“Sorry, but that was only a matter of time!” That sentence could have been about any number of issues, especially when one reaches a certain age and has just spent a week straight watching soccer games on TV.
As it turns out, Kathleen was referring to a goal. Specifically, the equalizing goal by Ghana that served to reassert their authority over the USA and erase what had been a magical goal by Clint Dempsey in the opening seconds.
‘JUST HANG IN THERE, BOYS’
While it may have been true, it wasn’t much solace to the U.S. fans who had gathered all across the country in large groups to witness Jurgen’s boys try to erase the pain of the 2006 and 2010 World Cups, in which the U.S. interest in the tournament was ended by Ghana. Now it was just a matter of hanging on long enough to still get a point, for a 1-1 draw.
Not many people at e|town or at other gathering spots across the country believed that the U.S. could still find a goal and win this one. “Just hang in there, boys” was the prevailing sentiment. When the goal did come, courtesy of one of the cadre of young German-Americans, not even the goal scorer appeared to believe it.
As John Brooks, born in Berlin to a German mother and an American father and playing in his first competitive international match for the U.S., saw his header hit the back of the net, he appeared to wheel away from his teammates and drop to the ground in disbelief.
Most of us only witnessed this later on highlight shows and social media. At the time, we were drowning in a sea of high fives, hugs, cheers and beers. U.S. fans from the Copacabana to the Copes’ in Pittsburgh were scrambling for their cell phones to verify this moment! Did that just really happen?
That’s what the World Cup does, it creates indelible moments that become markers in life’s journey. If you were watching you will remember where you were when Brooks scored his first goal for his new country and, hopefully, who you were with. Just like that goal by Landon four years ago, or the tie against Italy four years before that, or those goals against Portugal in a game that started at 3:30 a.m. in 2002 or ... well, you get the point.
This World Cup hasn’t had any middle of the night games, and the result has been record viewing numbers across this country. It has been such a great showcase of the game, with late game heroics, high scoring games, red cards, saves, some incredible goals and only a couple of draws, one of which was a thrilling encounter as Mexico held Brazil scoreless and took away the possibility of a seven-game perfect run on home soil for Brazil. Now that everyone has played once, here are some of my favorite moments and the biggest games to watch this week.
The favorites: Brazil looked underwhelming in their opening match against Croatia and are struggling against Mexico as I write this. The verdict is still out on them. Argentina similarly struggled against Bosnia and was fortunate to escape with a win. Spain was decimated by the Netherlands. Has the Spanish Armada been sunk? Germany was ruthless in dismantling Portugal. The Italians showed real savvy and guile in defeating the long-suffering English in both teams’ opening match.
The refs: Technology has been introduced to eliminate goal line disputes, and it has worked well so far. Thankfully, we still have offsides and penalties to argue about, and boy have we argued. Several penalty decisions were hotly disputed in the first week. I haven’t had a problem with the penalties so far. The message seems to be pretty consistent and fair; if you put your hands on a player in the penalty area, there a penalty will be a called. Let’s all try and defend in the box without grabbing the attacker’s jersey or body.
The stars: Lionel Messi and Neymar got their obligatory goals in the opening matches but haven’t dazzled anyone yet. Cristiano Ronaldo failed on every front —didn’t score, didn’t play well and showed petulance at every turn. Thomas Muller, of Germany seems to be the star thus far with a hat trick in the opening match with Portugal, as did Benzema, of France. Andrea Pirlo burnished his reputation as the coolest man in Brazil with an absolutely convincing dummy run (letting the ball go through his legs without playing it) for Italy’s opening goal and with an absolutely stunning free kick that hit the crossbar in the closing seconds.
The underdogs and the unknowns: Joel Campbell and Costa Rica showed real quality against Ecuador in their upset, not just hanging on but dominating against a semifinalist from 2010 in Uruguay. This group of newly minted world stars must be led, however, by John Brooks, who revealed in the post match press conference that he dreamed of scoring the winning goal in the 80th minute, but had to wait until the 86th minute for his dream to come true. Don’t worry, John, as a certain soccer expert that I know and love once said, “Sorry, but that was only a matter of time!”
David Cope teaches social studies and coaches the boys and girls soccer teams at Battle Mountain High School in Edwards.