USA USA USA wonder what happened to their exclamation marks

HOME OF THE BRAVE

A World Cup presents unique challenges for the dedicated couch potato. How to follow simultaneous games; which time zones can be used, guilt-free, to determine Tin O’Clock; and what to do when your team play a vital game in the small hours. That was the problem today for fans of reigning world champions USA! USA!! USA!!!, whose decisive Group E game against Portugal kicked off at 3am Eastern Time. Just before kick-off, the US Women’s National Team account on social media disgrace X posted a call to arms: “WAKE UPPPPPPPPP!!!!!! IT’S TIME FOR KICKOFF!!!!”

Alas, the USA! USA!! USA!!! physician forgot to heal thyself. The team played like it was they just woken up at 3am, startled by an aggravatingly jaunty alarm and unable to find any pods apart from the bloody decaf. They stumbled into the last 16 with a miserable 0-0 draw and were inches away from a seismic humiliation when the Portuguese substitute, Ana Capeta, rattled the post in injury-time. At the final whistle, even though the game was drawn, both teams looked like they had lost: Portugal were out of the competition and USA USA USA were wondering what the heck had happened to their exclamation marks.

Related: Andonovski: ‘insane’ to question USA passion after holders almost knocked out

This being the year 2023, the reaction was mature, considered and we’re not fooling anybody are we? After their initial post-match deflation, some of the players emitted a modicum of joie de vivre while talking to their families. On Fox Sports, the former star Carli Lloyd went into Royston Mode. “I have never witnessed something like that,” she said. “There’s a difference between being respectful of the fans and saying hello to your family. But to be dancing, to be smiling? I mean, the player of the match was that post. You’re lucky to not be going home right now. Do your job!”

Okay, she didn’t say that last sentence, we were just briefly possessed by the spirit of Roy Keane. The coach, Vlatko Andonovski, whose plight had us Googling the US equivalent of a P45 (who knew it was called a pink slip? Oh) said that questioning the mentality and hunger of his team was “insane”. We’ve got five more days of this polished dialogue to look forward to. USA USA USA don’t play their last-16 match, probably against Sweden, until Sunday.

In truth, the rest of the tournament feels incidental, because IT’S ONLY JOLLY WELL COMING HOME! England, who started the World Cup with two unconvincing 1-0 wins, over Haiti and Denmark, zoomed into the knockout stages by hammering China 6-1. For her latest trick, Sarina Wiegman solved the problem of losing arguably her most important player, Keira Walsh, by making her team even better. She switched from 4-3-3 to 3-4-1-2, and England took a decent China side – the champions of Asia, ahead of Japan, who beat Spain 4-0 yesterday and you know exactly where we’re going with this logic train – to the cleaners.

The remarkable Lauren James was both fantasy footballer and Fantasy Footballer. She scored two more goals – one brilliant, one even better – and got three assists. She might have had the perfect game, a hat-trick of goals and assists, but for a pedantic VAR offside on the stroke of half-time. England’s win means they will play Nigeria in the last 16 on Monday. It kicks off at 8.30am UK time, and for once even your super-slovenly Football Daily won’t need a wake-up call.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

“They hit me twice in the face while grabbing me by the jacket. I was too scared and my teammates didn’t want to go home in case they were followed. They even told one of them: ‘Get out of the car or I’ll shoot you twice in the legs’” – Vélez Sarsfield’s 17-year-old striker Gianluca Prestianni describes the horrifying attack by the club’s fans on their own players following Sunday’s defeat to Huracán, which overshadowed Uruguayan defender Diego Godín’s farewell match.

Gianluca Prestianni (left) avoids the challenge of Huracán’s Fernando Tobio on Sunday.

Gianluca Prestianni (left) avoids the challenge of Huracán’s Fernando Tobio on Sunday. Photograph: Rodrigo Valle/Getty Images

FOOTBALL DAILY LETTERS

“Re: yesterday’s ‘Memory Lane’: well played, Football Daily, well played. Sometimes the predictably obvious is still humorous” – Kevin Carter.

“With their women’s team beating Spain, Japan have done an impressive World Cup double over the vaunted practitioners of tiki taka, after the men did the same in Qatar last December. What’s more, a Tanaka scored in both matches. I do believe Japanese football has entered a golden age of tiki Tanaka” – Peter Oh.

“Jeremy Humphries needs to brush up on his Dalton’s law. At that altitude the percentage of oxygen will remain the same circa 20.9% but as the ambient pressure is less than the partial pressure (pO2) will drop to circa 181 millibar. But correct no excuse, Hibs are guff” – John Brechin (and 1,056 others).

“The atmosphere below the stratosphere is well mixed and the proportions of gases in it does not change at any altitude below this level. However as one gets higher above sea level the atmosphere does become less dense. This means that a lungful of air at 1000m above sea level contains less oxygen than a lungful at sea level. See here” – Martin Jachnik.

Send your letters to the.boss@theguardian.com. Today’s winner of our prizeless letter o’ the day is … Peter Oh.

RECOMMENDED VIEWING

It’s your boy David Squires, with his latest sideways glance in cartoon form. This week: Sam Kerr Calf Watch!

TODAY AT THE WORLD CUP

Portugal 0-0 USA: The defending champions are through, but only as group runners-up after another unconvincing performance, against a sprightly Portugal, whose Ana Capeta hit a post in injury-time.

Vietnam 0-7 Netherlands: No such worries for the Dutch, who topped Group E in style with a thrashing of Vietnam; they depart the tournament without a goal or a point. Esme Brugts scored two equally stunning goals which adorned a dominant performance from the Dutch, who will face Italy, Argentina or South Africa in the next round.

Haiti 0-2 Denmark: Despite playing pretty well in every game, Haiti also depart goalless and pointless after Denmark scored in each half to secure the runners-up spot in Group D. Pernille Harder’s 21st-minute penalty broke the deadlock before Sanne Troelsgaard made sure of victory eight minutes into injury-time to put the Danes in the knockout stages – remarkably, for the first time since 1995.

China 1-6 England: As discussed, England put all their injury and formation angst behind them as Sarina Wiegman reshuffled her pack in a 3-4-1-2 set-up and saw the Lionesses put in their best performance for months.

NEWS, BITS AND BOBS

Republic O’Ireland boss Vera Pauw admitted having a touchline barney with her captain, Katie McCabe, over the need for substitutions during their 0-0 draw with Nigeria on Monday. “If Kate McCabe says that she wants a change, that doesn’t mean she’s the coach,” sniffed Pauw.

Crystal Palace are slapping the impatient hands of Manchester City and Chelsea hoping to keep their mitts off Michael Olise, with City thought ready to pay £50m for the midfielder. “We have a fight on our hands to make sure he stays with us,” roared Palace manager Mr Roy. In other news, West Ham are tiring of hanging around St Mary’s to see if James Ward-Prowse wants to come and play with them.

Lisandro Martínez believes André Onana’s hoo-hah with Harry Maguire in Manchester United’s 3-2 defeat by Borussia Dortmund on Sunday was required to ensure the defender remained focused. “It’s better for [this],” roared the Argentinian. “If you are focused you can fight with your teammates as well.”

Fabinho is the latest departing Liverpool star to emote on social media before trousering off to Saudi Arabia. “Thank you Reds, for everything we’ve experienced together. You’ll never walk alone,” he gushed. “It’s been five years wearing this jersey and always with the greatest honour and happiness possible.”

Carlisle have been fined £7,500 after admitting a misconduct charge following allegations of racist chanting during their match against Bradford at Brunton Park on Boxing Day last year.

STILL WANT MORE?

Upsetting though it may feel, the new Premier League season is almost upon us, so are our Premier League previews are under way. Here’s Ben Fisher on Bournemouth and Michael Butler on Brentford.

Edinson Cavani has finally returned from the Peak District odyssey that comprised his second season at Manchester United and signed for Boca Juniors, whose famously temperate support welcomed him to La Bombonera with typical restraint.

Australia’s performance in their crucial third game against Canada showed a huge improvement from their second against Nigeria. Kieran Pender explores the reasons why.

Ben Fisher runs the rule over the coming season in League One, bigging up Derby and Bolton among others, and offering less hopeful words for the likes of Reading, Port Vale and Cambridge.

We know about ‘your Harders, your Popps and your Stanways’, but who are they breakout stars of this World Cup? Sophie Downey has some thoughts.

Transfer rumours? Transfer rumours! Sofyan Amrabat leads the latest offering.

MEMORY LANE

Sunday 11 May 2003: the final match at Maine Road was also Shaun Goater’s last appearance for the club. The striker captained the side, who were beaten 1-0 by Southampton, before the move to the City of Manchester Stadium, now the Etihad.

Shaun Goater on the last game at Maine Road.

Feed the Goat! Photograph: Jon Super/PA

THERE WAS ONCE A DREAM THAT WAS LUNCH

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