The all-time World Cup

February 22nd, 2005
Stockholm, Råsunda Stadium
0-4 (0-2)

      GOALS                   33'  0-1 Vsevolod Bobrov
                              45'  0-2 Aleksei Mikhailichenko
                              69'  0-3 Eduard Strelzov
                              73'  0-4 Anatoli Demianenko

      REFEREE                 Sandor Puhl (Hungary)

      ATTENDANCE              37,000

      YELLOW CARDS            Pope, Reyna (USA)

      UNITED STATES (Coach: Bruce Arena, system 4-4-2)

       1 Tony Meola (captain)
       4 Eddie Pope
      20 Alexi Lalas                   (-55)
       5 Tom Dooley
       3 Paul Caligiuri
      16 Earnest Stewart               (-46)
       8 James Brown
      12 Claudio Reyna
       7 Coby Jones                    (-71)
      14 Landon Donovan
      10 Bert Patenaude

      15 Clint Mathis                  (+46)
      17 Marcelo Balboa                (+55)
      19 Aldo Donelli                  (+71)

      SOVIET UNION (Coach: Valeri Lobanovski, system 4-3-3)

       1 Lev Yashin
       2 Vladimir Bessonov
       4 Oleg Kuznetsov
       6 Albert Shesternev (captain)
       5 Anatoli Demianenko
       8 Vladimir Muntian
      19 Igor Netto
       7 Aleksei Mikhailichenko        (-62)
      14 Eduard Strelzov
      10 Vsevolod Bobrov               (-62)
      11 Oleg Blokhine                 (-84)

      16 Vasili Rats                   (+62)
       9 Oleg Protasov                 (+62)
      15 Igor Tschislenko              (+84)


    The Soviets were out to make the difference clear very quickly and book their spot in the second round. The United States had already come to know against Spain what their position in the tournament would be. It was David against Goliath again and this time, the giant won. Easily, with 4-0. Bruce Arena, the American coach, had decided to make a few changes compared to the Spain-match. Balboa, Harkes and Wynalda were left on the bench, Gaetjens had injured himself and couldn't play. Dooley now took the sweeper-role trying to organize things. Stewart and Jones were supposed to make it difficult for the Russian full backs. Lobanovski only made one change, resting Vasili Rats and giving Igor Netto his chance from the first minute. The coach had been quite satisfied seeing his team beat Mexico under difficult circumstances.

    Still the USA in the beginning of the match tried to regain some of their selfrespect, and thus a bit of selfconfidence. With enthusiasm and dedication they went to work and Yashin had to show his qualities to keep Patenaude and Donovan from scoring. Donovan had made the team in place of Gaetjens, who had found the net against Spain. After that early warning the Russians had woken up and took over the game. Muntian and Netto never lost possession of the ball and Mikhailichenko this time supported his attack more than against Mexico. In attack Blokhine was the one to stand out. He had no troubles shrugging off Eddie Pope time and again, and the defender could do nothing but using unlegitimate forces. When referee Sandor Puhl cautioned Pope, Blokhine had nothing to fear during the rest of the match.

    This way he made the first goal, which came after a little more than half an hour. Characteristically he overran his defender. What followed was a low cross and Bobrov was in the right place to finish it off. It was the beginning of the end for the USA, who had nothing to tell anymore. When Mikhailichenko, in the last seconds of the first half, scored the second goal for the Soviet Union it was already something of a finishing stroke. Muntian had set him free with an intelligent pass and alone for Meola, Mikhailichenko scored effectively with a kind lob over the goalkeeper and into the net. The Soviet Union were winning their second match too. The USA had to take care of keeping the score decent. It could have been worse at half-time had Blokhine not struck the post and had Bobrov converted a inch-perfect cross from Netto.

    After the break this game was no game anymore. Arena showed courage by bringing yet another striker in, Clint Mathis, but it didn't matter. The Soviets kept the ball in their ranks and once they lost it, they were able to disturb the American build-up at a very early stage. The USA, not a team with great technical skills, hardly left their own half. Yashin could watch it from a distance and had nothing to do behind a rock-solid defence led by captain Shesternev. With an hour gone and nothing happening on the pitch, Lobanovski thought it would be better to bring two fresh players with Rats and Protasov. For them both goalscorers, Mikhailichenko and Bobrov, were taken off. Rats revived the game with quick passes and running along the line, Protasov however was invisible. Just a few minutes on the field, Rats cut the American defence apart and laid it off for Strelzov. The outside right hesitated no single second, rounded Balboa and scored his third of the tournament, to become the lone topscorer. And it wasn't to be long before the Soviets made it 4-0. Muntian again was the man who served the deadly pass, Demianenko had run forward and Meola was a helpless goalie again.

    Match over, the Soviet Union was the first team to qualify for the second round. The United States were out. The last match between the Soviets and Spain would be only important for Spain, but the goaldifference between them and Mexico was rather big. Still a win for Mexico against the USA and a loss from Spain could upset the group. The United States would try to find back their pride in Pasadena against the Mexicans, but it would still be difficult with Hugo Sanchez and his men playing for their last chance.

    Next Friday both losers from the first matches in group C have their last possibility to keep up with Holland and Uruguay. In the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, South-Korea and Poland meet. The Koreans were thrashed by Holland 6-0 in their opening match but are looking to do much better now. Poland are the favourites but couldn't convince against Uruguay. The team that loses is out of the competition, a draw won't help either. Korean coach Hiddink isn't expected to make many changes in his team, his opponent Gorski certainly will rely on Deyna, Boniek and Lato to try and seal the victory. John Langenus from Belgium, the man who was in charge of the first World Cup final in 1930, must keep the sides apart.


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