World Cup officially ended yesterday with a Germany victory over Argentina. I was rooting for Germany, but a part of me was hoping Messi would be able to pull it out.
These last few weeks, World Cup has been our life. Those first couple of weeks, games would air over here at 18:00, 21:00, and 00:00. We’ve gotten so used to staying up until 2:30AM for games that it now seems early to tuck in anytime before 2:00AM. Most games we watched at home while we worked, but when we could, we tried to get out and watch it with people. Europeans love them some football (or soccer for us Americans), and there is nothing better than getting to root for and cheer on your home team. At various points around the city big screens went up where you and hundreds of your fellow fans could drink some beers, and cheer on the boys.
Thankfully, Belgium and the U.S. were in separate groups so we could cheer on our home country and our new adopted country with equal fervor. Jared spent those weeks constantly trading between his U.S. jersey and his Belgian jersey (and he even rocked his 16 year old Italian jersey on the occasion). We were so proud of all our boys. The U.S. far exceeded expectations and actually survived the so-called Group of Death. Belgium had a little bit of a slow start, but came through their Group without contest.
We hoped (quite unrealistically) that the U.S. would come out first in their Group, or Belgium would come in second. Anything to delay a U.S.-Belgium face-off. But alas, it wasn’t meant to be and too soon we found ourselves having to root against our beloved Belgium. Our friends back home questioned our allegiance, but we were rooting for the U.S. 100%. As proof, Jared brought his U.S. jersey to Croatia and rocked that baby all day while we explored Hvar:
We headed down to our new favorite little restaurant and dug in for a nail-biting game. In a funny turn of events, we had a lovely Belgian family that sat at the table next to ours. Jared and one of the daughters ribbed back and forth as De Bruyne, Vertonghen, and Hazard made attempt after attempt and Tim Howard made one amazing save after another. Seriously, boy made World Cup history with 15 saves in that game – Tim Howard was team U.S.A. that day. It was amazing, and our hopes were high. But unfortunately it just wasn’t meant to be, and the U.S. fell to Belgium 2-1. We were disappointed to see the U.S. exit, but the possibility that we could be cheering on Belgium to ultimate victory while in Belgium was a very exciting prospect. However, our grand plans were dashed as Belgium didn’t survive their next round. I can only imagine the insanity that would have taken over Brussels this weekend leading up to that final match.
Having watched a million hours of football over the last few weeks, I do have one big gripe. The dives have gotten stop. It’s embarrassing when you see the replay and see the enormous delay between the contact and the “face of pain”, the roll around until you realize you won’t get your foul and then magically everything is fine. And nothing is better than someone feigning an injury on a totally different part of the body then where the contact was made. When did we become such babies? I think it may be why I find myself drifting more and more towards rugby. You get the same quick action and finite time periods as football, but with guys who break a nose or dislocate a joint, pop that shit right back in place, and get back on the field (presuming they even left it in the first place). Clint Dempsey made me proud when in the first half of the U.S.-Ghana game, he played on with a broken nose after taking a Rockette’s style high kick to the face.
But rant-aside, experiencing a World Cup in Europe has been a unique experience. Belgium was a young team and with the experience they gained in this World Cup, I forsee some Belgium dominance in France come Euro Cup in 2016. I think we just may need to get ourselves over the border to cheer on our boys to victory.
And Russia 2018 – the U.S. is coming for you.