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What’s a Big Difference Between the USMNT and Other Teams in the World Cup?

The USA men fell to the Netherlands 2-1 at Amsterdam ArenA, Wednesday, March 3, 2010.

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.

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  1. Adam

    July 7, 2010 at 10:48 am

    I generally agree that US Players flopped less than your average national team this year, though I would dispute your assertion that South Korea doesn’t cheat. While, perhaps, players on that side have, as a team, dove less and played relatively fair soccer, South Korean football, and the South Korean sports establishment in general has a long and storied history of cheating and corruption to glorify their nationals. Just take a look at the 2002 World Cup or the 1988 Olympics, in particular the Roy Jones Jr. fight which was later revealed to have been fixed

  2. UpTheBlues

    July 6, 2010 at 6:17 pm

    Clint Dempsey is a terrible diver… he’s on the ground half the game.

  3. G. Hartmann

    July 4, 2010 at 4:06 pm

    maybee the number of hardcore supporters between europe or south american Countries and the USA is very different.
    I was in New york in 2006 during the world soccer Championship and there was not an only big after game Party (with big i mean more then 10.000Party people). Players need supporters to be successfull. So that they know how important and full of responsibility they are for ther nation.
    Fan Party Berlin: 350.000 Party People! look here:
    I am sure if there would bu same big partis in the middle of NY or LA the american soccer players would be much more succsessfull.
    Se you in WM 2014

  4. Miket

    July 4, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    I like this topic. I was thinking about it the other day after Robben went for an oscar. But, the system seems to reward it. After all, the Brazilians are going home.
    For flopping, I think there’s definitely a continuum, and it’s not an either/or situation. The US definitely dives and flops, but way way less than a lot of the other countries.
    I have been impressed with the Germans too in this regard. Mueller could have easily stayed down and grabbed his shin with a phantom injury yesterday, but he kept playing and it led to Germany’s second goal. The problem is, most players think it’s more advantageous in that situation to get a free kick, and until the refs stop blowing the whistle for every little nick and scrape, they will continue to do so.

    • doug

      July 4, 2010 at 3:20 pm

      In the same vein, on one of Altidore’s breakaways against Ghana, he was touched in the box — a potential foul — and his instincts were to dive, only he realized he still had the ball and an open net. Had he just concentrated on scoring rather than thinking “should i dive?” the US would still be at the World Cup.

  5. WSW

    July 4, 2010 at 1:47 pm

    Everybody cheats and dives, it’s just the way you interpret it. Some say it’s taking advantage of the situation for your team. It’s the way the ref makes the call, either he gives a yellow card for the violation and FIFA gives a fine, or we will see this more often.

  6. ELAC

    July 4, 2010 at 10:47 am

    We don’t cheat and we don’t dive. We also don’t get much calls our way either. Frankly, we don’t get our of group consistently, either. It’s all about our expectations. Great, another USMNT World Cup let down, too.

  7. CoconutMonkey

    July 3, 2010 at 11:38 pm

    To the Gaffer: As much as I’d like to totally agree with you on this one, we shouldn’t hold ourselves up as the golden standard of fair play. I think we’ve seen our share of gamesmanship during the tourney as well. Namely Dempsey’s elbow, and the yellow card Altidore drew against Ghana.

    To be fair though, I think you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says that we’re more cynical than the Italians or Portuguese.

    • The Gaffer

      July 4, 2010 at 9:47 am

      I’m not saying that Dempsey or the United States team don’t foul. I’m saying that they don’t cheat and dive.

      The Gaffer

      • doug

        July 4, 2010 at 12:31 pm

        please, Altidore’s a total diver… but I agree we don’t dive as much or as blatantly as some of the other teams..

  8. doug

    July 3, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    Please, Josi Altidore is a definite diver. I didn’t see Germany diving too much today…

    After watching Germany today I think its time the USMNT got a German coach…

    • whataboutbob?!!

      July 4, 2010 at 1:06 am

      Schweinsteiger is an inveterate flopper and diver, so much so they called him out on Zonal Marking, a site that only talks about tactics. I would agree with German or Dutch, but not merely for coach. We should bring in administrators and youth coaches in order to adopt their development system as well.

  9. US Fanball

    July 3, 2010 at 1:29 pm

    First touch is the biggest difference.
    If US players had good first touch, they would be identical to Germany.

    • The Gaffer

      July 3, 2010 at 1:40 pm

      US Fanball, I thought it was the last touch that was lacking from the United States. They had so many chances to score but their final touch failed them.

      The Gaffer

  10. MP

    July 3, 2010 at 1:00 pm

    Jozy Altidore has a habit of faking fouls, too.

  11. Tbpirate

    July 3, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    As a player I never faked a foul. I was taught that doing so, and those doing so were not true players and were lesser men. Now as I continue to be a part of the game as a referee, I don’t put up with it.

    I agree FIFA should fine these players that continue to flop and fake. Hit them in the pocket books!

  12. jose

    July 3, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    defense, our backline in particular.

  13. sergio lima

    July 3, 2010 at 9:58 am

    I think FIFA, who loves to penalize people for everything, should start using the tape to penalize divers after the matches. Imagine if the FIFA court could decided today that Reuben and other two dutch players were out of the next game for cheating, this plus all the players they already have out could very well cost them a spot in the final. Once they start suspending players they will do less of this BS, otherwise, they are going to continue with this annoying BS. In Brazil there is a great player called Neymar, he is very very good when he wants to play but he loves to dive. What is happening now is that all refs already know that and unless they are 150% sure about the fault they never call it. He is hurting his team now.

    • bayou

      July 3, 2010 at 11:05 am

      Expecting FIFA to do that is like expecting the NCAA to do the same. FIFA and the NCAA are two of the most worthless ruling bodies in all of sports. They often take a course of inaction in order to preserve the status quo and then randomly penalize a bunch of people years after the fact so that they look legit.

      Every country play acts except for the Middle Eastern nations. Dempsey and Altidore both play act for calls, it rarely works, but they do it. Japan has increasingly been prone to flopping and diving. Blame Italy for the flopping trend, blame Portugal for perfecting it, and blame Mexico for bringing it to the US.

  14. Jim

    July 3, 2010 at 9:35 am

    I don’t agree. In the sporting culture of the US, a player would be expected to cheat as Suarez did in order to try and get a chance to continue the game. Also, our forward, Jozy Altidore, tended to fall a bit easily whenever there was contact from other teams. An example being the foul called against Slovenia that resulted in the infamous free kick/non-goal. Don’t let the flag you wrap around yourself cover your eyes.
    Like the poster above me wrote, I don’t believe in moral victories like this. That and a dollar will get you a double cheeseburger at McDonalds.

    • Cuba Rebel

      July 3, 2010 at 3:04 pm

      what suarez did was nothing wrong; he didnt simulate or any of that he didnt wine about it, he did what any other player would have done; try and give his team a fair chance, not his fault gyan missed

  15. Lars Lowther

    July 3, 2010 at 9:30 am

    It seems a little high and mighty to be talking about how there was no playacting going on.

    The goal that was held back from the US against Slovenia came off an extremely dodgy foul call (which led me to believe the ref was just evening things up when he called another dodgy foul call halting the goal).

  16. adam

    July 3, 2010 at 9:27 am

    I am proud of our team but we may have been hit by less ‘snipers” but in fact there was def. some acting going on from our side.

  17. Sean

    July 3, 2010 at 9:17 am

    The problem with this vitriol is that it is typical language for losers. Taking the “high” ground. Being morally responsible, blah, blah, blah…..

    Be proud of the US team for their outright effort, but be fully aware that if they played the first half of the game the way they played the second half, they very well may have moved on to the next round. PERIOD.

    Nothing will disguise that fact.

    The fact that they did not resort to the antics that some of the other teams pull is really irrelevant, as it is not how the game is intended to be played, it is HOW THE GAME IS PLAYED.

    There will be no rules changes that can change the acting that goes on.

    And….. no one will remember second best.

    • njndirish

      July 3, 2010 at 11:21 am

      Except the 1982 Brazil side

      • MP

        July 3, 2010 at 1:02 pm

        I don’t remember them.

        • njndirish

          July 3, 2010 at 3:00 pm

          Ask any soccer fan who has watched the sport since 1982, and mention the 1982 Brazil side.

          Also I should have added the 1974 Dutch side, another memorable team.

        • remember

          July 4, 2010 at 1:10 am

          I remember the 1966 german side, 1974 dutch side, 1982 brazil side, 1994 italian side, 1998 brazil side, 2002 german side, and 2006 french side. among others.

  18. afrim

    July 3, 2010 at 8:24 am

    im glad i wasnt the only one who felt more proud of the US team after watching the sillyness of yesterday’s games.

    Thank GOD Forlan scored the equilizer early or else we would have seen several Ghanians taking turns laying on the ground every few mins. They did the same to us in 2006

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