Monday, February 20, 2006

World Cup News

The US defeated Guatemala yesterday, 4-0. We are tied for 6th in the FIFA rankings and Guatemala is 58th, so it wasn't much of a test. The most significant part of the game was the welcome return of the GAM*, Eddie Johnson, who has missed much of the past year with a stress fracture in his foot and then a calf injury. And being Eddie Johnson, he scored less than two minutes after entering the game at the start of the second half.

Eddie Johnson scored 8 times in his first 8 international appearances, so in my book he better be on the US squad in Germany. He's young, and a work in progress, but he has that elusive skill so many Americans lack. He finishes. When he plays, he scores. The United States has never had a male player who is a natural finisher (the women have had three of the best, Michelle Akers, Mia Hamm, and Abby Wambach) and scoring goals is always the weakest part of our game. I want to see Eddie Johnson up front with Brian McBride in June.

Reportedly MLS turned down a $4 million or $5 million transfer fee offer from Portugese club Benfica for Johnson. For all the hype about Freddy Adu, Johnson could well be the real US superstar in soccer.

In other World Cup group news, Italy suffered a blow to its World Cup squad when star midfielder Francesco Totti broke his leg in Roma's game against Empoli this weekend. The injury is described as "a fractured fibula and ankle ligament damage", and early reports are that he will be out for three months. Totti is only 29 years old but recovery from a serious injury on such a tight timetable is never a guarantee.

"Health comes first, and I don't want to risk health," Totti told Italian news agency ANSA on Monday. "I strongly want (to play in) the World Cup ... but this is a hope more than a promise. I'll go only if I'm fully recovered."

Ghana will be without the services of Laryea Kingston, midfielder, who was given a four-game ban by the Confederation of African Football (CAF) after receiving a red card against Senegal in their Africa Nations Cup game.

Ghana's midfield did suffer a severe blow, however, when Laryea Kingston clashed – rather innocuously it must be said – with Senegal's Habib Beye in their group clash on Jan 27th and both players were sent off.

Kingston, a dynamo who plays his football in Russia for Lokomotiv Moscow and is one of Ghana's most potent attacking aces, received a stinging four-match ban which means he will miss their group games in Germany and can only return for the knockout stages.

The four-game ban was upheld by CAF, which means Kingston cannot play in any of Ghana's three group matches.

*GAM: Eddie Johnson was interviewed for a puff piece by US Soccer. When asked what video games he plays, he responded: "I don't play video games. I'm a grown ass man!"

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