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Two of the three games of the group stage have now been played for all groups. By this point, some teams are in to reach the next round, some have been eliminated, and along the way we have seen some upsets and surprises.

Group A – Cameroon has already been eliminated.  They should provide little trouble for Brazil, allowing the host nation to advance as expected.  Croatia needs a win to advance while Mexico can move on with a draw in their match.

Group B – This was supposed to be one of the groups of death, with defending champion Spain, the 2010 runner-up Netherlands and Chile all worthy of advancing to the Round of 16.  Instead, the crash and burn of Spain (ranked #1 coming into the World Cup) has made their final game with Australia meaningless.  Netherlands and Chile will square off having both clinched a place in the next round.  All that will be decided is their seeding.  Chile needs a win to advance as the number one seed from the Group.

Group C – Colombia has advanced with two victories.  All of the remaining teams are still alive.  Ivory Coast, the top-ranked African nation in the tournament, is in the driver’s seat to advance.  A win over defense-minded Greece will clinch a spot in the round of 16 for them.  But they could be eliminated even with a draw.  However, that possibility would require an upset by Japan over Colombia, and also a high score or two goal margin.  Japan lacks the fire power to make that likely.

Group D – Costa Rica was supposed to be the first team eliminated in this group of death.  But they complicated matters with upset wins over Italy and Uruguay.  Already guaranteed to advance, they face surprisingly winless England, who has been eliminated.  Uruguay needs to beat Italy to advance, whereas Italy can advance with a draw.  Based on the pre-tournament seeding, the game is a toss-up.

Group E – Honduras has been eliminated, but could play a spoiler role.  If they upset Switzerland (a big if, as Honduras as yet to win a game in their three World Cup appearances) and Ecuador beats France, there would be a three-way tie at the top of the standings with 2-1 records.  France currently has a plus six in goal differential that should prove to be insurmountable.

Group F – As expected, Argentina will advance, but mustering only three goals is surprising, especially with one of the projected offensive stars of the tournament in Lionel Messi on their side.  They were fortunate to pull out a 1-0 victory over lowly Iran when Messi scored in extra time of the second half.  Bosnia was the second highest ranked team in this group, but they are winless so far in their first trip to the World Cup and will be going home after their final match.  If Iran beats Bosnia in that match, Iran might be able to sneak past Nigeria if the young African team falls to Argentina.  But even then, it would take a tie-breaker to do so as the deck is stacked against the Iranian squad at this point.

Group G – Another group of death with two of the top five teams in the world (Germany and Portugal) in the group.  It was an uphill climb for the USA squad to face those two teams plus Ghana, who has been the spoiler against the Americans in the previous two World Cups.  But Portugal was beset by injuries, including knee problems for this year’s number one player, Cristiano Ronaldo.  Germany was able to make easy work of them in their opening match, 4-0, while the USA team managed to halt the jinx of Ghana despite being outplayed by a young, speedy team for much of the match. Game two in this group saw two exciting, seesaw battles that ended up in 2-2 draws.

The US effort against Portugal was quite the opposite of the game against Ghana, with the American squad carrying most of the play, but the clever individual skills of the Portuguese caused more dangerous opportunities for them than Ghana had.  And yet, it was more that the USA defense let down on the two goals, than Portugal earning them.  A badly struck clearing attempt led to an early goal that forced USA to play catch up for most of the match. Then, after a great comeback put them in the lead, they surrender the tying goal in the last few seconds of extra time.  While a beautiful cross by Ronaldo (one of only a few plays in the game where he played up to his usual ability) set up the tally, at that point in the game, the defense should never have let the scorer get behind them.  Had the Americans held on, they would have clinched a spot in the round of 16, while Portugal would have had an unexpected early elimination.  Now, the group is still up for grabs.

In the final games of the group, Germany faces off with USA both with four points, while Ghana faces Portugal, each with a point.  If Ghana and Portugal battle to a draw, they are both eliminated.  Even if USA loses to Germany, they can advance if Portugal wins a close match over Ghana and if Germany’s margin of victory is narrow.  Currently, USA has a five goal advantage in goal differential, so that allows some margin of error.  It is much slimmer if Ghana beats Portugal (only 2), so once again Ghana could prove to be the undoing for USA in the World Cup.

If Germany and the USA draw, they will automatically advance.  USA coach, Juergen Klinsman, disavows that a private deal will be struck to bring about that result.  Of course, what else would he say?  This doesn’t mean it will happen.  All it means is that a denial means nothing.  This is nothing new in soccer.  West Germany and Austria were involved in a similar situation in the 1982 World Cup when it was known that a German victory by one or two goals would allow both to advance.  Germany scored early and the rest of the match saw little effort to score by any of the players.

This year, Klinsman is coaching against his native country and the team that he coached in the 2006 World Cup.  The current coach of Germany, Joachim Löw, was Klinsman’s assistant in 2006.  Knowing that a draw guarantees advancement, it is smart soccer to take few chances, especially for Germany who will advance as #1 in the group and play a weaker Group H team in the Round of 16 if a draw occurs.  It is also smart soccer for USA, as Germany is a more skilled squad than they are.  Ultimately, a draw will not be proof of collusion.  It will be the level of exertion by each team in causing that result that will arouse suspicions.

Group H – Belgium has already advanced to the next round.  Algeria is currently in second place, but if Russia beats them in the final game, Algeria is out.  South Korea is barely clinging to life.  It would take extraordinary circumstances for them to advance.  Yet, whether it is the heat and humidity of some of the venues, or whether parity is becoming more and more the norm in international soccer, extraordinary things have already been happening.  So far, the consensus is that most of the matches have been exciting; a far cry from some year’s opening rounds.

Moving ahead to my life, I had a great time at my college reunion and speaking to a college class.  My reunion deserves a full post at a later date.  I am still processing what happened at reunion.  As far as my speaking assignment, it was a great experience and I was blessed by the response of the students.  They showed a lot of interest, asked insightful questions, and above all, were respectful.  Their professor, Syreeta Washington of Burlington County College, does an exemplary job in the classroom from what I saw.  And another member of one of my support groups also did a great job of sharing her story.

In addition to the World Cup, I am also enjoying the major league baseball season so far.  While my Dodgers started slow again this year, they managed to keep a winning record throughout the season so far, compared with last year’s poor start that was overcome by a record-tying 42-8 winning streak in mid-summer to leave the rest of their division rivals in the dust.  Of late, they are playing better baseball, reducing mental and physical errors, although their hitting has still been a bit of a disappointment.  Most importantly over the last two weeks, they reduced the 9½ game lead that their traditional arch-rivals, the Giants, had built up.  They are now only four games behind.

As far as individual achievements by the Dodgers, no-hitters tossed by Josh Beckett and Clayton Kershaw have to top the list.  Kershaw, having won two Cy Young awards in recent years, is no surprise.  In his prime at age 26, he is ranked among the best pitchers in baseball.

At one time, Josh Beckett could have claimed that ranking.  But Beckett is now 34 years old and is coming off a forgettable season, most of which was wiped out by a variety of physical ailments.  The worst one, tingling and numbness in his pitching hand, threatened to end his career.  The cause was diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome.  There was no guarantee that the surgical answer, removal of a rib, would be successful.  But so far, he has been pitching fine baseball in most of his games, not just for the no-hitter.

No matter what chromosomes or hormones you might find, if you look closely, you will see that I bleed Dodger Blue!

Finally, this is my first post in what is officially summer in the Northern Hemisphere (it is winter time for all the World Cup venues in Brazil).  With warm weather and school vacations, this is a time that many travel.  The TG community is no exception to that.  Increasingly, despite the heightened security that has been in place at airports since 9/11, members of our community are interested in traveling by plane.

As the climate towards the TG community continues to improve, we are seeing more consideration of our needs at many levels of government.  One of the agencies in this category is the Transportation Security Administration, part of the Federal Department of Homeland Security.  On their website, they have provided tips to the transgender traveler to help them deal with security requirements and concerns we may have about screening procedures.

Thank you to the member of my Pathways support group who shared this link with our group a few months ago.

http://www.tsa.gov/traveler-information/transgender-travelers

Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. – Joshua 1:9

God bless,

Lois

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