The Glorious World Cup
A Fanatic's Guide
A guide to the biggest sporting event in the world-for those who like their soccer with a side of kick-ass.
The teams, the fans, the goals, the saves, the divas, the divers, the myths, the madness-they're all part of the world-wide spectacle that is soccer's ultimate tournament, and they're all here in this turbocharged guide. Packed with trivia, tall tales, stats, quizzes, and photos, The Glorious World Cup gives readers:
•Famous player profiles
•Villains, heroes, hooligans, and hard men
•On-field glory and off-field indiscretions
•Underdogs, overachievers, maniacs, and miracles
•Commentary from famous fans-including Irvine Welsh, Po Bronson, and Simon Kuper
•A look back at the greatest World Cup finals
USA and the World Cup
Although hardly anyone knows this, USA stood the world on its ear in the very first World Cup. Granted, the United States team fielded zero US-born players. But they opened several cans of whupass on Belgium and Paraguay, winning their group with a 6-0 aggregate. In the semifinals a cold Argentine slap of reality brought the US plummeting back to Earth. First the gauchos broke American center half Raphael Tracey’s leg in the tenth minute. Then they just kept pouring salt in the wound and when the dust settled, it was 6-1.
In the 1934 World Cup, Team USA traveled to the boot of Europe and got a severe kicking. The haughty Italians lopped off their manhood so viciously, USA soccer went into hiding for thirteen years. The tournament started well enough with a solid qualifying win over Mexico, strongman Aldo “Buff ” Donelli bagging four goals. But in the first round tie against Italy at Mussolini’s Fascist Party stadium in Rome, the Italians savaged the Americans 7-1, sending them away.
Finally, the USA poked its head out from underneath the blanket, and made its way to the Finals in the Southern hemisphere. And the English were waiting for them. No one gave the States any hope. Only one US journalist was on hand to presumably cover the loss. His editor back home believed he had misreported the score, assuming England had won by a single goal — a huge shock in itself, as England had been pegged to put at least ten goals past US goalie Frank Borghi. But the famous victory over the colonial granddad (see page 28) was not enough to see the USA progress. Losses to Spain and Chile booked the early berth home, back to hiding under the blanket, this time for forty years.
In that forty-year hiatus, soccer rolled through the seventies craziness of the North American Soccer League (NASL) with its wacky uniforms and fading stars. The game became a novelty toy and was finally smashed to pieces in 1984 when the NASL folded. A Renaissance was due. Rumor has it that FIFA was desperate to have the United States host the World Cup in 1994. But everyone knew, for that to happen, they had to at least compete in Italy in World Cup 1990. There followed some dark chicanery that intensified the bitter hatred of the United States by Mexico, one of America’s chief rivals for a spot in the Finals. Suddenly, our neighbor to the south was given a mysterious red card, disqualified from World Cup 1990 for using overage players at the 1989 World Youth Cup. Foul was cried, in Spanish, from Guadalajara to Tijuana. Conspiracy freaks screamed Mexico was reamed but as usual FIFA left no trace of its burglary.
Even with a stacked deck, Team USA had a miserable 1989, as they tried desperately to qualify for Italy ’90. They were unorganized, sluglike and in general completely useless. When they were playing Costa Rica in St. Louis, a soccer hotbed, the announcer begged the fans to cheer. They steadfastly refused. It all came down to a final game against Trinidad and Tobago. With their backs to the wall, in a nail-biter of the highest order, Paul Caligiuri scored a spectacular goal that won the game for the USA, 1-0. It was massive. Team USA was back on the world soccer stage.
Their first game in World Cup 1990 was against an excellent Czechoslovakia squad. Team USA got their asses handed to them, 5-1. The team was “humiliated to the point of embarrassment” according to the New York Times. The television coverage was rubbish, the commentators explaining the rules through a basketball prism, and cutting away to a live interview with US goalie Tony Meola’s mom, in the stands during the match. In the final two games, the team weren’t horrible against host Italy, or against Austria, but that didn’t change the fact that they were three and done. Back home, few seemed to care.
USA 1994FIFA got its way. The United States was selected to host the 1994 World Cup, and the beautiful game came to the USA, whether she wanted it or not. The powers that be were hungry for the Yankee dollar, even though a survey taken before the tournament indicated that almost 75 percent of Americans did not even know what the World Cup was, and of those that did, 94 percent didn’t give a flying f***. While the whole thing did make money, there were many complaints about $500 press passes, and outrageous fees for everything. And the opening ceremony was a joke. Sadly, America was the butt. Oprah Winfrey’s was at the bottom of it, acting as emcee. Adding injury to insult, another soccer icon, Diana Ross, made an appearance. She attempted to kick the ball, and made a complete mockery of herself, and her country. But on the field, Team USA mercifully acquitted itself quite well, tying Switzerland 1-1, and putting a tremendous scare into eventual champions Brazil. But it is their second game that will always be remembered. They beat Colombia but at a terrible price. The winning score was an own goal by Colombian defender Andrés Escobar, who was tragically murdered as a result. (See page 52.)
Even though the US didn’t advance, and despite the fact that most Americans seemed to vacillate between shrugging their shoulders with indifference, and lashing out in anger at the beautiful game, the seeds for development were sewn, and Major League Soccer was born.
The United States finished last, including a loss to Iran. ’Nuff said.
During the bleak 1998 campaign, one tiny light flickered. His name was Brian McBride. By Korea/Japan ’02, he was part of a bright constellation of stars, including Reyna, Donovan and Friedel. Using thrusting wing play, the USA shot down Portugal, and then bombed Mexico out of the tournament, to reach the last eight. Germany committed the robbery in the quarterfinal, aided by a blind referee who missed a blatant penalty, a German handball on the goal line. Home again early but this time America had made its mark, and countries everywhere knew that the USA were a team to be reckoned with.
After the success of 2002, there were huge expectations in the States for a repeat performance, but anticlimax is the curse of soccer and Team USA flapped around like a wet squib on a cold barbecue. The game’s popularity in the US was exploding, and millions tuned in to be disappointed. The Czechs booked their way to an easy win over the US, and Ghana added another scar. Consolation came in a tie with eventual winners Italy. In some ways, the humdrum exit was progress as it stopped the swing from the highs to the extreme lows of previous tournaments. Balance had set on American expectations. And this has helped the team settle and mature through a solid performance in the Confederations Cup in 2009.
Landon Donovan has become the face of American soccer. An ace striker with an uncanny knack of being in the right place at the right time. A patriot’s player, he’ll fight to the end for the red, white and blue. And he’s not shy about his opinions. Last year, he called out David Beckham publicly, accusing the man who married Posh Spice of being a whining, malignant ingrate. Many agreed and admired him for his honesty.
Josmer Volmy Altidore to be exact. Could he be the real deal? Many have been called, but few have been chosen, in America’s relentless search for an international world-class goal scorer. On April Fools Day, 2009, the Jersey-born striker became the youngest American to score an international hat trick, when he got all jiggy against Trinidad and Tobago. His magnificent combination of brute strength and artiste touch carries him over defenders. A major threat to foreign defenses in South Africa 2010.
From a Texas trailer park to the dizzying heights of world soccer, Clint Dempsey has earned a reputation as one cool customer. After being named MLS Rookie of the Year, he flirted with Dutch giants Feyenoord, before signing with English squad Fulham, for the biggest transfer fee any American had ever procured. He has not disappointed, becoming a local hero at the West London club. In addition to scoring the quickest goal in US national team history, when he netted against Barbados fifty-three seconds into a game, he ran riot in the Confederations Cup, first scoring the historic goal that sent Team USA into its first-ever FIFA final, then shocking mighty mighty Brazil with a spectacular opening goal. He was awarded the Bronze Ball. An inspirational player. Top drawer.
NATIONAL TEAM COACH: BOB BRADLEY
Yet another product of the soccer machine that is New Jersey, he began his coaching career as a wunderkind, taking over Ohio University at the ripe old age of twenty-two. From there, he was snapped up by the University of Virginia by a man who would become instrumental in his rise to the top of American soccer: Bruce Arena.
After a brief stint at his alma mater, Princeton, Bruce came calling again, and Bob joined him at DC United. After World Cu p 2 0 0 6 , Br u c e Arena handed over the reins of the national team to his protégé. Leading the USA to the Final of the Confederations Cup in 2009, proved his leadership mettle. His son Michael is a regular on the US national team, and paid tribute to Dad by scoring a goal on Father’s Day during the tournament.
OGUCHALU CHIJIOKE ONYEWU
Nigerian parents, citizen of both Belgium and the United States, and the tallest outfield player in the history of Team USA, Gooch, as he is known, has become the rock in America’s defense. He stepped into the large redheaded shoes of US soccer legend Alexi Lalas, when he became the second American to play in Italy’s prestigious Serie A, signing with AC Milan. Solid in the tackle, and brilliant in the air, expect Gooch to provide the backbone for success in South Africa.
After being named MLS Rookie of the Year, and two-time Defender of the Year, Bocanegra bolted to that sanctuary for Yankees in the English Premier League, Fulham, where Brian McBride made his bones. This led to a transfer to Rennes, where he played with style and panache, scoring a classic UEFA Cup goal while he was at it. He has become a mainstay for Team USA, and even served as captain during the historic ass kicking America gave to European champions Spain in South Africa in 2009.
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