One of the greatest attributes of the US men’s national team is something that very few other countries have on the world’s stage. And that is a combination of good sportsmanship as well as a lack of cheating.
Yesterday’s games in the World Cup were a perfect example. You had Arjen Robben flopping, leaping and diving as if he had been shot. And you had Ghana diving to win a free kick in the last minute of extra time (as well as their play acting in the United States game where they tried to eat up valuable time on the clock). And from the resulting free kick by Ghana, you had Luis Suarez of Uruguay blatantly handle the ball on the line to prevent a goal.
In the cases of Robben, Ghana (in the US game) and Suarez, they were all “rewarded” with victories. Robben played a pivotal role in winning free kicks but more significantly in upsetting the Brazilian players so much that Felipe Melo was red carded for a foul on Robben, while the other players on the Brazil team were so incensed that they focused on chasing the referee instead of goals.
Ghana, while playing an exceptional tournament at a very high level, definitely benefitted from their play-acting in the game against the United States.
And for Suarez’s handball, he became the sacrificial lamb for getting red carded but his gutsy move prevented Ghana from scoring when Gyan missed the resulting penalty.
Possibly the only few countries in world soccer that don’t fake or cheat are the United States and Asian countries such as Japan and South Korea. As a result, a lot of people have a lot more respect for teams like these because they play soccer the way it was meant to be played. Players and fans from these countries can hold their heads high knowing that they’re playing the sport it was meant to be played.
When the United States was cheated out of two goals in the first round of the World Cup, the outrage at the poor officiating was waged not by the US players but by the US soccer fans. The US soccer players were upset at the decision but they were true professionals and realized that they had to move on and concentrate on the next game rather than the past.
It makes you wonder how different the fortunes of the United States, Japan and South Korea could have been if they had cheated or dived in their key Round of 16 games. In reality, all three teams took the higher ground and focused on what matters the most which is playing its brand of soccer. And while all three teams lost in the Round of 16, they are to me champions of a different kind. Champions of a lost breed of soccer professionals who are true sportsmen.