For 15 days, the USA doused itself in soccer.
We didn’t know what to call it at first. Soccer? Football? Fútbol? But once John Brooks hit the back of the net in the 86th minute of the first game against Ghana, the passion ignited. Winning makes everything better.
Then, even as the U.S. Men’s National Team drew with Portugal and fell to Germany, sending fans into a bit of a lull, we deliriously continued to cheer.
Surviving the “Group of Death” gave us enough cause to sincerely believe beating Belgium — a talented, dark horse squad — was possible. With goalkeeper Tim Howard as the veteran leader of a ragtag team skillfully pieced together by the German coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, the 2014 World Cup appeared to be in reach.
At the end of the day, it wasn’t. Howard put on a show, prompting many “Tim Howard for President” tweets, yet Belgium never let up. They tore down the field again and again, firing unrelenting shots that eventually married the back of the net in extra time.
Young gun, 19-year-old Julian Green gave the USMNT a spark of hope in the 107th minute, knocking in a goal with his first touch of the tournament. The Americans went down swinging as a sense of urgency rushed upon them. But, as you can tell from all the sad Americans around you, it was too little too late.
Crushed. Heartbroken. Proud. Losing turns everything sour.
Before the loss, I predicted that if the U.S. beat Belgium, it would inspire a generation of new young soccer players. Despite the fact that America’s 2014 World Cup run is over, I hope that still rings true. There are always the haters (*cough* Ann Coulter’s “AMERICA’S FAVORITE NATIONAL PASTIME: HATING SOCCER”), but I believe that this year’s valiant effort has drawn more people to the sport.
Next year, we’ll be treated to the Women’s World Cup in Canada. In 2011, the U.S. Women’s National Team finished runners up to Japan. Until then, Messi and Neymar are pretty sights to behold, and fellow CONCACAF underdog contender, Costa Rica, remains in play.
Kia’s advertising campaign urges, “For one month, let’s all be futbol fans.” This may be taking a step too far too soon, but how about we all just be soccer fans forever?