The Last Word: USA's embarrassing trip to Germany

22 men chasing a round ball around a grassy pitch in Germany does not interest Americans.

jeremy last 88 (photo credit: )
jeremy last 88
(photo credit: )
Soccer is definitely not a big sport in the USA. Watching the American sports channels this last week, it was rare to hear any mention of the World Cup, the sporting event that the rest of the world seems to be obsessing over. As much as the US soccer team was hyped up in the months leading up to the tournament, it has become clear that Americans are far, far more interested in the latest goings on in Major League Baseball, as well as Miami's impressive win in the NBA Finals, than anything to do with 22 men chasing a round ball around a grassy pitch in Germany. Which is just as well really. Because it turned out that the hype was wrong and misguided. The USA rolled into Germany on the crest of having topped the North, Central American and Caribbean Zone, finishing joint on points with Mexico. The few Americans who cared about soccer seemed to think Germany 2006 would be the chance for Team USA to prove its worth on the world stage. Sitting in JP Towers two weeks ago, a few minutes before the start of the USA's first game of the tournament against the Czech Republic, one colleague turned around and pronounced that this was the time that the US will show the world how "soccer should be played." Another well-respected journalist had claimed earlier that day that the match was the most important of the day because - according to the FIFA rankings - it pitted "the fifth ranked team in the world (USA) against the second best (the Czechs)." These American-Israelis were warned not to get their hopes up. That they would be embarrassed by the end of the game. And they were, as the US was soundly beaten 3-0. Group E has shown how the FIFA world rankings have been proven to be a complete farce, with Italy (13) and Ghana (48) advancing ahead of the more fancied US and Czech Republic. America may have been ranked joint fifth, five places above England, but its dreadful performance against the Czechs, a lucky draw against Italy and an embarrassing loss to a far more impressive Ghana side set the record straight. The group table does not lie, and America finished the stage anchored to the bottom of Group E with only one point and one goal (if you ignore the own goal) to show for their meager efforts. The much anticipated DaMarcus Beasley failed to make anywhere near the impact he hoped to. And captain fantastic Claudio Reyna showed his lack of quality when he fumbled the ball to allow Ghana's Haminu Dramani through for the African's first goal. The Americans may have been relatively impressive at the last World Cup, beating Mexico in the second round before losing out to Germany in the quarters. But this time it was different, and it was made very clear that soccer has a long way to go in the US before it can catch up with the likes of England and Italy.