While US v Algeria was pretty entertaining (I think), if you didn’t care that much about the result, from my point of view it was difficult.
The Group D games were quite entertaining. Germany beat Ghana, but I didn’t really come away feeling like Germany was the better team. Granted, Germany didn’t have Klose, but the result could easily have been different. Meanwhile, Australia beat Serbia 2-1, after being up 2-0 and for a second having a shot to score the goals that would get them into the second round. The end of Serbia Australia was a crazy andrenaline-filled track meet. Australia had to score a few goals, while Serbia had to tie or win. It was truly frenetic. When the other team had the ball, it was take any risk to win the ball and then go immediately for goal, meaning the attacks always had numbers. And man, the Serbia striker missed some sitters to send his team through to the second round.
If there was a team that was victimized by the refs as much as the US in group play, I think you’d probably go with Australia. Two red cards in the beginning of their first two matches, and yet they were only eliminated from one of the World Cup’s toughest groups on goal differential. Give Australia credit. Unfortunately, I think you could argue that both red cards were technically correct, even if harsh and certainly not always given. Also they meant suspensions for some of Australia’s most crucial players, especially Tim Cahill. The handball on the goal line: well, it usually gets a red, but I think that in context there was a pretty good case to be made that it wasn’t intentional. Call the penalty, don’t give the red actually was probably the correct call, although I do think most refs would give the red card as it is the normal thing to do in that situation.
I thought Holland’s movement off the ball against Cameroon was quite impressive, though I only saw the first half. In my opinion, the best half of football played so far at this World Cup. The game wasn’t particularly important, and you could even argue that would have been better to finish in second in the group, but…
Japan beat Denmark in a game I didn’t watch and so know nothing about. Given that Korea and Japan both advanced, give them some credit.
Oh….yeah, and Italy did not advance. This is really most surprising because Italy had a pretty weak group. In fact, I named it the weakest group when the groups were drawn, with Argentina’s second weakest. I don’t really see a reason to change my opinion. Italy wasn’t the best team four years ago and their luck ran out. They should have chosen American-but-plays-for-Italy Guiseppe Rossi, because he was the only creative option that Italy had. But they didn’t.
As I said, I still think Italy’s group was weakest, but call it increasing worldwide footballing parity as well as relative Italian weakness.