My Quadrennial Dose of Soccer (aka Football) Fever Hath Arrived (We did Blow a Winneth ‘Gainst Wales, but England Await!)*

Of course it was going to go down this way. Of course the USA football (aka soccer) team was going to be 12 or 15 minutes away from winning their first World Cup match in eight years, only to let it slip away on a penalty kick by Wales in the 82nd minute of regulation. I found myself cursing the TV, even though it wasn’t the TV’s fault.

The foul was committed by American defender Walker Zimmerman, who pleaded with the referee not to call a penalty – a sure sign that a penalty was probably committed. The penalty goal was scored by Welsh winger Gareth Bale, who zipped the ball into the right corner of the net. The match, played Monday night, ended in a 1-1 draw.

The USA led 1-0 at the half and continued to lead all the way up until the 82nd minute, when suddenly they didn’t.

This was a game that seemed to take on an extra dose of significance after England’s rout of Iran, with Gareth Southgate’s side primed to qualify from Group B, and for so long it seemed Wales would be out of the equation.

From a Wales perspective, the dynamic of this game shifted not because of Bale, who completed a full game for the first time since September, but because of the half‑time arrival of Kieffer Moore, a surprise omission from Rob Page’s starting lineup.

I stole the previous two paragraphs verbatim from the Guardian’s account of the match. I’m not sure what they even mean. I have never heard of any of the names mentioned. Even though I live in London, I did not know England routed Iran. I do know England play the USA on Friday evening. There’s a chance I might go out to a pub to watch it, where I will dress up in American regalia and trash-talk the bloody local wankers and their bloody rubbish geezer football side.

Ok, maybe not.

Our Christmas tree is due to arrive from the delivery service on Friday, and the nice delivery company gave us a nice delivery window of 8 am until 10 pm. A cozy little 14-hour window! I’m betting they show up at 9:59 p.m. How much you wanna bet?

So maybe I’ll be watching the England-USA match in the comfort of my den, maybe with a beer in my hand, unlike the 60,000 or so fans at Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium, where the 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup is taking place. A late decision was made to not sell beer at the stadium. Fans wept.

Every two to four years I get soccer (aka football) fever. In 2018 I got caught up in England’s run to the World Cup semifinal round, where they lost in typical heartbreaking English fashion to Croatia, which scored a goal in extra time to secure the 2-1 win and move on to the final.

I watched that match in a crowded, raucous pub. England led 1-0 at the half and seemed to have things in control until Croatia tied it 1-1 in the 68th minute. You have never experienced such a sudden dive from total elation to total deflation in so short a period of time. England is a football-mad country that has won exactly one World Cup title, in 1966. They still talk about it to this day, and ever shall. Every four years, hope springs eternal that maybe this will be the year.

In 2019 I sat in a local pub and watched the USA women beat England in the semis of the Women’s World Cup, but did not talk trash.

In 2014 my wife and I traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, for a craft show. Back then she had a side business making and selling very nice handmade dolls, and secured a booth at a prestigious craft/artisan show in a very artsy, bohemian city. I spent part of my time helping her with the booth, and part of the time sneaking out to local bars to watch Germany beat Argentina/Messi in the World Cup final.

So far the 2022 World Cup has been full of surprises. Saudi Arabia scored a historic upset over mighty Argentina, and then Japan scored a historic upset over mighty Germany.

Can the Americans score an upset over almost-mighty England? Can the World Cup produce my dream Final Four – USA, England, Mexico and Japan? Don’t ask me why. I’d just like to see that.

I have what you might call rudimentary knowledge of football (aka soccer). I know enough to know that a sure way to get laughed at in Europe is to call it soccer. I know there are 90 minutes of regulation, and extra time, and the final score is either 1-0 or 2-1 about 92.7% of the time. I’m not sure what will get you a yellow flag. I’m not sure about the rules governing the scoring box. I know the goaltender is the player who defends the goal.

But I enjoy watching soccer (aka football), though I don’t watch it that often. I sometimes fast-forward through matches, just one level up from regular speed, and it’s very cool – you should try it! You get to see all the action with none of the commentary, and the players all look like they’ve been poked with a cattle prod. The passes are quick and crisp, and the long balls speed downfield.

The World Cup is a different animal because it pits the very best players from the best soccer countries from around the world. This can get the old juices flowing, no matter how indifferent you are to a Premiere League match pitting West Ham against Southampton.

I am developing football (aka soccer) fever now – in November 2022, an odd time to hold the World Cup. The USA is in a very, very interesting group. In addition to the USA and Wales, the group features England and Iran. Three English speaking countries – and Iran, which seems to hate English-speaking countries.

The USA and Iran have been bitter enemies for 43 years and counting – even though most Americans and Iranians probably wouldn’t be enemies if their governments didn’t insist we were.

England and Iran are not the dearest of friends, either. England and Wales might not be bitter enemies, but they are rivaling siblings that can’t stand the thought of losing to the other. England would rather swear off fish n’ chips forever than lose to the USA in soccer (aka football).

The USA, my birth country, is still learning its way around football (aka soccer) and is probably just glad to be at the World Cup. It didn’t qualify in 2018. The USA is about 100 times bigger than Wales but was still the underdog in their Monday match – and Wales hasn’t been to the World Cup in 64 years.

The USA has won exactly four World Cup matches this century. We can somehow pull off the plucky underdog role in soccer despite being a massive and massively rich country that much of the world seems to wonder what its f’ing problem is.

I have no problem with Wales, having never been there. We’ve been to Scotland and Northern Ireland, but alas, so far we haven’t done the final leg of the UK journey by venturing to Wales. Wales seems like the Ringo of the UK countries (if you don’t get that reference immediately, you are either younger than 40 or clueless about rock music). I bet Wales is swell and I’d like it well enough.

Just not when they are tying our soccer club in the final eight minutes of regulation.

*partly translated into Olde English

Note: Photo from SBNation


  1. I was going to do an article on the World Cup during the summer, but I had so many negative things to say about the host, the time of year, the effect on soccer leagues all over the world, the way the host secured the event, the lack of housing nearby, the politics. That being said, because of the time of day most of the matches are held I have been sucked in anyway, watching when no college football or basketball is on. It has been refreshing to see a couple of upsets, and it looks like it will be a wide-open race to the title. A 14-hour window for delivery of the tree…the last time we got a window that “wide” it was for delivery of a dryer, and it arrived in hour #14. Hope the tree gets there “on time” for you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your negative feelings about this year’s World Cup are shared by a WHOLE lot of soccer fans and commentators the world over, for the very reasons you cited. I think the general opinion is that FIFA would sell out its own grandmother for a few extra shillings, which is probably true from what I have read. But as you say, the matches themselves have been entertaining enough, even though it’s weird watching the World Cup around Thanksgiving.

      I couldn’t believe when they gave us a 14-hour window for a tree delivery. Seems excessive. We did have a small potted tree we used the last couple of Christmases that we otherwise kept outside in the backyard. But this year it got fried to a crisp by record heat and drought while we were on a 10-day summer vacation to Europe. So we have to order one again.

      Have a great Thanksgiving!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The 94 World Cup (in the US) was the first one I watched while being interested in the sport, and I thought that in the almost 30 years since then, your country would have developed to a standard that was decent. But maybe that’s still to come…

    I suppose, though, it’s natural when footsoccerball (to satisfy everyone…or no one 😉 isn’t a priority sport there, like baseball or basketball or NFL. Plus you guys are so geographically isolated from the rest of the world. English teams, for example, play in European club competitions, which helps boost the standards. I guess for the US, clubs should really play some kind of club competition with South American teams. That would boost the standards.

    For the match in question, I saw a headline saying “USA beat England 0-0″…don’t know if that was fake, or maybe the editor just saw it as a victory.

    Anyway…the English media bias to their precious team is intense. Obviously. That’s their national pride. And to be fair, the England team nowadays seems way better than it was when I was growing up. But that heartbreak exit – usually on penalties – seems like it’ll happen again. Old habits die hard 😉

    I’ve not really followed the tournament this time. I have no favourite team, and the renovations are making my head spin, so I have no time for it. But it’s a wonderful spectacle every 4 years. The 2010 one here in SA was wonderful, and showed our country is capable of hosting a world class event.

    Anyway, as your volunteer editor:

    Yellow “card” – not “flag”. And you get that for a bad foul or other offence.
    “Scoring box” is called the “penalty area”. Foul someone in there, or handball, and that opposition team gets a penalty.
    “Goalkeeper” (not “tender”). He’s the only one allowed to touch the ball with his hands, and even then, only in the penalty box.
    “Premier league” (without the “e” on the end)

    Enjoy the rest of the tournament 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. They’ve been talking about USA soccer becoming world class for 50 years, but as you say, it’s not going to happen as long as the best U.S. athletes gravitate toward American football, basketball, and baseball. Meanwhile, a lot of other countries have nearly caught up with the USA in basketball at the top levels (France, Spain, Serbia/Croatia, Argentina), and plenty of countries are competitive in baseball (Dominican Republic, Cuba, Venezuela, Japan, Korea).

      Footsoccerball — I like it!

      I do believe that “USA Beat England 0-0 Headline” was intended that way. That’s a headline trick that’s been used before when one lesser team ties a much better team.

      It’s funny about English football — as much as the people here love and cherish their national team, deep down they know that England will find a way to lose, and the World Cup will inevitably go to the usual powers like Germany, Italy, Brazil, France, Spain, or Argentina.

      Thanks for the primer on footsoccerball. I doubt I will ever build expertise in the sport, but it would be nice to at least get the terms correct. 🙂

      BTW, being from South Africa, are you a rugby fan? I know they have one of the better teams and programs there. My nephew was a university rugby player in the U.S. and has traveled to tournaments in South Africa, Europe, and elsewhere to play. He now coaches at the university level.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. We’re a soccer crazy nation, but other than the African Cup of Nations in 96, our team has been fairly poor. Soccer is more a black sport (in terms of the majority of players), and rugby and cricket are traditionally white sports (though there’s plenty of non white players in those games nowadays). Our rugby and cricket teams have traditionally been strong, probably because those were sports favoured by the ruling race in Apartheid…so the infrastructure and services are all better. I was into cricket growing up, but always hated rugby…just too many stops and starts. When we won the 95 Rugby World Cup, though, I did feel the national pride. Not so much when we won in 2007 (which was on my wedding night 😶). Southern hemisphere countries are generally well established in rugby. Australia and New Zealand especially.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s interesting. I always figured rugby was more popular in South Africa, so it shows what I know — or at least what the media has taught me.

      Every now and then, when I have too much time on my hands, I’ll try and count the nations where soccer is not the No. 1 sport. There’s the USA (American football) and Canada (ice hockey). Probably Australia and New Zealand (maybe rugby, maybe cricket). I’m guessing India, Bangladesh and Pakistan (cricket). Maybe Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic (baseball). I think badminton is maybe on par with soccer in Indonesia and Malaysia. I know from family background that boxing or basketball are probably the biggest sports in the Philippines. I’m sure there are other countries, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head.

      Liked by 1 person

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