"Whatever the result may be, I shall carry to my grave the consciousness that at least I meant well for my country."
- James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States
Growing up in Barcelona, it was only natural that I was obsessed with fútbol. For a while, it was all I could think about. School projects, clothing, trainers, posters. All were related somehow to the game. I couldn't wait until the bell would ring so I could run outside, free to hear the fresh grass crunch under my cleats and stain my kit green.
Every four years, a little event called the FIFA World Cup occurs. Some Americans may be surprised to know that it is the MOST watched sporting event in the world. 715 million people viewed the final match in Germany 2006. In comparison, the 2010 Vancouver Closing Ceremony had 190 million viewers and 106.5 million people saw Super Bowl XLIV. I do like any sporting event, but fútbol has to be the most thrilling. The cut-with-a-knife tension is worse than any American football game. Besides the random events like wardrobe malfunctions or gloves-off hockey fights, I believe there is a reason it's called the world's game.
I then don't have to tell you how many TVs I watch it on (two) or how many iPhone apps I have downloaded (four) or how many times I have eaten chimichangas in place of a meal (36) or how many times I have used four letter words (%#*@). Each match comes with jubilation and heartbreak. I chew on my fingers when there are penalty shots.
"BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM!" has become a favorite saying around here. [Really, it's only a joke, but good movie.]
I don't answer my phone. I frantically check Twitter every commercial, but am too nervous to post anything. LESS I MISS SOMETHING. Even though we can pause the TV.
Uh, my computer just made a really weird screeching noise. Maybe it's upset that I keep ESPN.com running like it's going out of style?
One team that surprised me not to make it to the Knockout stage was Italia. Huh? The current defending champions, four-time winners of the World Cup, my father's homeland, etc., knocked out by Slovakia? One of the roommates summed it up, "Is Slovakia even a country? I bet you Italy's coach resigns."
Tis true, sorry Lippi. You did well for the team, thank you. Just not this year.
So, for the round of 16, I was disappointed with all the wins save Holland and of course La Roja (España). Team Oranje has been performing quite well recently, expect for 2002. I moaned with every American as Ghana edged the team out of competition. Brazil made it through with Kaka. England out, but the Germans have been competing well. Remind me to tell you the story of when I sat next to a German woman on a flight to Seattle.
I was ecstatic today when two heavyweights were beaten by underdogs. Everyone that I watched the matches with were in shock. Brazil, five-time Cup champions, performed an own goal. WOW. And then a tense penalty shootout with light blue players from Uruguay stomping Ghana and Africa's dreams at a World Cup win on their home territory.
The matches today were unbelievable. I contracted an upset stomach and overstretched my hamstrings. Yelled and used the Vuvuzela application and spilled water and shotgunned Coors Light and highfived and hugged. Simply spending the time cheering and moaning and laughing seemed the right way to celebrate a gracious day off work. I can't wait to do it again tomorrow.
For the first match, I wouldn't mind either way. Argentina does have the top joint-scorer in the Cup, Gonzalo Higuaín. (Also doesn't hurt that he plays for Real Madrid.) Germany has lost a match, but they did upset England.
As for the second game, I think I know where my loyalty lies.
Yo sé, Víctor Valdés. Sí se puede.