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I wish the U.S. team would've taken this game more seriously and brought the best team to Germany, rather than the Reserves. But, how easy it to take a team ranked #22 in the world, when you're #5? This is quite clearly another case of American arrogance!
Maybe, the German team can naturalize a Brazilian forward and an Italian defender during the next ten weeks...They've already got an American coach!

One can only hope the germans win.

I have a friend who will be watching, eating pizza and drinking beer.

A win would make life much better for him and his artist friend.

In a word, it sucked. The US managed a respectable first half, as you would expect the #5 ranked team in the world to do against the #22 ranked team, but totally screwed the pooch the second half. Can you say "no defense?" It must have been very frustrating for Keller (the US goalkeeper) to see his defense (using the term very lightly) come out for the second half with their "stupid" hats on.

Watching this game took me back to the early 1990's, when it seemed pretty much every game the US played looked like this. Oh well. They didn't get to #5 in the world by winning one game, and they won't drop out of the top 20 by losing one game. Although, losing by 3 goals to the #22 ranked team could possibly jeopardize their top 10 standing. It's probably a sure bet now that they won't challenge Argentina for #4.

I hope you all got a good look at the US players in this game, because it's a safe bet that you won't be seeing many (if any) of them when we begin World Cup play in June.

Oh, and to make me feel better, I keep reminding myself that Brazil (ranked #1 in the world) qualified for the World Cup finals with a 9-7-2 record. They only one half of their qualifying games...and they still finished at the top of their region. The US also finished at the top of its region with an overall qualifying record of 12-2-4.

Now, I feel better. Good night.

"They only one half..."

It's late. I meant "They only won half..."

Hearty congratulations to the German team! And to their boss, a resident of LA!

Scott, I preferred it the first way. Reminded me of myself.... ;)

Soccer, yaaaawwwwnnn.

Here's a measure of Keller's frustration (from a Reuters report):

""What this game proves is who can play at this level and who can't," U.S. goalkeeper Kasey Keller said."

You know he wanted to finish the thought with, "...for example, our 4 defenders clearly don't belong at this level."

For the US side, this game was the last chance for second- and third-string US players to show that they have what it takes to start for the US in the World Cup final in June (most of the regular starters for the US weren't available for the game due to club commitments and injuries). US coach Arena now has the unenviable task of deciding which of these players will be added to the final US roster.

Here's the understatement of the night (from the same Reuters report):

"'I don't think too many players played themselves onto our World Cup roster tonight, to be honest with you,' [US] coach Bruce Arena said."

It is nice, however, that Arena was able to help his friend's job situation. Klinsman's job should be safe now, at least until the World Cup finals.


first of all, the fifa ranking is crap. Even teams like spain, france, england and italy rank behind the usa. this is because the us-team plays in the concacaf group, where they face "soccer-giants" like guatemala or panama. if they were to play inside the uefa facing teams like netherlands, italy, england etc. they wouldnt rank #5.
concerning the match yesterday, i must say i was deeply diappointed by the us performance. it shows what the standard of the major league soccer is. the absence of the europe-legionairs weakened the us-team immensely. so i'm sure we will see a total diffrent team in the world cup. but it still will be tough to win against italy and the czek republic. good luck for that.

Heiner
german thumb presser for the us-team

Ah, sour grapes. The FIFA rankings may not be perfect, but they're the only rankings we've got for the 3 years and 11 months every 4 years when there isn't a World Cup final actually taking place. And, they do take into account the strength of the opponent. So, beating a 50th ranked opponent will get you less ranking points than beating, say, a 7th ranked opponent (like Mexico). And losing to a 22nd ranked opponent (when you are ranked #5) will lose you a lot of points.

I'll readily admit to being a huge fan of US Soccer. I've endured a lot of heartache over the last decade, or so. Bottom line is the US has moved up in the rankings recently because they have won consistently the last few years, and Germany has moved down in the rankings because they haven't.

Nevertheless, "on any given Sunday"...that's why they play the game. Anything can happen (just ask Greece and Denmark). Why, it's even possible for a 22nd ranked team to knock of a 5th ranked team every now and then.

;)

Germany's ranking also has to do with the fact that, as hosts, they didn't play any qualifying matches. Crap game yesterday, the first half was one of the worst matches I've seen in a long time. Two completely clueless teams with no tactical ideas, just kicking the ball around. Second half was a little better, and the last three German goals were actually quite nice. However, this was only the American B-team, and it was quite obvious that they were not in shape. I don't doubt they will do much better in the World Cup. Arena's a good no-BS coach, and the US players playing the European leagues are obviously much stronger than the guys we saw yesterday.

I am still in shock. WTF HAPPENED?

I should have known something was wrong. When I got home last night, my wife handed me the tape in a somewhat sullen manner and went off to her book club.

Scott H

I want to share with you the interest in this particular match and the general interest in this sport. I live in Atlanta. The metro area has about 5 million people and if there is a "hot bed" of soccer in Georgia, it is here.

The local newspaper, the AJC, put the score in the last page of the sports section. This is where they list the odds on the NCAA tournament, NFL transactions, box scores from spring baseball, etc.

There is a small box 1/2 column wide and about an inch that lists the 2006 matches for the US national team. At the top of this box was a line Germany 4 US 1.

That was the entire coverage.

So to quote PacJim,

"Soccer, yaaaawwwwnnn"

After giving congratulations to German for the deserved win and a well-played second half, let's clear up a couple of things:

1) FIFA rankings are virtually meaningless. There's no reason to go into the reasons why, but a look at the rankings and reading how they are computed tells you all you need to know.

2) The USA was playing a mostly B team for the simple reason that more than half of their A team starters were injured or disallowed from playing. Yesterday was not a FIFA sanctioned day for friendlies. Germany and the USA were lucky that the Bundesliga let their players play.

Even if the US was fully stocked with no injuries, I would expect any decent German team to win in Germany 9 times out of ten. Especially since the pressure on Germany was enormous and non-existent for the USA except for a few of the players.

Joe, I'm not sure what your point is. I don't think anyone here is trying to argue that Soccer is the most important thing in the world. I'm interested in Soccer. It is one of my favorite sports. I realize that not everyone shares my interest in the sport -- especially in the US. Whether or not anyone in Atlanta cares about the game is of no interest to me, and doesn't seem particularly relevant.

Don Miguel and Heiner, let's keep beating this horse. As I said, the FIFA rankings may not be perfect, but they don't seem too terribly unreasonable to me. According to the ranking procedures, "the total number of points credited to a team after a match will depend on the following criteria:"

* Points for winning, drawing or losing
* Plus the points for goals scored in this game
* Minus points for the goals conceded
* Plus a 3 point bonus for the away team
* Multiplied by the appropriate factor for the status of the match
* Multiplied by the appropriate factor for regional strength

The first 4 criteria are rather straightforward: you tend to get a higher ranking if you win, score lots of goals, and concede few goals -- especially in away games. As for the remaining two criteria:

1. Status of the match - since this was a friendly, it has the lowest "status." Championship games, qualifiers, and World Cup finals have a higher status and, thus, have a higher multiplier. As one commenter pointed out, Germany did not have to qualify for the World Cup so it played fewer "higher status" qualifier games. At the same time, Germany did poorly in the European Championships -- thus missing out on the opportunity to earn "higher status" points from championship games. The US did very well during qualifying, and also won it's regional championship -- all "higher status" games. Like I said before, The US moved up in the rankings because they have won consistently recently, and Germany has not.

2. Regional strength - there is a multiplier assigned based on regional strength. Based on the lower-rated strength of CONCACAF, teams from that region have a lower multiplier. Teams from Europe have the highest multiplier. So, all else being equal, a 1-0 home win by the US would net the US fewer points than a 1-0 home win by Germany.

In the absence of any other ranking scheme, this seems reasonable to me.

Keeping on beating the dead horse, you are saying that the following is reasonable to you:

5 USA
8 France
9 England
12 Italy
14 Denmark
19 Croatia
22 Germany

My 35 years of watching international football says that it is not only unreasonable, it is worthless. Confederation ratings are reasonable, world-wide ratings are a farce. If all teams in the above list were full strength and played in a home and away match tournament (like WC qualifying), the USA would be in the bottom half and probably last.

Don Miguel,

Thirty-five years of soccer should have no bearing on current rankings. No Soccer league takes games from 5 years ago into consideration when determining current rankings. Why should FIFA?

The first three criteria -- wins/losses, goals for/against -- are the same criteria that pretty much every country in the world uses to rank its soccer teams. These three criteria, as expected, carry the most weight in the FIFA rankings. If you win games, score lots of goals, and give up few goals you do well. If you don't -- relative to everyone else -- then you don't do well. Pretty straightforward.

Now, people such as you and Heiner have a hard time accepting that countries from certain parts of the world could do well in soccer. So, FIFA has institutionalized this thinking and actually *penalizes* countries from certain parts of the world. CONCACAF is one of those regions that gets penalized relative to Europe and South America (and teams from Oceania and Asia get penalized more than CONCACAF teams).

So, given that the US has to win more games, score more goals and concede fewer goals than teams from Europe and South America -- just to stay even -- the fact that the US has moved to #5 (from around #22 a few years ago) is pretty remarkable. It may not please "traditionalists," but it is what it is.

Now as to what is reasonable, well, one man's junk is another man's art. Just keep in mind that if the US (and Mexico) was not penalized for being from CONCACAF, if they only considered win/loss records and goals for/against, they most likely would be ranked even higher -- ahead of Argentina, possibly.

Don Miguel,

Btw, you left the current European Champions off of your list. Greece is ranked #21. I haven't figured out, yet, whether they are an example of why the rankings do or do not work. Based on the fact that they came out ahead of the other European "powers" you have listed above, perhaps they should be higher in the rankings, too, no?

Actually, they are the perfect example of the "on any given Sunday" concept. At any time, theoretically, any team could beat any other team -- regardless of their respective "rankings." That's why they play the game. However, that's also why they play more than one game. It's performance (or lack thereof) over time that counts.

@Heiner,

Perhaps you have a point. While the US gets to play CONCACAF pushovers such as Panama and Guatemala, European teams have to contend with powerhouses such as Andorra, Albania, Liechtenstein, Faeroe Islands, Luxombourg, Lithuania, Malta, Latvia and San Marino -- just to name a few.

Hmmm. Then again, maybe you don't have a point.

Don Miguel asked if it seemed reasonable that Italy, France, Germany, England, Croatia and Denmark are ranked lower than the US. Well, let's explore that. And, let's throw Spain in there, too, since Heiner brought them up.

Let's take a look at how each team qualified for the upcoming World Cup finals. One way they *didn't* qualify is by playing each other. None of these "powerhouses" are in the same qualifying group. Imagine that.

Germany qualified by playing, um, no one. They qualified automatically as the host country. There are about 80 million people breathing a sigh of relief over that one.

Denmark didn't even qualify. They were third in their group to Ukraine (which qualified outright) and Turkey (which failed to qualify in a subsequent playoff). Fourth in that group, and also not qualifying, were the current European Champions, Greece. Albania, Georgia, and Kazakhstan brought up the rear.

Italy qualified and won its group that included Norway (which failed to qualify in a subsequent playoff), Scotland, Slovenia, Belarus, and Maldova.

France qualified and won its group that included Switzerland (which qualified in a subsequent playoff), Israel, Ireland, Cyprus, and Faeroe Islands. It's interesting to note that France came out of its qualifying round with 5 ties. You can figure that one out.

England qualified and won its group that included Poland (which also qualified outright), Austria, Northern Ireland, Wales, and Azerbaijan.

Croatia qualified and won its group that included non-qualifiers Sweden, Bulgaria, Hungary, Iceland, and Malta.

Spain came in second in its group to Serbia-Montenegro (which qualified outright) and qualified in a subsequent playoff against Slovakia. The other non-qualifiers in the group included Bosnia-Herzogovina, Belgium, Lithuania, and San Marino.

So, as you can see, although there are a number of "traditional powerhouses" in Europe, by design they very rarely have to play each other to qualify for various tournaments. They're all slotted into groups with arguably "second-rate" teams. It is more of a surprise when the favorites do not do well.

Finally, the US qualified and won its group (actually, CONCACAF round 3) which included Mexico (which also qualified outright), Costa Rica (which also qualified outright), Trinidad (which qualified in a subsequent playoff), and the two non-qualifying "powerhouses" Heiner mentions: Guatemala and Panama.

Taking all of this into consideration, in my opinion it is not unreasonable for the US to have a higher FIFA ranking than Italy, France, Germany, England, Croatia and Denmark.

Scott, you ignored my primary example as to why the rankings are useless:

"If all teams in the above list were full strength and played in a home and away match tournament (like WC qualifying), the USA would be in the bottom half and probably last."

I think you'll find Bruce Arena and most USA fans in complete agreement with that.

Don Miguel, I didn't ignore it. I read what you said. It's your opinion and you are certainly entitled to it. It is, however, pure speculation. There currently is no basis upon which to think that the USA would finish at the bottom of any such contest. In fact, there is good reason to believe just the opposite -- in the last World Cup the USA finished in the top 8, and most people (even your buddy Bruce) feel the team is even stronger in 2006. Other than your 35 years of watching soccer, you've offered nothing to make anyone think otherwise. We will, of course, find out in 70-some-odd days.

Am I to assume that you also think Greece has the best soccer team in Europe?

Of course it's my opinion and only that -- just as it's only your opinion that FIFA ratings are valuable. And as I already stated (although I'm not sure if in this thread), the first round will prove a lot.

What I'm saying is that seeing many of the teams and players yearly and weekly, you can't get around the fact that:

1) MLS is at best at the level of English 1st Division (and is nowhere close to the EPL, Bundesliga, Italian or Spanish 1st divisions).

2) MLS supplies roughly half the players on the USMNT.

3) The only world-class (defined as a player who could make any team anywhere) players the US has are goalkeepers.

4) The US has at best average strikers (only McBride has proven he can compete at a high level) and he is a one-dimensional player.

5) The US has a single controlling midfielder (Claudio Reyna) who is up to the task at the WC level but he is injury-prone and can be taken out of the game. And doesn't play the position at ManCity. Donovan is too inconsistent to be dependable from game to game.

6) The US has no fixed left-back (Eddie Lewis will probably get the job and he doesn't even play at that position with Leeds).

7) The vast majority of 1st, 2nd and 3rd team players in the teams I listed (and below the US in ranking) play in European the leagues I mentioned. Even at their cut-rate transfer and salary prices, many in the USMNT pool can't make it in those leagues.

This isn't 2002. No one will be surprised by the US like Portugal was. And need I mention that the US barely made it out of the 1st round after being plastered by Poland and only being saved by South Korea? But to give credit where due, the US did outplay Germany and at the minimum should have made it to OT if not for a missed hand ball in the goal.

As for "my buddy" Bruce Arena, he is the main reason that the US is where it is and why it has the possibility of making it out of the 1st round. He can make a good team out of average players.

BTW, your assumption is wrong. I don't believe Greece is anywhere close to being the best team in Europe.

"BTW, your assumption is wrong. I don't believe Greece is anywhere close to being the best team in Europe."

That's what I figured, but the assumption follows the logic of one of your arguments above. In a head-to-head competition within Europe, not unlike the World Cup in structure and stature, Greece came out on top. They survived a group with Spain and Portugal (beating Portugal twice in the tournament), they vanquished France in the quarterfinals, the Czech Republic in the semis, and Portugal (again) in the finals (Portugal had knocked off England and Holland to get to the finals). That's not opinion or speculation, it is fact. So, by your logic, they must be the best team in Europe -- and, in the absence of any other ranking mechanism, will remain so until the next European Championship.

Here's my dilemma with that logic, however. The fact that Greece is rated so poorly by FIFA relative to the other European "powerhouses" that Greece bested in the European Championship is surely conclusive proof that the FIFA rankings are worthless, no?

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