Perhaps the funniest moment of last night’s Mariners win over the Dodgers (other than Danys Baez doing everything other than put it on a tee for Seattle) was ESPN’s Buck Martinez making an impassioned defense on behalf of FIFA’s integrity.

“The interesting thing about the USA/Ghana match and the Italy/Czech Republic match being played at the same time,” reassured Buck, “is that it will make it more difficult to fix a game.”

Slim consolotation, however for the U.S. National team, currently trailing Ghana, 2-1, after 70 minutes. Brian McBride just hit the woodwork with a header a few moments ago, and Eddie Johnson has come on for Steve Churundolo (and about time, too). Earlier, Clint Dempsey (above) scored off a terrific Marcus Beasley feed in the 43rd minute to tie the game, only to see Ghana regain the lead on Stephen Appiah’s penalty kick in stoppage time just before the break. Appiah’s PK was awared when Ben Olsen collided with Michael Essien — we’ve all seen harder fouls go uncalled, just as we’ve seen almost idential incidents result in a penalty.

Claudio Reyna, injured when Haimanu Draman picked his pocket (resulting in the first Ghana goal) early in the first half, has been making like Adam Morrison / Joey Cora, though perhaps that’s just because they’re listening to Dave O’Brien’s commentary on the U.S. bench.

Italy have been doing their part to help Ghana or the U.S. advance ; they’re leading the Czech Republic, 1-0 with about 10 minutes plus stoppage time. Marco Matterazzi scored in the 26th minute, and Jan Polak (above)  was sent off after picking up his 2nd yellow card of the day in the 47th minute.

UPDATE : US 1, Ghana 2 (90 minutes). Perhaps Reading’s Bobby Convey is hoping for one of those invitations to audition for a Jets kicking job like the kind Tony Meola accepted some years ago — what he’s lacking in accuracy, he’s making up for in distance. Chances galore in the 2nd half for the U.S., but the gulf in class between these two sides is more than slight, regardless of the score. Italy just elminated the Czech Republic, the Azzuri’s 2-0 win capped off by Fillipo Inzhagi’s 87th minute strike.

UPDATE II : US 1, Ghana 2 (FT).

Marcel Balboa continues to insist “the U.S. is being punished for their 3-0 loss to the Czech Republic.” Uh, whatever. Had they lost 3-2, the U.S. would still out of the tournament. Julie Foudy is critical of Bruce Arena waiting so long to bring on Eddie Johnson, while Eric Wynalda is blunter, still. “Bruce Arena screwed up this World Cup.”

“You’ve also got to put it on the players,” argued Foudy. “Where was Landon Donovan?”

“Playing in a 4-5-1 system, that’s where.” concluded Wynalda.

I suspect the job opening in Canada is looking very attractive to Arena right about now.

Dave O’Brien’s quote of the tournament so far : “I don’t think anyone realized just how good Ghana are.”

Well, they certainly wouldn’t be aware if they had to rely on ESPN and ABC, who’ve treated much of the World Cup as though there’s only one team in the competition. But I do sympathize with O’Brien ; Essien plays for a pretty obscure club with no recent credentials to speak of. Maybe if he continues to perform well over the next few weeks he’ll reach the heights of toiling for the LA Galaxy.