After suffering a big loss to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena on Friday, Bruce Arena and the U.S. Men’s National Team is headed for a crucial World Cup Qualifying matchup against Honduras in San Pedro Sula. While the hands should not be fully on the panic button just yet for the U.S., as they have three remaining matches in qualifying against Honduras, Panama and Trinidad & Tobago, this match can be considered a must-win given the circumstances. If the USMNT fails to get a point against Honduras, while Panama, which is just one point back from the US, hosts Trinidad & Tobago, the U.S. would be two points out of the World Cup with two matches to go. To boot, the U.S. have to get a result without Jozy Altidore, who is suspended due to accumulation of yellow cards, and will have to play in 90-degree heat on a surface that has been called worse than the team has ever seen it. The tension for the USMNT has risen significantly since the Costa Rica match, and now it is time for the team to step up.
More on the USMNT: Bruce Arena has called out CONCACAF officials (because really, someone has to), saying the refs in the region are “unpredictable“ (really!) and bemoaning the lack of protection for star Christian Pulisic. Pulisic was fouled four times by Costa Rica and has been fouled 14 times in seven matches. "He's fouled just about every time he touches the ball. The referee hasn't protected him in a number of situations," Arena said.
World Cup Qualifying has been taking place all over the world this international break, and some interesting matches and results have happened while the U.S. prepares for the Honduras game. England fought back from one goal down to win 2-1 against Slovakia in Wembley Stadium, while Germany beat the daylights out of Norway 6-0. Scotland beat Malta 2-0, and Northern Ireland beat Czech Republic 2-0 to secure a second-place finish in their group.
While England came back to beat Slovakia 2-1, people are not taking about Marcus Rashford’s excellent goal to put England ahead as much as they are talking about Dele Alli flipping the bird on camera during the match. FIFA cameras, and TV cameras, for that matter, caught Alli making the gesture, which is not good, and some thought he was making it in the direction of the referee, which would be very not good. England manager Gareth Southgate said he had not seen it happen, but that Alli told him it was directed in a joking way to his friend and teammate Kyle Walker. Alli tweeted the same thing later, but that does not mean he is completely safe from the possibility of FIFA discipline.
One thing we can all agree on is that the FIFA rankings matter to FIFA, and that’s it. The rankings are almost universally maligned and considered a joke, while still being used by the governing body to determine seeds and pots for World Cup and regional tournament draws, which means these rankings have an impact on the tournaments even though they are, in general, a confusing mess.
For example, at the time of writing, the top ten in the FIFA rankings are: Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Switzerland, Poland, Portugal, Chile, Colombia, Belgium, and France. That’s right, Switzerland are ranked fourth in the world -- above Portugal, who just won the Euros, and France, who are one of the favorites for the next World Cup. Ok.
Anyway, FIFA is considering changing the formula for these rankings, which would include not penalizing teams if they lose in friendlies. This would in turn prevent teams that do not schedule many friendlies, such as Poland, Switzerland, and Wales, from leaping up the rankings due to not losing in friendlies.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!