exciting games of this World Cup. The first one against Slovenia because of the comeback and the controversial ending when the goal was disallowed. And the second, the game against Algeria which was a tense one to watch, but featured an unbelievable ending that sent US soccer players (and fans) into raptures.
So, Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria wasn’t just a win against the North African team. It was, in a weird way, a win against England. A win that garnered more respect for the US team. A win that catapulted the United States over England and into a path that could advance the United States further into this tournament than England. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There’s still a long way to go yet.