USA still smiling after torrid time

 

Relations between the United States and South Korea are not always the most cordial but Washington ought to have sent Seoul a friendly message last night.

Thanks to Korea's win over Portugal, the USA emerged from a torrid night here with a broad smile. Not only have Bruce Arena's team reached the second round, they have also avoided a game against Italy. Instead it is Mexico who lie in wait on Monday and the USA have beaten them in four of their past five meetings. "I would prefer to play them to Italy," said the Blackburn goalkeeper Brad Friedel. "We know them inside out."

If the USA perform as shoddily as this they can forget the quarter-finals. Never have a team been beaten so soundly and ended so overjoyed.

They fell 2-0 down inside five minutes and were repeatedly troubled by the fast counter-attacking of an under-strength Poland with nothing to play for. It seemed incredible that a team could give this display and stay in the World Cup while France, Argentina and Portugal have gone out.

Friedel added: "On days like this it's better to be lucky. We didn't plan that first five minutes but you have to give Poland credit for a much better performance.

"I personally thought Portugal would beat Korea, but it didn't happen and we are through."

For under-fire Polish chief Jerzy Engel it was a welcome relief after two sorry performances that saw him make eight changes and leave Liverpool's Jerzy Dudek on the bench. Engel said: "We played for our country and I'm very proud. We won and at last can go home with good memories."

Engel's side hit the States with a quick one-two. When Jacek Krzynowek's corner was not cleared properly, Emmanuel Olisadebe hammered the ball into the net.

A minute later, the USA were fuming when they were cruelly denied a perfectly good equaliser. Landon Donovan headed home after Maciej Murawski got in the way of his own goalkeeper, the ball dropping into the six yard box for the American to nod home. But the Chinese referee Lu Jun somehow saw a push and awarded a foul against the American.

The USA's anger was compounded with a second Polish goal a minute later, Krzynowek crossing and Pawel Kryszalowicz firing home on the near post.

When substitute Marcin Zewlakow headed home a cross from Kozminski, the game was all but over.

Friedel produced his second penalty save of the tournament when he dived to his left to hold a spot kick from Maciej Zurawski after Tony Sanneh had tripped Kryszalowicz on 76 minutes.

Donovan replied with a late strike to restore some pride, but the tiny pockets of American fans were just delighted to still be at the party.

Guardian Service

SUBSTITUTES

Poland: Zewlakow for Kucharski (65 mins), Sibik for Olisadebe (85), Waldoch for Klos (90).

USA: Beasley for Agoos (36), Moore for McBride (58), Jones for Stewart (68).

YELLOW CARDS

Poland: Majdan, Kozminski, Kucharski, Olisadebe.

USA: Hejduk