Oh, Hell Yes!
While it might be the most loved sport worldwide, soccer on the professional level hasn’t made much of an impact here at home. Granted, for most of its history, American teams haven’t fared well against more seasoned foreign opponents, but the 2002 World Cup is showing that the Team USA is no longer the doormat of world soccer. After defeating a highly regarded Portugal team to open the Cup, we held on enough to back our way into the second round, thanks to a victory by South Korea over Portugal, even though we got beaten (and beaten badly) by Poland. (We don’t have enough time, or bandwidth, to explain how you can advance in the World Cup when you only win one game out of three). We faced longtime rivals Mexico in the second round, and world opinion gave the US little chance — they were playing on a day’s less rest, and had looked progressively worse as the first round drew on.
Guess what? We kicked their ass. Final: USA 2, Mexico 0. (For those new to soccer, it is not a high scoring sport, at this level. Two goals is a healthy margin of victory).
By winning this game we become the best US team since the 1930s, and hopefully go a long way in wiping some of those international smirks off of faces when the words “Futbol” and “USA” are mentioned together. Perhaps it will also ignite some level of interest in the sport at home as well. Being somewhat of a fan (hell, more than somewhat — I’ve gotten up at 2:30 in the friggin’ morning to watch the games, which are being played in Japan and Korea), I attempted to show my spirit by wearing the team colors. Ha. I’d sooner find a pro-Taliban T-shirt than anything relating to soccer in local stores. If it doesn’t have Michael Jordan’s, Kobe Bryant’s, or Tiger Woods’ mug on it, you can’t buy it. And they wonder why the sport hasn’t caught on.
At this writing, we face a dominating German team Friday in the quarterfinals, and who knows how these upstart Americans will do. But if the same squad that ran Mexico ragged today shows up, plan on bratwurst for breakfast.