The quarter-final match against Germany was a terrific match. We attacked and defended well throughout the game. Michael Ballack, who has lived up to his pre-tournament hype, ran the German show and scored the crucial goal. Watching Oliver Kahn collapse after the match shows the world exactly what the result of that match meant to Germany and the stress level the players had to endure. Claudio Reyna saved his best performance for last, and Tony Sanneh and John O’Brien got better with each game. Eddie Pope had a great tournament as did Brad Friedel in goal. And how about the play of those two young bucks — Landon Donvoan and Damarcus Beasley! I think I can speak for all soccer fans in this country in saying that when the final whistle blew, we were all ready for more. This tournament really has been a special event for the growth of soccer in the United States.
It is called respect. Many thanks to Bruce Arena and his coaching staff and all the players of the 2002 U.S. World Cup team for giving the United States the right to hold our heads high throughout the soccer world. When you travel abroad with a youth Men’s National Team, and you find yourself complaining about a referee’s call during a match or a administrative glitch of some sort or another what do you hear---“What has the USA ever done in men’s soccer?” Well guess what, add a fourth place finish in the 2000 Olympics with a top-eight finish in the 2002 World Cup and that is what we have done. Refresh my memory here, but was it not Italy’s hotel reservations we utilized when we advanced to the semi-finals in the Sydney Olympics? And what did the assistant coach of Portugal’s Under-17 MNT tell our staff after we defeated them 3:0 in our opening game of the Montaigue Tournament in France in April? “This result doesn’t mean anything, what counts is the result in June,” he said. Well, if I run into that coach again I can ask him how that crow tasted. But, I still agree with Bruce and his assessment that we still have a long way to go to be a consistent challenger to the so-called soccer powers, but now I can talk a little smack when they lay that response on us during our future foreign tours with the Under-17 MNT.
The semi-final matches of Germany-South Korea and Brazil-Turkey produced expected results. The two favorites Germany and Brazil move on to the final. Not many had penciled in a Turkey-South Korea final, but after what we had witnessed up to this point who really knew. The two remaining games in WC 2002 should entertain us just as the entire WC 2002 has done. The final gives us a match-up (Germany-Brazil), which has never happened in World Cup play. You have the individual flair, creativity and speed of Brazil versus the strength, power and teamwork of Germany (minus Ballack) which could produce a classic final.
So enjoy, and great job to the U.S. Men’s National Team!