Andrew and Donna's Road to the World Cup

Monday, June 19, 2006

He Says

Wow. What a game. I am so glad we went to Italy before this game because I don’t think I could’ve appreciated anything Italian after watching the Azzuri. Apparently they have not been getting the Joga Bonita memos because they spent most of last night making a fool of the game. Dive. Cry. Repeat. Of course, the match’s mediator encouraged the behavior so he is partly to blame. All that said, it was incredible to be a part of the match. The US support was the best I’ve seen. The singing and chanting began about 45 minutes before the match and it seemed to increase in volume and passion as the match went on, as if the supporters were making up for the absences of our 10th and 11th players. I hope to post some video Donna took in the stands to give you a better taste of the atmosphere.

I don’t want to say too much about the match itself because I think I might lose myself. Right now we are about half-way across the
Atlantic on our way to Atlanta by way of Toronto. I will say that the referees sucked; in general, they have sucked all tournament but the suckitude last night was absurd. I’m not proud of some of the things I yelled at that crew. (Note: I am allowed to criticize referees more than the average fan because I got certified as a USSF referee and did it for a year in Georgia.) I just read Donna’s post because there are so many things I want to share but I’ve just got chaos on the brain, probably a symptom of yelling like a maniac for three hours and then sleeping just four hours. Her words brought tears to my eyes. I’m going to post it on and email it to Wendy Parker, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s soccer reporter.

I want to tag on to the taxi story. What Donna didn’t mention and what I failed to tell her, is that we used our last Euro on the call to the taxi service. We had seven or eight to start, but the first three were wasted on a German information service. I greeted the receiver of my call and asked if she spoke English. She said something like Farfegnugen or (however you spell that!). I said, “Ich verstehe es nicht!” She said, “Yah, yah.” Then I think she was speaking German again, or perhaps she got something caught in her throat. Then she hung up on me. It all worked out in the end, though we would’ve been sleeping at the train station if the taxi service dispatcher didn’t sprechenzi English!

Aside from the game itself, it was so awesome to see Donna so into the game. On the first goal we scored, I turned to Donna and noticed she was being embraced by an old guy who had the seat next to her; they were jumping up and down cheering. Awesome. Then when Beasley scored, we still have no idea why the goal was disallowed, I joined into the celebratory embrace and probably high-fived about six people before I noticed Buffon was preparing to put the ball back in play. Talk about a buzzkill. Most of you have heard the phrase, “Pimpin’ aint’s easy.” Well, for Donna, “Huggin’ ain’t easy!” While she did not exactly hug this random guy, of course her arms were down as they are when many of have tried to hug her, but she did not push him away or even look uneasy. This is fool-proof evidence that wifey was into the game.

Yesterday I wore a red shirt that has the bust of US manager Bruce Arena. I’ve been a pretty big fan of his since his days at DC United. I am guessing that to other fans the shirt was a sign of hard-coredness because all night I had random people coming up to me to chat about the game and ask me questions about the US team. I thoroughly enjoyed it. One guy gave me a button that said, “Acthung! Azzuri” with a guy diving and a soccer ball. Others asked me what was going on with the drama between Beasley and the Bruce. Yet another guy gave me a big bottle of German beer. I’m glad I wore it.

After the game, some of the singing and chanting continued. For reasons unbeknownst to reasonable people the stadium only had one exit open. So it was a bit of on ordeal to get out. Some particularly enthusiastic US fans sang a song that I have been unable to get out of my head. It is quite simple and is sung to the tune of the FIFA anthem that has the lyric, “Hurray for the champions.’ I think. The song’s lyrics are: “How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref? How much did you pay the ref?”

Maybe you don’t know that the Italian league (mainly the four biggest clubs) referees, management and several of the star players are under investigation for match-fixing and gambling. Juventus, one of its richest and most powerful clubs, may be dropped to the third division due to the scandal. Italy’s goalkeeper has been implicated but investigations into his devious acts were postponed until after the World Cup. Classy, eh? A cab driver in Rome was embarrassed to give us that nugget.

As for the game itself, I do indeed want to look at the recording before passing too much judgment. Like Donna, I couldn’t be prouder of the effort of our guys. I’m not sure why we didn’t use a third sub when it looked like a few of the players were going to keel over, but it worked out okay.

In the first half, Mastroeni was a beast. Totti was taken out of the game because he could do nothing against Pablo. Typically the manager of a 10-man team would remove a striker, but pretty-boy-mr-roma-mr-italia-mr-d&g couldn't do anything against our Pablo. The stadium would not show a replay of the red-card tackle so I don’t know how bad it looked but Pablo has got to be smarter. When the other team is down a man, you know the ref is looking to even things out. Two-footed tackles are out of the question. We’ll really miss him against Ghana.

I thought there would be more changes from Tuesday’s lineup. One change I was ecstatic to see was Clint Dempsey for Beasley. Clint is like 23 years old, playing on the world’s biggest stage and he is just chilling, dancing on the ball. This guy knows joga bonito. Most important, his play was effective and it seemed to unnerve the Italians. I guess Bruce wanted more defense when he subbed in Beasley after we went down a man.

Donovan had a couple of nice runs. I wish we’d see more of them, but they are not likely as long as he is playing up top. Convey had a few nice runs as well and he served in the dangerous set piece that the Italian so kindly knocked in for us. I can't see a negative word about a US player on this night. I probably could say a few negative words about little Stevie, but not tonight.

I'll get the pictures and hopefully video up tomorrow.

Andrew 1:33 AM


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