Bad day for favorites at World Cup: Germany loses, US play England draws

By Chris Lehourites, AP
Saturday, June 19, 2010

Doesn’t pay to be a World Cup favorite

JOHANNESBURG — Some days, it doesn’t pay to be a favorite at the World Cup.

Germany lost a key player, missed a penalty kick and lacked a scorer Friday, losing 1-0 to Serbia in a stunning Group D upset.

Then the United States fell into a two-goal hole before a furious rally earned it a 2-2 tie with Slovenia that left the Americans feeling robbed: A late goal was contentiously nullified by the referee.

Finally, England looked nothing like a soccer power in a 0-0 draw with Algeria that left Group C wide open.

Through eight days, no team has advanced to the second round and none has been eliminated.

Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley lifted the Americans into the tie in Johannesburg after a lackluster first half. Donovan scored from a narrow angle in the 48th minute for his 43rd international goal, and Bradley put in the equalizer in the 82nd off Jozy Altidore’s header.

“Being down 2-0 in a game, I’ve played long enough to feel very lucky and fortunate to come out of it still in the World Cup,” keeper Tim Howard said.

“This team still understands how to fight for 90 minutes,” coach Bob Bradley added. “This is something we’ve seen time and time again.”

The Americans thought they had a winner in the 86th, but substitute Maurice Edu’s volley was disallowed for a foul.

“I’m a little gutted to be honest,” Donovan said. “I don’t know how they stole that last goal from us … I’m not sure what the call was. He (the referee) wouldn’t tell us what the call was.”

Slovenia would have advanced with a win. Now, all four teams in the group are alive, with only Algeria not controlling its fate.

Slovenia leads with four points, followed by England and the United States with two each. Algeria has one point.

“We lost our concentration in the second half and the Americans benefited from that,” Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek said. “We were ahead of the United States, but we didn’t overcome this pressure.”

England clearly felt the pressure of expectations for the second straight match. The Three Lions have not scored since the fourth minute of their opener with the U.S.

“We weren’t aggressive enough,” England captain Steven Gerrard said. “We never had the cutting edge.”

England coach Fabio Capello started David James in net instead of Robert Green, whose blunder against the United States cost the English three points. James did well enough, but wasn’t threatened much by the Desert Foxes at Cape Town.

With Wayne Rooney held scoreless for the seventh straight match, England lacked its touch against an opponent fighting to avoid becoming the first nation eliminated from the World Cup.

Even Algeria coach Rabah Saadane was surprised at England’s poor performance.

“I thought they would be better,” Saadane said. “They were not at their best.”

Three-time world champion Germany lost striker Miroslav Klose to a second yellow card in the 37th minute, and Milan Jovanovic scored a minute later to give Serbia its first World Cup win as an independent nation.

“It was a difficult game, a very important game for us,” said Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic, who saved a penalty kick by Lukas Podolski. “This is a great victory for all of us. We have showed we are a good team and we believe in ourselves.”

The last time Germany missed a non-shootout penalty at a World Cup was in 1974, a miss by Uli Hoeness against Poland. And the last time Germany lost a group match was in 1986, but the team still reached the final that year.

Jovanovic beat Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in the 38th minute with the side of his foot in Port Elizabeth.

Serbia’s win left both teams with three points in the group. Ghana and Australia play Saturday.

“We beat Germany,” Jovanovic said, “and it’s something real big for us.”

Klose was given yellow cards in the 12th and 37th minutes, the first seemed unlucky but the latter was for a rough tackle.

“Football is a contact sport, and one factor should be whether there was malice and intention,” said Klose, who has scored 11 World Cup goals. “I thought I went after the ball.”

In Tembisa, the four North Korean players reported as “missing” turned up for World Cup practice.

The four players missed North Korea’s match Tuesday against Brazil. FIFA denied the players were ever missing and said they were left out of Tuesday’s lineup because of a technical error.

The players — Pak Sung Hyok, An Chol Hyok, Kim Kyong Il and Kim Myong Won — were on the field for training as usual Friday.

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