Allow me to be honest when I say that most of the year, I am hardly an avid soccer fan. Don’t get me wrong, I support Toronto FC of the MLS a moderate amount, and I do enjoy watching a handful of games every so often, but I’m far from footy-obsessed as many of you likely are.
Having said that, every four years when the World Cup rolls around, my interest in the game skyrockets. Perhaps its national pride, or perhaps its simply what’s at stake, but the World Cup just feels different. There’s a constant sense of excitement and eager anticipation in the air all around me while the tournament plays itself out, and there are few sporting events more exciting to me.
Having lived in the United States for an extended period of time, naturally, I am supporting USMNT, or the United States Men’s National Team, for those unaware. Going into the tournament, I knew not what to expect. It’s no secret that the USA have the ability to compete with nearly any squad in the tournament, but after being placed in the infamous “Group of Death” (a term that has gotten legs here throughout the opening round) alongside Portugal, Germany, and Ghana, my expectations were admittedly rather low. Yet, here we are. The opening round has since concluded, and the USMNT are moving forward.
After a gutsy 2-1 win in the opening game against Ghana, a game in which the USA showed outstanding poise and ball control, they drew with Portugal 2-2. Scoring four goals and allowing only three through the opening two matches had put the USA in relatively decent shape heading into their final match against the German squad, but ultimately, their fate was in their own hands, or so they thought. Going into the match against Germany, many fans believed the USMNT required at worst a draw to advance into the remaining 16, but after suffering a gutsy 1-0 loss in a game where Germany controlled the bulk of the play, USA received a gift. On the strength of Ghana’s 2-1 loss to Portugal, in which superstar Cristiano Ronaldo scored the go ahead goal late, the USMNT had been informed they would be moving on to the next stage of the tournament despite having lost their final match. Ronaldo has seen been dubbed a “real American hero,” and for good reason I would say.
Next, the USMNT will face the club from Belgium, a feisty, but somewhat overrated squad that I fully believe the USA are capable of defeating. Will that game be as far as they go? Only time will tell, but if the action moving forward proves to be even half as exciting as what we were treated to in the group stage, us American soccer supporters are all in for a treat. Much like they were against the Germans and Portugese, I am certain the USMNT will be considered the underdog, but as we all know, in the World Cup, anything is possible. That’s right, I’m looking at you England, Spain, and Portugal all heading home before the second round. There is no doubt in my mind that with the right game plan, the right execution, the proper drive, and the proper determination, this United States men’s squad is one fully capable of not only playing great soccer, but entirely capable of playing spoiler to the big guns heading forward.
Getting through to the very end will most likely require defeating the likes of Argentina and the Dutch, but whatever the result, I will simply be thrilled to be along for the ride. Now if only Toronto FC’s beloved midfielder Michael Bradley who is representing the USMT could perform up to expectations a bit more, this would prove to be the perfect tournament experience for yours truly.