Breaking Down the Cup - by John Ellinger
The Bandwagon Grows …
I know that there are die-hard soccer fans out there who don’t want people to jump on the “bandwagon” now that the United States MNT has advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2002 World Cup, but I say "Jump on board!"
Who would have thought that as I was driving down 57th Ave. in Bradenton, Fla., and as I was passing the Manatee Wellness Center, their marquee would say “Go U.S. Soccer”? We are talking about Manatee County, which is prime football and baseball territory. This is progress.
We are down to the “elite eight” as they say, and our Men’s National Team is among them. To get there we had to beat a confident Mexican side that had played brilliantly up to this match. But, the confidence was on the other side of the ball in this game as the United States soaked up a little Mexican pressure (Brad Friedel was again special in goal), and we counter-attacked with authority, getting wonderful goals from Brian McBride and Landon Donovan. But of equal importance was the ability of the U.S. to maintain their composure during that second half when it looked there were ten “human rotor tillers” in green out there.
Germany is up next for the United States and I, for one, believe we are not done yet. Our opponent is an explosive team with a great deal of strength in the air - Miroslav Klose has five goals, all from headers. Michael Ballack has played great, and he will have to be dealt with as well. But once again we face an opponent who Bruce Arena‘s squad faced in their pre-World Cup schedule, so there is that feeling of playing a familiar foe. Let’s see - Mexico, Germany, South Korea, Italy and Ireland all on the same side of the bracket and all pre-World Cup opponents … Is Bruce psychic or what?
The other quarterfinal match-ups include Spain-South Korea, Brazil-England, and - to everyone’s surprise - Senegal-Turkey. You could have an all European semi-final field, or we could see a final four void of a European team for the first time in WC history.
These are exciting times. After our victory over Germany on Friday, could you imagine if Bruce and the boys began preparations for South Korea - another familiar opponent - come Saturday? If nothing else the 2002 World Cup has shown us that games can not be won on paper, and the so-called world powers of the sport are finding that out the hard way from the so-called emerging soccer nations.