It breaks my heart when a team that exhibits so much promise gets knocked out of a tournament such as this. What today's Austria vs U.S.A. game reminded me of was that not all team's weapons are blatent. There are many different styles of play on a pitch, and we've witnessed at lot of panache in this U-20 World Cup; entertaining sides like Mexico, Argentina, Japan, Chile, Brazil, Nigeria, Uruguay, Costa Rica and on - fancy footwork, speed, agility, cunning, passion, and flare. However, teams such as Poland, Scotland, the Czech Republic and Austria bring a whole different style, discipline, strategy and physical element to the game. Austria are strong, structured, reserved and lethal in their surgical, almost mechanical approach. Though not present in this World Cup, Germany is a prime example of this method that stealthily wins championships. Austria has modestly marched their way to the top of this mountain and could very well be placing its flag at the peak. The Czech Republic though a little less controlled play a similar game. It takes one killer striker to hit the field for a team like Austria to nail a securing goal, then the rest of the team takes over again defending the lead - Hoffer is Austria's cannonball. He's deadly, accurate and enviably consistent. Unlike Altidore and Adu and the rest of the U.S. side that run and run and run and run and shoot and miss and shoot and score and run and run and run and run...the Austrians defend and defend and defend and send on Hoffer and score and defend. There's barely a bead of sweat apparent on their brows. They're not as exciting to watch, as memorable, but they march on, never veer from the path, have a mission and successfully complete it, like ants, and that's admirable.
I have followed and been behind the U.S. team from the start of this tourney. I love their enthusiasm, skill, professionalism and the incredible progress they've been making since hosting the World Cup, on the major scale, just over thirteen years ago. I envisaged an U.S.A. vs Mexico final - today half of that vision dissipated. I still see Mexico there though. Spain is gone. The Czech's move on. Nigeria always pose a threat. Chile has proven their toughness and Argentina loom like a dark cloud over my brightly lit dream of Mexico beating them like a pinata. I anxiously await Dos Santos and the rest of the Mexican crew hitting the pitch again and showing us what they can do! Whatever happens in tomorrow's quarterfinal matches, one thing is certain, we're heading toward a paradoxical final.