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Final: United States 2-2 Slovenia

Posted by Eric Beard  June 18, 2010 01:37 AM

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Well, the US are still in this. They really could and should have won, but any fan will be happy with a draw after going down 2-0 at halftime. Valter Birsa and Zlatan Ljubijankic scored in the 13th and 42nd minute, respectively. However, Landon Donovan took control of the game once the second half started, pulling one back with a screamer from close range in the 48th minute. The US looked certain to grab the equalizer, but it didn't come easy. After another 35 minutes of pushing forward, Michael Bradley did brilliantly to toe-poke his effort into the Slovenia net after Jozy Altidore set him up with a near-perfect header. A draw was a win for this US team because of their two-goal deficit, however, what happened next was inexplicable senselessness. Referee Koman Coulibaly (Mali) was in charge of his first World Cup game, and he denied the US a perfectly good goal in the 85th minute. Donovan swung in a freekick for Maurice Edu, who buried it in the back of the net. However, the ref blew his whistle, refusing to give the US players a reason why. The draw will be bittersweet because of that occurrence, but honestly, the US are still in a very good position. The US face Algeria next on Wednesday, and that match is now a must-win.

You can relive the action with our minute-by-minute coverage of the match below.

Time: 10 am ET
Place: the legendary Ellis Park, Johannesburg, South Africa
The scenario: Slovenia are on top of Group C (Slovenia 3 pts, England 1 pt, USA 1 pt, Algeria 0 pts) after a fortunate 1-0 victory over Algeria, but the United States expect a win. Rather, they need a win. Slovenia also know that a win is crucial to advance because their final match of the group is against European powerhouses England.

Notable Pregame Quotes

"We are confident that Slovenia are a team that we can beat, and it's like a final for us. But if we canít beat Slovenia, then we donít deserve to advance out of the group." - United States midfielder Landon Donovan

"We are playing our style of football, and we'll continue with that, and we can beat the U.S. with that style." - Slovenia midfielder Andrej Komac

"Talk is cheap, he's got to stand toe to toe and they've got to stand toe to toe with us for 90 minutes. And if he's still standing, then I'll take my hat off to him. But a lot of boxers talk too and they're looking up at the lights. And the next thing they know, they're trying to figure out how they got there." - United States goalkeeper Tim Howard

"[Slovenia] are very well organised and tactically very smart. We have a great deal of respect for them. Robert Koren is the engine of their team. [Mile] Novakovic is a tall player with a creative side and [Valter] Birsa has a great left foot. They do a good job of staying very tight." - United States manager Bob Bradley

"We might be the smallest country in this World Cup but we have not come here as tourists. We are really focused. We don't stand in awe of the US." - Slovenia manager Matjaz Kek

Quick Preview

The match against England may have been given all the hype, but believe me when I say that this match against Slovenia is a more important match for the United States. Unlike the fast tempo match against across the pond rivals, this one is expected to be more of a chess match. But this time around the US are not underdogs, not at all actually.

Slovenia is home to just over 2 million people, but don't let that fool you. The European "minnows" knocked out Europe's most populous nation, Russia (about 141 million people), to qualify for the World Cup. Slovenia are ranked 25th in the world by FIFA, while the US are ranked 14th. Slovenia, like the United States, have a squad with players who play in the top European leagues such as the German Bundesliga and Italy's Serie A.

Anyway, despite all the respect I have for this hard-working Slovenian squad, the United States have no excuse for not winning this.
My prediction: 2-0 USA with goals from defender Carlos Bocanegra off of a set piece and striker Jozy Altidore off of a short range strike.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About Corner Kicks: Julian Cardillo offers insight and analysis about the New England Revolution as well as European and international soccer.

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