This live blog originally appeared on the Guardian’s Web site on June 23, 2010. Read more of the Guardian’s World Cup coverage at guardian.co.uk/worldcup.
USA Tim Howard; Steve Cherundolo, Jay DeMerit, Jonathan Bornstein, Carlos Bocanegra; Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Maurice Edu, Clint Dempsey; Jozy Altidore, Hercules Gomez.
Algeria Rais Ouheb Mbouli; Majid Bougherra, Rafik Halliche, Antar Yahia, Nader Belhadj, Fouad Kadir, Hassan Yebda, Medhi Lacen, Karim Ziani, Rafik Djebbour, Karim Matmour.
Referee Frank De Bleeckere (Belgium)
Preamble: Algeria have scored only one goal in their last seven matches and that was a penalty against the United Arab Emirates. The Americans, however, refrained from using that stat to mock their opponents ahead of today’s game and that was wise—because if there is one thing that World Cup history has taught us it is that you shouldn’t taunt Algerians. Isn’t that right, West Germany?
Still, I’m not on the pitch today so I can slag them off without fear of a public debagging—or at least suggest that “striker” Rafik Djebbour, who comes back into the side today after being deservedly omitted against England, is a lumbering looby who will pose no problem whatsoever even to the dime-a-dozen American defenders. Behind that impotent frontline, however, Algeria are quite nifty and the contest between the left-hand side of their team—Ziani and Belhadj—and the right side of the Americans—Donovan and Cherundolo—could determine the outcome of this match.
9.55am: “Yakubu’s miss last night was epic,” writes Mike Wilner. “Afterward, he stood rooted to the spot with a grin on his face. I had the impression that he wanted to blame someone, but there was no one else remotely at fault.” No doubt about that, but was it worse than this?
2:39pm: The soundtrack to the build-up to this match is now, definitively, the Bornstein blues. “Jonathan Bornstein in the lineup should frighten every American fan,” howls Beau Giles. “Our defense has been poor up until now and he’s a virtual certainty to get torched at some point tonight. Consider him covered in lighter fluid.”
2:43pm: “Not a US-Algeria specific comment, but a damn funny video,” claims Brant Guillory. I haven’t followed that link, and can’t help wondering if it is a compilation of England’s pass attempts against Algeria.
2:45pm: Bornstein to be wild? Perhaps, reckons Robin Hazlehurst. “Got to confess I don’t know anything about this Bornstein chap,” hollers Hazelhurst. “But given that England managed to keep Algeria out with Carragher and Johnson in defence (one can’t run, other can’t tackle) alongside Terry and his comedy backpasses, then I think the Americans seem to be overdoing the worrying thing.”
2:51pm: Anyone for tennis? That’s all the BBC are showing me at the moment. Oh hold on, that’s suddenly gone off air to be replaced by a piece of cardboard presumably held up by some fashionably-coiffed work experience chump, reading “USA v Algeria coming up”. No hurry, lads.
2:53pm: Nothing to report.
National anthems: By the sounds of it there are plenty of Americans in the crowd but that won’t deter the Algerians—in fact, they’ve probably taken heart from the fact that during the Star-Spangled Banner the American players were facing in different directions. More disjointedness like that after kick-off and they’ll get their hides spanked. Here comes the Algerian tune—and, by jingo, there seems to be lots of them in Pretoria too.
2:58pm: Yahia, who I have backed to score the first goal at 33/1 (because he’s a big threat from set-pieces and I can’t see Algeria scoring any other way) wins the toss. A sign? Yes. But only a sign that they will kick-off.
1 min: We have kick-off. Belhadj immediately goes long for Djebbour, who nods it down to Matmour, who wallops it first time just over the bar. Foxy start from the Fennecs.
2 min: Donovan scampers down the right and delivers a dangerous cross. But Mbouli clasps it cleanly.
4 min: Algeria are taking the early initiatives here, with the United States content to try to absorb the pressure and strike on the counter-attack.
WHAT A MISS! It was appalling defending by DeMerit, who allowed a long diagonal ball to bounce past him and into the path of Djebbour. The striker killed it on his chest and then crashed a rash hasty shot past Howard and onto the crossbar! He had enough time and space to do much better than that but rushed his effort, betraying the confidence of a man who hasn’t scored in eons.
7 min: The United States express their gratitude for that reprieve by hurtling down the other end and going close themselves. Gomez unleashed a swirler from 25 yards. The keeper was badly positioned so made a bigger deal of it than would otherwise have been necessary, and palmed it awkwardly out for a corner.
9 min: Another elementary error by an American defender. This time it was Cherundolo who goofed, kicking air as a long ball flew through to Djebbour, who again lacked composure and plopped a ridiculous shot into the sidenetting.
11 min: Yebda booked for a silly foul on Altidore. He’ll miss the next game, if Algerian have one. “Watching from an American embassy at an undisclosed location,” reveals Mike Wilner. “Can I say that there’s virtually no atmosphere?” I don’t know, can you? Or is that a secret too?
13 min: Ziani booms a shot way, way over the bar from 30 yards. That’s been a bad habit for him this tournament.
15 min: It’s poor fare so far, to be fair. Gomez shins one over the bar from 15 yards after a decent cross by Donovan. Then the camera pans to the VIP section, where Bill Clinton is sitting in a particularly plush seat. Sepp Blatter is leaning towards him to something, or at least I hope that’s why he’s leaning towards him.
17 min: That’s an awful, Ziani-esque effort from Donovan. Get it together, lads.
19 min: I wouldn’t like to see Rafik Halliche attempt to apply some deodorant of a morning. Because he has just tried to spray a pass out to Belhadj and mised by the width of several fat bodies.
An American goal wrongly ruled out! Now where have we heard that before? Bradley broke into the box but was thwarted by a fine tackle by Bougherra, but the ball squirted out to Gomez, whose shot was blocked but Gomez then played the rebound across goal to Dempsey, who slammed it into the net. But the flag was up, the assistant ref apparently deciding that Dempsey was offside.
23 min: Defoe has put England 1-0 up against Slovenia, meaning both USA and Algeria will be on their bikes unless one of them can win here.
25 min: Bocanegra blocks a long-range shot from Matmour.
27 min: Algeria work Matmour into a promising crossing position by the right by-line but no one in the middle makes any effort to find space and the midfielder’s cross is easily cleared.
29 min: Algeria sweep forward down the left again but, yet again, there are insufficient options in the middle. Ziani had no choice but to pass to Djebbour on the penalty spot and, inevitably, the big man’s control was wonky.
31 min: Tricky work down the right frees up Yebda but his cross is cleared by DeMerit. Yebda had little chance of picking out Djebbour because the striker was surrounded by three defenders. They’re going to have to get more men in the box or all this slick approach-play will remain redundant.
33 min: Dempsey knocks the ball down to Donovan with his hand—undetected by this under-performing ref—and Donovan flails at the shot, wafting it high and wide. “I don’t know about an embassy, but I’m watching in Iowa, not exactly a footballing Mecca, and people are going crazy,” blurts Adam Large. “The tired old line about America not caring certainly doesn’t apply this year.”
35 min: That was some uncharacteristically nimble play by Djebbour, but Matmour’s finish lets him down. The United States tear down the other end and present Dempsey with a wonderful chance to open the scoring, but Bougherra puts in a last-ditch tackle and that is enough to take the sting out of the shot, which trickles into Mbolhi’s hands.
37 min: Terrible miss by Altidore! Bradley burst through the middle before laying it off to Donovan, who dinked it daintily past the on-rushing keeper, inviting Altidore to tap it past the man on the line and into the net … but instead he blazes it miles over the bar!
38 min: Neither of these teams want to die like Buridan’s ass so they’re both now hellbent on victory, meaning the game is becoming ever more open and entertaining. Matmour has just rasped one at Howard from distance. The keeper tipped it over for a corner.
40 min: Tame effort from distance by Dempsey. Well held by Mbolhi. “I’m in Texas, and if FIFA want us to care about the World Cup, they should at least supply us with competent refs,” moans Thomas Langino. Savour the character-building lesson, Thomas. Injustice is part of life, might as well get used to it. So says Sepp.
42 min: Ziani’s getting closer. His latest shot was only 10 yards wide.
44 min: Matmour attempts to barge DeMerit off the ball … but bounces back off him. He should learn to pick on someone his own size: quite small.
45 min: The half concludes with a fine, swerving cross by Belhadj to Djebbour, who, predictably, misses it.
Half-time: It’s low-quality fare but entertaining in an almost slapstick way, though the biggest blunder of the game was by the officials, who disallowed a legitimate American goal. Altidore also wasted a superb chance and Djebbour smashed the ball against the bar when a goal seemed certain. Who knows what the second half will hold?
Chinwaggery: “Paul, just one of the ways that the Guardian’s World Cup liveblogs outclass all the others is in having the confidence to refer to Buridan’s Ass with the assumption that readers will understand what you are talking about,” parps Anthony Pearsall. “But I suspect that some of my fellow Americans are indeed wondering who Buridan is, and what’s up with his or her ass? Keep it real, bro, I love you.” Google it. But make sure you spell it right or who knows where you might end up …
“The effect of the bad/missed calls is exaggerated by the United States not being especially good but, with no major continental competition in between World Cups and a qualification round that’s designed to ensure that the United States and Mexico qualify for every World Cup, it’s terribly frustrating to suffer from refereeing every four years in the only meaningful matches we ever play,” whines Bret LaGree.
“Regarding poor Thomas Langino’s despair,” begins Paddy O’Gorman. “There is a good quote from a Belgian old pro cyclist about hard luck or indeed life: ‘When I hear somebody sigh “Life is Hard” I am always tempted to ask “compared to what?”
46 min: American substitution: Feilhaber on, Gomez off. “I foolishly booked a flight that takes the entire duration of these matches, but good news, due to in-flight WiFi, I can follow them thanks to you!” brags Nick Denny. “Does this make me the highest minute-by-minuter?”
47 min: It must be said: Bornstein hasn’t looked as bad as many American fans lead us to believe. Indeed, he’s just gone on an enterprising run down the left and spooned in a respectable cross. But there was no one there to meet.
49 min: Mbolhi comes to claim a hopeful American ball into the box. “As frustrating as these disallowed goals have been for a true U.S. football fan, the call in the Slovenia game has been all the talk in the U.S., where it’s well known the public couldn’t care less about football,” reports Chris Roberts. “Of course there has been little or no mention of the poor first half we put in, which led to a situation where we needed 3 goals to win anyway. In absence of a decent team, nothing seems to unite Americans and draw their attention to the sport like perceived injustice against our ‘brave Americans brethren.’ If this scoreline stands, I am sure the blaring misses will be unnoticed by the general public, who will instead be abuzz over that disallowed goal. Or maybe that’s just the vuvuzelas affecting my thought.”
50 min: Ziani swings in a sweet corner. DeMerit tugs Halliche’s shirt but the ref doesn’t spot it and, off-balance, Halliche gets his head to it anyway but, being molested by the American, he couldn’t direct it on target. “I’m getting tired of these moaning Americans, they expect some special treatment from FIFA, bad refs are part of the game,” fumes Luis Fernando Dominguez. “I’m Mexican and we got out of our own World Cup with a good goal disallowed, Ireland didn’t go to this World Cup for a bad ref decision, the hand of God of Maradona is well, a hand. If you don’t like the beautiful game, go watch some boring baseball but stop asking for the red carpet because you are Americans and “FIFA wants you to care about the World Cup.”
52 min: Algeria are in the ascendancy. Belhadj over-hits a corner. Bougherra peels off at the back and heads back into the danger zone, but Yebda then nuts it over the bar.
54 min: The United States haven’t shown much offensive verve in this half. Perhaps they expect England to concede an equaliser to Slovenia, in which case the Bradley Bunch would scrape through to the next round.
56 min: Incredible! The United States attacked for the first time in the half and should have scored. Bradley instigated the move before Altidore found Dempsey surging through the middle. His first shot hit the post and somehow he then sliced the rebound wide! Not as bad as Yakubu yesterday, but a crazy miss all the same. “Sr Dominguez (50 min) seems to ignore the underlying premise of both my halftime whining and the more sanguine musings of Mr. Roberts (49 min): the United States team isn’t that good,” retorts Bret LaGree. “The frustration (and yes, whining) is not only about a goal being disallowed but also not being good enough to overcome it.”
59 min: Altidore booked for booting Halliche. “I just had to respond to the comment from Chris Roberts in the 49th minute, who seems to think that it is some sort of character flaw in Americans to complain when our team has been robbed,” blabs Steven Vaughan. “The American team may not be the best team in the tournament, but if the officiating in the World Cup were even at the level of what I would expect to see in the third division of a major European league, the United States would have beaten Slovenia, and we would be up 1-0 on Algeria and on our way to topping the group. Instead we will probably go out. If any major soccer-playing nation had to swallow such a bitter pill, its fans would be enraged—and rightly so.” Every nation has had such pills to swallow. Being enraged is part of being a football fan. It’s not healthy, but it’s addictive. Which is why those canny fiends in FIFA refuse to introduce technology, in my opinion.
62 min: Belhadj rollicks down the left again and delivers a fine cross, which Bocanegra clears at a stretch. “While we’re listing World Cup injustices, I’m surprised no one has mentioned the reason why the games are being played at the same time today,” yells James Wells. “No nation has a greater claim to being wrongly eliminated than Algeria after Austria and Germany disgraced themselves in 1982.” You haven’t been paying attention, James. I mentioned that particualr travesty right at the start.
64 min: American substitution: Edu off, Buddle on. “Everyone please quit it with moaning over disallowed goals,” pleads CT Wood. “We all come here for the ass jokes anyway.”
65 min: Terrific run by Feilhaber into the box but his cross is turned behind by Mbohli.
66 min: About time too: Djebbour has been taken off. On lurches Ghezzal.
68 min: Fabulous save by Mbohli. Cherundolo marauded down the right and crossed for Altidore, who sent a powerful header goalward from eight yards. But the keeper showed splendid reflexes to parry it. Then Algerian rip down the other end and Ziani finds himself with a clear sigh of goal but drags his shot wide from 12 yards. Meanwhile … fire? Then call Matt Ayre to apply some petrol. “Can you explain to the Whining Yanks that they didn’t have a goal disallowed in the match against Slovenia, since the referee clearly blew for what he perceived to be a foul before the ball had reached Edu and ended up in the back of the net,” lectures Matt. “They can argue about the decision, but it was never a goal and therefore cannot have been disallowed.”
69 min: Algeria change: Ziani off, Guedioura on.
70 min: Perhaps out of pity for the wasteful American finishers, Bougherra darn near diverts an Altidore cross into his own goal. It skims the post on its way wide, giving the United States a corner, which is also wasted.
72 min: Yebda runs from deep and no American comes to halt him. He reaches the verge of the box and then tonks his shot well over. The finishing today has been laughable from both sides.
74 min: Kadir knocks over Altidore to concede a freekick in a good crossing position. Donovan stands over it. It comes to nought. “It’s pretty hilarious/hypocritical for U.S. fans to be complaining about the refs considering that we watch and put up with NBA refs who are about fifty times worse than the refs in the World Cup AND our fans seem to fail to realize that we were lucky to beat/tie England, played poorly against Slovenia, and have wasted chance after chance after chance against Algeria thus far,” warbles Bobby Otter in Chicago.
76 min: Yahia cautioned for a late tackle on Altidore. “If the refereeing had been of a standard even close to the third division of a European league, Clint Dempsey would have been sent off after 20 seconds and the United States would have been playing with 10 men for the game, so let’s not think that EVERY crap decision went against the United States in that match eh?” wibbles Gary Walker.
78 min: Donovan gifts the ball back to Algeria with a shoddy touch in the opposing penalty area. But as Algerian threaten to break Guedioura loses the ball and then hacks down Dempsey, conceding a freekick in shooting range. It’s rolled to Bradley, who rifles it goalward. Parried by Mbohli.
80 min: American change: Beasley on, Bornstein, having enhanced his reputation, jogs off. Meanwhile in the stand, Bill Clinton is anxiously sucking his nails. Couldn’t he find someone to do that for him?
82 min: Dempsey approaches the ref to show him blood seeping from his lip … and the replay reveals the wound was caused by a sneaky clout from Yahia.
83 min: Dempsey sizes up a freekick. It’s about 24.5 yards out, quite central. Dempsey blesses himself before taking it, hoping for who knows what. Not that, I’ll wager: He’s just shanked it way over. “Dempsey complaining about being elbowed is like Thierry Henry complaining about a handball,” toots James Wells.
85 min: Algeria need a goal so they’re brought on their record scorer, Rafik Saifi. Off goes Matmour.
86 min: Belhadjy swings in a cross that is headed out to the edge of the box. Yebda collects, but for approximately the tenth time in this match he balloons his shot over. “I have been watching the USMNT for the better part of 20 years and it is always the same, in any big game where they need a result or where they are the favorites they play with both hands placed firmly around their necks,” bawls Brian Goldych. “American soccer players are just mentally weak.”
88 min: Algerian fans in the ground are on their feet and trying to will the ball into the net ahead of a freekick, which is played in … and then comfortably headed out by an American defender.
89 min: Altidore hares to the by-line. He could pull it back to Dempsey in the middle … but instead plays it behind him, allowing Algeria to clear. “They just don’t have the footballing intelligence,” concludes Martin Keown on the BBC.
90 min: There will be four more minutes. And on that note, Beasley is booked for controlling the ball in the box with his arm.
GOAL! USA 1-0 Algeria (Donovan 90+1) Sensational! Moments after Saifi spurned a wonderful chance at the other end, heading straight at Howard, the United States hurtle forward. Altidore, showing the footballing intelligence Martin Keown accused him of lacking, pinged it a cross the box. The keeper dived bravely at the feet of Dempsey but it rebounded out to Donovan, who slammed it into the net to trigger mass euphoria among the American players and fans! It looks like they’re going to top the group.
90+3 min: Oh dear. Just like in Angola earlier this year, it looks like Algeria are going to finish a sorry shambles. Yahia has just got his second yellow card and the referee is surrounded by furious Algerian players.
Full-time: The USA are through to the next round, having refined their shooting seconds before the final whistle. On the balance of play they deserve it. Hats off. “I stand by my earlier comment,” insists Brian “our American boys are mentally weak” Goldych. Meanwhile, Beau Giles concludes thus: “Hurray for Hollywood!”