Dispatches from a Casual World Cup Observer: June 19 – June 20, 2014
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is here, and I have a novice’s degree of knowledge as to what’s happening, as well as a small amount of sentimentality for the event. This is me traversing through work, drunken weekends, and Spotify with the World Cup either in the fore or background
Thursday, June 19
There was a time in history when someone from England could tell you that the sun never sets on the British empire. The English who remember these times also hang portraits of Winston Churchill and like to talk a lot about Bobby Moore. These same people had the misfortune of watching Wayne Rooney, the most internationally recognizable player from their country, make a goal to equalize the game against Uruguay only to be one-upped by frequent 4chan user, Luis Suarez, in the 84th minute of the match. The dwindling minutes were a demonstration in desperation and keep away for a nation that is now depending upon Mario Balotelli to save them from the brink. The English now need a Dunkirk-like interference from another nation in order to be saved from utter destruction.
All of my life I have bared witness to the one sport that the English can rightfully say they are better at than America. With the loss to Uruguay and America one win away from qualifying to the Round of 16, it’s nice to see that we are a step closer to gloating about being better at a game that the English invented. Who knows – if the Americans advance to the Round of 16, the English may just want to take up “our football”. It’s not like Roger Goodell hasn’t been looking into it for the past seven years. So goes the fall of the English empire and the rise of the NFL. God Save Goodell.
Before watching a recently recovered Suarez drown the Three Lions, I watched the Colombians as they danced their way to victory. “Watch out, Shakira! There’s a new number one in Colombia,” Adrian Healey screamed after James (pronounced Ha-Mez) Rodriguez scored. Afterwards, the Colombians practiced their 2014 World Cup tradition of a coordinated dance routine. If they don’t embarrass you enough on the pitch, they’ll take the time to remind you of how uncoordinated you were back in high school. Adrian Healey’s comments were incorrect because he assumed Los Cafeteros were only number one in their home country. They also became number one in my heart.
After Rodriguez’s goal, Juan Fernando Quintero scored to put the Colombians up 2-0. The roar within Estadio Nacional de Brasilia was impenetrable. The Ivory Coast looked lost as the yellow shirts that packed the stadium descended their wave of support for the South American team. There were fans of the Elephants few and far between but after Quintero’s goal they would hardly be heard from until Gervinho’s goal within the 73rd minute. While there were multiple attempts on behalf of the Ivory Coast to make a comeback, the shots were way off the mark or interrupted by Colombian defenders. The last bit of stoppage time was an uncoordinated scramble by the Elephants to earn another win. The final whistle blew and the score stood at 2-1. The Ivory Coast will go on to face a rather dispirited Greece team while the Colombians will face a Japanese team that seems why too methodical in their passing to want to score. Unless Greece lands upon a corruptible official in the World Cup, I think it’s safe to say that the Ivory Coast will be back in contention during the Round of 16.
After the match, I decided to eat the other half of my sloppy Jason’s Deli wrap that I saved from my lunch meeting on Tuesday. It was a sad little lunch complete with two strawberries that were also leftover from a once full fruit cup. I was dining on this frugal, almost stale leftover lunch because I had exceeded my budget for the month and I needed to stave off money until payday on Friday. It was a meal for the desperate which was a fitting preparation for the match between Uruguay and England.
England was beat by Mario Balotelli in the preceding week while Uruguay was blanked by a hungry Costa Rican team. It was a “battle of the desperate” as Ian Darke said but the desperation looked better on England. As soon as Luis Suarez headed a ball for a goal at the 39 minute mark, it looked like the Lions had all but giving up. It seemed like a foregone conclusion that Uruguay would still be alive. If Suarez could score after recovering from a knee injury, what point was there? Then, Wayne Rooney answered the call within the 74th minute after so many point blank attempts throughout the first half that were blocked or hit the goal post. What looked like a loss and a dire situation for England became a draw if it held up. Then, Luis Suarez happened again.
Suarez, I learned, is one of the top scorers within the English Premier League for Liverpool FC. This is a guy who the English know all too well because of how heart breaking he has been since his inclusion since 2011. Yet, the national team of England decided to pay no mind to the one man who has caused more heart aches than fish and chips. Luis Suarez received a wide open pass with only the goalie to beat and knocked it in to put Uruguay up 2-1. Suarez flashed a winning smile as he kept Uruguay alive. England is now in despair.
After I watched all of the LOL reactions to England, I headed home to take a break from soccer. So, I watched Greece and Japan. During the entirety of the match, I watched the safe, slow pace of Japan as they passed, passed, passed, cut inside the box, passed and then refused to score. It was an exercise in refuting deserved rewards. It was a bit self-inflected pain that wasn’t as satisfying as watching a man covered in a Mentos suit drop himself in a dunk tank full of Diet Coke. The game resulted in a 0-0 draw which, if you look closely at the score, seems like a wide-eyed man who just witnessed the unspeakable.
Friday, June 20th
Costa Rica has only qualified for World Cup qualifications a total of four times which includes this year’s ferocious run in Brazil. Their best result was 24 years ago in 1990 when they went on to the Round of 16. This year, they blanked Uruguay in a stunner that left everyone speechless and opened the flood gates for CONCACAF bandwagon fans. They added another one on Friday after they beat Italy and sealed England’s fate within Group D.
The game between Costa Rica and Italy wasn’t particular exciting despite the waning minutes. After Costa Rica’s first goal of the game, they frustrated the Italians by playing keep away and passing the ball. The Azzurri tried substitutions to find better striking attacks but their play execution was about as accurate as the Florida Gators against Georgia Southern.
The Italians just seemed frustrated that Costa Rica of all teams was able to punch their ticket to the next round as they put Italy’s chances in jeopardy while knocking out England in the process. The former two teams were considered super powers when I was growing up but in Brazil they’ve looked more like giant pests.
After the Costa Rica-Italy match, I headed home to watch the Swiss take on the French. I watched while running on a treadmill in my apartment complex. At the end of the first half, I could make the honest mistake that I was covered in blood rather than sweat. The French have rediscovered the guillotine and they were not afraid to use it.
The momentum was all France from the start. They were pressing down the field, attacking every angle they could. The Swiss failed to slow down the pace and control the ball. The French were taking advantage of the gaps that the Swiss were leaving for Olivier Giroud, Blaise Matuidi and Mathieu Valbuena, all of whom scored a goal within the first half. Didier Deschamps, the head coach of the French, failed to crack a smile at the torture his team was putting on the Swiss. He couldn’t even laugh when Giroud gave a much smaller Valbuena a piggy back ride. Deschamps looked like he was out for blood.
The only accolades that the Swiss managed to achieve was two late goals after Karim Benzema and Moussa Sissoko knocked in two for five goals for the French. They also became one of the only teams to stop a penalty kick from being converted. Not that it really mattered in the end. The French, on the other hand, won their first two World Cup games in 1998 when Les Bleus won the tourney in their home country.
The rest of my day was devoted to Food Truck Friday, an event in Charlotte’s South End which showcases some of the city’s premiere roach coaches. After eating the delicious Cuban grilled cheese from the Imperial Sandwich Company, I headed to a local grocery for a beer. I walked through rows of sweaty people in the Common Market to find myself in front of the one cooler door that sold the cheap beer. Rolling Rock, Coor’s Light, Pabst Blue Ribbon and a gold can that declared it was Budweiser. I took the gold can out of the fridge to reveal that it was the Jules Rimet trophy in beer can form. The World Cup as only the King of Beers can present it. I bought the can and then sat out on a lawn near the hundreds of people eating their food truck fare in picnic-like fashion. I could look at the score for Ecuador-Honduras later, I thought, this view is refreshing for now.
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