Tuesday, July 1, 2014

USA in the World Cup! Yay Soccer!

The World Cup is well underway in Brazil this month, and the non-USA world is very excited. It might be unfair to exclude Americans from soccer enthusiasm, but with apologies to the good folks in Seattle and Portland, Americans just don't share the same kind of if-we-don't-win-I'm-going-to-pull-out-this-pipewrench-and-start-beating-random-strangers-and-burning-any-nearby-car-that-is-if-this-stadium-doesn't-collapse-before-halftime excitement for soccer.

We mostly save our violent hooliganism for baseball, football, and, for a vocal few, ice hockey.

...But with Team USA representing us in the World Cup, we decided to make a point to at least watch one game match; it would be a shame not to see them play while living in a country that at least mildly cares about soccer- that is, English Premier League soccer.

So when USA squared off against Germany in the last match of group play with a chance to advance, we headed over to the student pub to catch the snoozefest SOCCER ACTION OMG ALL CAPZ GOOOOOOOOOOOOOL!

Well, the game certainly wasn't as exciting as The Simpsons would imply. It was more fun to listen to the announcers describing the action and to watch the crowd gathered in the bar responding to the almost scores.

Of course, we had to enjoy a drink and some popular Irish snacks while watching the edge-of-your-seat action.

Drinks and Soccer
Drinks and Soccer

Popular Irish Potato Crisps
Popular Irish Potato Crisps

In particular, I smiled when the announcers said at halftime with the score tied at 0 (yep), "Germany have completely dominated this one so far!" Imagine what the announcers at an American football game tied at 0 going to halftime would say. Non-American football fans, you can bet your boots they won't sound as excited and certainly won't say that either team is dominating anything. It might be something like...

"It's halftime here at Lambeau, and both defenses have been stingy and have not given up an inch to these two offenses. Let's hope to see these offensive coordinators make some halftime adjustments and put some points on the board." 

I know what they meant, even as a soccer novice, I could see that Germany had control of the ball for most of the half, and had many more shots on goal than did the good guys in white jerseys. I just have the disadvantage of a perspective shaped by the play style and pacing of American sports, few of which (ice hockey bears a passing resemblance) are played anything like soccer. I do enjoy comparing the commentary and commercial promotions of soccer and American sports, particularly American football.

In the second half, Germany scored a goal, and that would be the final score, Germany 1-0 USA. The other matchup from the USA's group, Portugal and Ghana, kicked off at the same time. A few vocal fans of that match were watching and excitedly shouting, as it ended in a scoreboard-shattering 2-1 to Portugal.

Because of a very complex tiebreaker that could rival the wildcard playoff scenarios in the NFL, Team USA advances to the next round. The loss to Germany merely hurt their matchup in the next round. Belgium is looming on July 1st (the night this post goes live) in what should be a big match.

It would be nice to see Team USA do well for the small but enthusiastic American soccer community, and I'm sure I'll follow the rest of the World Cup action as it plays out in the next few weeks. If we don't bring home the amorphous gold trophy, I will still be happy to be world champions in all those team sports popular nowhere but the USA.

Enjoy the rest of the World Cup, soccer fans! While I am not a fan of watching soccer games, I am a fan of any peaceful international event that unites humanity and inspires the best in us all. As Morgan Freeman used to say in those VISA Olympic Games commercials...

Go World, indeed.

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