As the first knockout round of the World Cup comes to a close, the U.S. Men’s National Team finds themselves on the outside looking in, with a 3-1 loss to the Netherlands.
So, how did Team USA perform? To answer that and more, the Standard turned to Arch Bell, a soccer writer for ESPN FC and CONCACAF.com. Listen to the story above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: The U.S. is officially out of the tournament, alas, after losing 3-1 to the Netherlands. But overall, how did the U.S. fare? I mean, was this the type of performance you were expecting?
Arch Bell: Yeah, I think if we were looking at a job performance, job evaluation, you would say “meets expectations” for what the U.S. did in Qatar. I think getting out of the group is always a very good achievement. I mean, that’s something that certainly Germany or Belgium and Qatar would have liked to have done and the U.S. were able to do it, finishing second in their group and going up against a very strong opponent in the Netherlands in the knockout round.
And you kind of had the sense during the whole game that the Dutch were always in control. They had more of the ball and everything. But I just always had the feeling that the Netherlands were – I don’t want to say toying with us, but they knew exactly tactically what they wanted, and that’s what they got from the game. Hitting the U.S. with two really good counterattacking goals, taking advantage of some defensive miscues from the U.S. and getting that 3-1 win to eliminate the U.S. team.
I suppose it’s fair to say that the memory that will be etched in the minds of a lot of U.S. soccer fans perhaps will be the game against England. That was the one that so many Americans really seemed focused on. Why do you think that was?
Well, I think it was almost like a perfect storm of things that allowed Americans to tune in and watch this game. It was the day after Thanksgiving, right? It was an early afternoon kickoff. And then just the history. I mean, we know England is a very close ally, of course, and we’ve played them before in the World Cup. And we had never lost to England. So with so much familiarity with some of our players playing in the Premier League – and the Premier League is such a popular league for soccer fans here in the U.S. – I think that’s why that England game was the marquee event during the group stage. And I thought the U.S. played very well in that game and was very well deserving of a result of getting that point in a scoreless draw.
Let’s talk about the round of 16 more broadly. Any surprises or interesting developments from your perspective?
Well, I think the revelation of this tournament has been Morocco. And first you just have to start with the support that that team has gotten in Qatar and the fans that have traveled to Qatar to support Morocco. There are actually 15,000 Moroccans living in Qatar. And so they’ve gotten a lot of support there. And that this is a team that beat Belgium in the group stage, did very well against Croatia. Then eliminating Spain yesterday, they were defensively set up very well looking to strike on the counter – no goals, of course, during the regular time and in extra time – but I thought they executed their strategy very well. And, you know, they did what they needed to do in the penalty shootout to advance.
So I think it’s significant that you have Morocco as the last African team alive in this tournament, and then an Arabic team in the quarterfinals is significant as well. So for me, that is a revelation in this tournament.
And then Brazil: I mean, what Brazil did to South Korea was breathtaking. And the goals that they scored, the quality of the goals I mean, these were world class goals that they did to South Korea. South Korea is a good team, too. And Brazil, I think, had them down 4-0 by the 35th minute. It took your breath away and it just makes you think like, “wow, this is a team that is very much a favorite to win this tournament.” But games have to be played. That is the old saying in soccer. You got to prove it on the field.
Yeah, you got France also heading into the quarterfinals. Do you have a favorite for who’s going to win it all?
Well, you know, before the tournament, I said Argentina – and I’m not going to waffle on that. I’m going to stick with it till the end. Argentina will have a very difficult contest on their hands against the Netherlands on Friday, but I do think they can emerge from that. Certainly France would like to reach that final. Portugal played very well yesterday. And so after benching Cristiano Ronaldo, that was a notable happening. So we’ll see how far they can take it. And of course Morocco, that’s going to be a difficult game. I will stick with Argentina, though. Argentina, Brazil semifinal – looks like it’s very possible. Argentina beat Brazil and the Copa America final last summer in 2021. So it is a team that knows how to play against Brazil and beat Brazil. So I will stick with my Argentina pick. However, I will tell you, if Brazil or France win this World Cup, it would not surprise me.