In less than a week, the world’s most important sporting event will be underway. Here in Tampa, things, some little and some big, are happening to get me in the mood. Actually I should say to push my excitement level to 11.
First, a few things I’ve seen around town:
Speaking of Julian Green, when I went to our local American Outlaw bar, MacDinton’s to watch the US play Turkey last weekend, I was happy to see his father there! It was pretty cool watching his father watching the piece ESPN did on his son.
A few nights later, I saw two World Cup bound sides face off here in Tampa as Japan took on the Ticos from Costa Rica. Though the crowd was not large, just over 7,000, the atmosphere was very good. Probably half the crowd were Ticos while the Japanese filled a couple sections. Me, I found a place to stand right behind the goal.
Though Costa Rica scored first, Japan looked very good and won 3-1. Big bonus, all 4 goals were scored right in front of me! Japan is based here and will play Zambia Friday night–I’m taking my son Max (who when he was only four months old, I handed to Freddy Adu, who was slapping fan’s hands after we had beaten Cuba in a qualifier) he is now almost six years old, yes, his birthday takes place while I’m in Brazil. One day, maybe when he’s in his 40’s, he’ll forgive me. Or maybe forgiveness will come when I take him to Qatar (England? Australia? Nowhere but here?!) in 2022.
I enjoyed the Manchester United on Liverpool violence yesterday in the England vs Colombia match, but it got me wondering how other players felt. For example, what did Wayne Rooney think about his United teammate trying to choke his England mate who is also a player for Liverpool, whom I assume he despises? A step further, what if Spain were playing Argentina and Sergio Ramos drills Lionel Messi. What do Xavi, Andres Inesta and the other Barcelona players think? Or, in that same match, if Javier Mascherano takes out Iker Casilles? The only thing even similar I can think of was in 2006 when Cristiano Ronaldo got his then Manchester United teammate, Wayne Rooney, red carded in the quarter-finals. Although Ronaldo was caught on camera winking to his bench, Rooney harbored no ill will when they returned to Old Trafford later that summer. This is just another aspect that makes the World Cup so awesome–hated rivals playing together for country. And some players are not able to do so. For years Spain had trouble integrating Barcelona and Real Madrid players. Holland and Scotland have histories of struggling to have all 11 pulling the same way.
Oh, at the match the other night, there were no incidents between Man United’ Shinji Kagawa and Arsenal’s Joel Campbell.
For the last two weeks now I have been pretty pessimistic about the US’ chances to advance, but now I’m only excited. I’ve got that feeling like anything can happen. I really think we will beat Ghana, there is just no way we will lose three in a row to them. Then comes the important Portugal match. Cristiano Ronaldo having a little injury makes me think on 2002 when then World Player of the Year Luis Figo also had a little fitness issue. It was nothing that kept him from playing, but his lack of training and not being 100% was just the opening we needed to beat them and advance.
The amount of media leading up to this Cup is simply amazing. Levels were nowhere near this when we hosted in 1994 much less for any other Cup. If you still think soccer is second rate here, think again. And it’s just going to keep growing, irregardless of how the US does over the next few week, the demographics are just so young. And the American Outlaw’s are growing like crazy. I mean even my hometown of Roanoke Virginia has a chapter and the next person to join will be their 100th member!