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Green hands US draw

sports Updated: Jun 14, 2010 00:04 IST
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The Hands Theory is often invoked by Americans who are spooked by soccer and insist the sport will never get anywhere in the United States because we Yanks only understand games that involve the use of hands.

This theory overlooks the magic so obviously visible to the naked eye, performed with the pedal extremities by artists named Beckham or Baggio or Drogba or Pelé.

For once, however, the Hands Theory made the slightest bit of sense on Saturday when the Hands Nation played a highly credible 1-1 draw with the No-Hands nation.

Goalkeeper Tim Howard, an American athlete who can dunk a basketball, saved all the searing shots he could possibly reach, whereas Robert Green, a surprise starter in goal for the No-Hands nation, fumbled a two-hopper that came skipping straight to him. Both nations came out of the first match with a point, which gives both breathing room in their subsequent matches.

Now the hard part begins for the Hands Nation. It has to retain its focus and its energy while preparing for the matches with Slovenia and Algeria.

After the match with Mother England loomed portentously for months, the United States acquitted itself admirably after a defensive lapse that allowed Stephen Gerrard to slip inside in the fourth minute and poke home an easy goal, no fault of Howard.

Oh yes, and the United States has a lifetime record of one victory and one draw against England in the World Cup, going back to 1950. That 1-0 victory in Brazil was shocking; this 1-1 draw was well within possibilities, given the slow but steady improvement of the team.

In fact, the United States was every bit as composed as the land that invented footy. Late in the second half they completed eight or nine consecutive touches while moving forward.

Under Coach Bob Bradley, the team is slowly maturing. The players knew what to do in the second half even after Rooney shifted into higher gear.

The Hands Theory never looked less loopy than in this match. Howard is one of the great American keepers of this generation. After being helpless on the early infiltration, Howard was kicked in the chest by Emile Heskey and he took a long time to recover. In the second half, Howard smothered a screamer straight at him by Heskey. Sometimes he punched the ball away, showing proper concern over the swerves of the new and suspect ball introduced to this World Cup.

USA came away with a tie because of the ghastly flub by Green, who looked like an alternate choice by the English coach, Fabio Capello, and played like one. The World Cup is full of shaky first matches by good teams. This first round has many surprises ahead. But for now, the No-Hands Nation has 1 point, and so does the Hands Nation.