By Mike Woitalla
The Brazilian national team is trying to find emotional balance, so its players are communicating via text with a psychologist.
Argentina survived a close call against Switzerland and moved on to the quarterfinals, thanks to an overtime goal by Angel di Maria set up by Lionel Messi. And thanks to “The Post of God,” announces the front page of Lance!, referring to Blerim Dzemaili’s header that missed by inches in the final minute.
And Tim Howard set a World Cup record with 16 saves.
But the Brazilian camp dominates Wednesday morning news coverage here in Rio de Janeiro.
The starters have been resting since Saturday’s shootout win over Chile while the reserves scrimmaged Fluminense’s U-20 team. Neymar is nursing a sore knee and thigh ahead of Friday’s quarterfinal with Colombia. Paulinho is expected to return to the midfield, replacing suspended Luis Gustavo.
James Rodriguez, with five goals, is Colombia’s big threat, but O Globo writes it’s crucial for outside backs Dani Alaves and Marcelo to stifle Colombian wingers Pablo Armero and Juan Cuadrado.
Coverage of the USA’s elimination with a 2-1 overtime loss to Belgium is relegated to back of the sports sections. It focuses on World Cup record-setting (since they were kept in 1966) statistics:
Belgium’s 38 shots and Howard’s 16 saves. Twenty-seven of the Red Devils shots were on target. The other 11 were blocked by field players.
“Super Howard” is the popular headline. O Globo considers many of saves as “miracles.” It writes that the USA defense was slow, Belgium was superior, but the Americans played with energy and created an exciting finish. In fact, they could have won, but Chris Wondolowski “unbelievably” missed a chance in stoppage time of regulation time. Jogo Extra has two photos of Wondo’s miss.
As was the case in 2010, the USA’s World Cup ended in the round of 16 with a 2-1 overtime loss. Four years ago it came against Ghana, after the Americans won their group with ties against England and Slovenia, and a win over Algeria.
Here in Brazil, the USA finished second in its group, with a 2-1 win over Ghana, a 2-2 tie with Portugal, and 1-0 loss to Germany.
The best American World Cup performance of the modern era remains its quarterfinal appearance under Coach Bruce Arena at the 2002 World Cup. In South Korea, the USA managed two wins, against Portugal in group play and Mexico in the round of 16.
Only twice has the USA, in 10 World Cup appearances, won two games. The other time came in 1930, when the Americans defeated Belgium and Paraguay to reach the semifinals, where they lost, 6-1 to Argentina.
If Wondolowski had hit the target. Or if, after Julian Green pulled the USA within one, had Clint Dempsey managed to lift the ball over Thibaut Courtois – maybe the USA would have won the shootout … And the USA would be playing Argentina and Messi on Saturday in Brasilia.
World Cup enthusiasm in the USA, already at a fever pitch, would have reached have unimaginable heights. A missed opportunity.
But not just because of a couple of mis-kicks. For however admirable its fight to the finish, however entertaining its dramatic games against Ghana and Portugal were, the USA leaves Brazil having been outshot by each of its four opponents.
The USA was simply never able create an effective attacking game. That is the obvious challenge going forward.