Jules Valentin Checks In on the Eve of the 2006 FIFA World Cup
Before gearing up for the '06 World Cup, Jules takes a look back to four years ago in Korea/Japan and remembers some moments that made the last Cup so special for the U.S.
June 8, 2006
Greetings ladies and gentleman – I’m BACK! Some of you may remember me, others may not. For those of you who do: it’s good to see you again. If you’re a newcomer to ussoccer.com and you have no clue who I am: welcome and it’s nice to meet you…my name is Jules. I think that my U.S. Soccer email address still works at firstname.lastname@example.org so you can email me directly with questions, comments, or complaints – all are welcome!
As I gear up for the World Cup, I think it would be fitting to take a look back to four years ago in Korea/Japan and remember some moments that made the last Cup so special for the U.S. After this walk down memory lane, I guarantee excitement for Germany 2006!
For starters, how exciting is it that we don’t have to set our alarm clocks for 3:00 in the morning to watch the games. This time around, the earliest that I’ll have to set my alarm for is like 8:00 am. Sadly, it may be a bit of an issue for me to wake up this early, too.
I remember rolling out of bed in ’02 (wearing my flannel pajamas) and watching the U.S.-Portugal game through my crusted yellow “eye boogers” and yawning every 30 seconds. Luckily, John O’Brien woke me up in the early in the match when he smoked a ball past Victor Baía (and his cheesy Euro-mullet) as he got us off on the right foot. I went nuts. So did Jack Edwards, especially after the game, as he screamed out about “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” If JOB’s goal in the 4th minute against “heavily favored” Portugal and Jack Edwards doesn’t get you excited for Germany, I don’t know what will.
I remember watching our boys play South Korea in the middle of a sea of Reds – talk about home field advantage. For me, that game sums up what the World Cup is all about – passion. The passion was tangible from both us and Korea team on the pitch, the screaming Reds in the stands, and everyone else around the world could help but give into that passion as well. It’s impossible to forget Clint Mathis’ incredible goal. Not because it was replayed a bajillion times since then or because of his Mohawk, but because it was a great goal – a quality touch and classy finish. Even bigger than that was Brad Friedal’s domination of Lee on the penalty late in the game. What a HUGE save on a call that was questionable, at best. If thinking back to the sea of Reds, the passion of the Korean fans, Clint’s elegant strike, getting a result, and Friedal’s overall amazingness for the entire tournament doesn’t get you excited for Germany, I don’t know what will.
Geeze, the Poland game. I remember being up in the middle of the night and watching the games on my knees, saying a Hail Mary for 90 minutes in the hopes that Korea get a result. Okay, maybe I didn’t actually do that, nor am I Catholic, but I was still on edge to say the least. ESPN kept flashing back to the Portugal-Korea game and it was a wild one. I think I remember that Portugal smacked 64 shots off the crossbar but the Korean team was able to get out of the match with a 1-0 win. I was way too preoccupied by what was going on in that game to remember any specific moments in our match or I’ve since forgotten them, four years later. We took a loss to Poland that day, but it didn’t matter because we went through anyways. If remembering back to those butterflies inside, chewing off all of your finger AND toenails, knowing that our fate was in the hands of the Korean team doesn’t get you excited for Germany, I don’t know what will.
I remember being thrilled to see the U.S.-Mexico derby in the Round of 16. I do remember being nervous and anxious about the game, especially considering it was an elimination game in the World Cup. We came to play that game, absorbed their pressure in the early going and whenever we had to, and then took it to them from there. It was fantastic to watch Brian McBride silence the Mexican fans in the 8th minute – pure class. After Landon headed home Eddie Lewis’ service later on in the second half, I remember being happy – just being happy. Then I remember being mad a few minutes later when the Mexican side decided to kick the beans out of Cobi Jones every opportunity they had because they realized they were going to lose, again, to the Americans. If the emotional rollercoaster, defeating Mexico, and the overall greatness of that game doesn’t get you excited for Germany, I don’t know what will.
If it wasn’t for Bush League refereeing, we’d have continued to go on. We wore the blue kits that game. I’ll always remember the second coming of Maradona’s “Hand of God” that robbed Landon’s goal and our chance to go through. I don’t mean to be controversial here or bring back bad memories because it is in the past, but we deserved to win that game. I guess Kahn did play out of his mind that game, but if you take up ¾ of the goal, it can’t be that hard. It’s kind of like playing recreational youth soccer when you’re 5 years old: the best goalies are always the “fat kids” because they can just stand in the goal and nobody can score. I remember being so close to a win and being all over the German side for parts of the match. Darn. We deserved that game but I’ll never forget how proud I was to be and American soccer player that day. If you remember how proud you were of our team, the amazing run that we made, and knowing that we could very well have beaten Korea in the next round and been in the FINAL of World Cup 2002 doesn’t get you excited for Germany, I don’t know what will.
So, the U.S. kicks off World Cup 2006 on June 12 vs. the Czech Republic and you would be a liar if you told me that you’re not excited for our first touch on the road to a World Championship. All of the action starts on June 9 with Germany taking on our CONCACAF rival Costa Rica. ESPN and ABC will have all the games so make sure to take advantage! I already have TiVo, which is fantastic. High-definition would be nice, too…