Well soccer fans, the moment we've waited four years for has finally arrived: World Cup 1998 from France.
So far, there haven't been too many surprises except maybe Spain's loss to Nigeria. Other than that, most of the games have resulted just the way most people felt they would. Brazil having no trouble in their first two games, Argentina knocking off Japan, (Japan, ecspecially their goalkeeper, played very well) and the US falling to Germany 2-0. Not an unexpected result. However, the manner in which the US lost was unexpected.
In reality, the months leading up to the World Cup and the nail-biting wait for Team Alexi and Harkes was a little bit closer than US fans, including myself, would have liked, and probably deserved. Some questions need to be answered.
First of all, why did the US almost fail to qualify at all for France '98?
Recent wins over Brazil, Scottland, England and others (in recent, I mean in the last four to fie years), there should have been no reason whatsoever America's National team should have to play nervously to a 0-0 tie in Mexico City, then enter into a must win situation over Canada hoping for a tie from Jamaica in order to qualify for the World Cup. The US should have wrapped up qualifying long before the 11th hour.
Second, if US coach Steve Sampson was going to cut captain John Harkes, why did he wait so long?
It appears Sampson used Harkes' trust in him and the team's trust to save his own sorry butt. This team is talanted enough without any of Sampson's chemistry experiments.
However, for the record, ESPN reported Sampson cut Harkes because he was drinking with other players. If this is true, and I have no reason to believe it isn't, how come the names of the other players weren't released and those players cut? Seems to me a rule is a rule. I guess that's not the way things are done in Sampsonland!
Finally, if Sampson is so concerned about team chemistry, why are Lalas, Balboa, Reyna and Agoos riding the pine?
These are the players that got the teams to the World Cup, and now they're on the bench to give younger players an opportunity at the expense of team unity.
Furthermore, if Lalas and Agoos can only muster a tie against Mexico, how can younger, less experienced players perform against three-time champions Germany? It doesn't make sense.
I hope Sampson realizes later in the first round against Iran and Yugoslavia that age does not mean uselessness. Play Lalas and Balboa and let the experience of these players carry the team as far as they can go.
It's a long way until 2002.
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