Dec. 5th, 2022
Dreams. Collective dreams, individual dreams, life-long dreams and the quest for eternal glory! Some find themselves lucky for their first attempt at summiting sport’s highest mountain. Others stare down their final shot at a certain place in history. The hallowed halls of euphoric destiny only filled by the few who dared to reach for the stars spur us on to heights unknown, to lengths we didn’t know we could aspire to when first we kicked a ball. This is the joy, the inspiration, the hope of millions and it all comes down to one month, one tournament, one game.
This sentiment is clear to see in the desert of Qatar on all the faces of all the players. Just watch them as they sing the national anthem of their nation. The tears roll as dreams are realized. How many daydreams are brought out of the mind and take place right before our very eyes. There is a magic, a feeling that comes from this tournament that is unparalleled and can be achieved nowhere else. It’s clear to see in the stadiums, it’s clear to see amongst the fans, it’s clear to see in the passion and fervor on the pitch. That’s why the globe comes together for the World Cup. To share in this magic, in the joy and heartbreak, in the passion and the love of a game shared by all in every corner of the planet.
As for the US Men’s National Team, the roller coaster of emotion was nothing short of everything I had hoped it would be. As a soccer fan and lover of the game, I could not be prouder of the effort and the work the boys put in to make it to such a high level. Not only to make it but to be respected as equals and as a team who deserved to be there on the world’s grandest stage. Unlike in the past, there were lofty expectations heading into this tournament. Perhaps not of eventual victory over the world but more so of competition. While the sport back home is still a far cry from some of the greater leagues in the world, it’s not so far behind as some would believe. Every time we go to a World Cup and show our progress, the globe takes just a bit more notice.
First up was a Wales side that were in dreamland themselves. How would the youth of America match up against the wizened dragon? It was a beautiful sight to behold as we went toe to toe with the Welsh. USA controlled the first half but our weaknesses were likewise exposed. Being on the largest stage is unforgiving in its very nature and it was proof that all the work and dedication, the years of toil and effort only afford you the opportunity to be there. It certainly doesn’t mean you will automatically triumph over those who have given just as much as you have to earn their same chance at eternal glory.
This display set the world on notice, and England’s approach to our second match was sure evidence of such. A defensive set up that allowed us possession proved that it wasn’t enough to just show up and win over the Americans. Despite yet again showing the need of a lethality in front of goal, the scoreless draw was another moment of inspiration to the incredibly young side. A moment where everyone involved with the team, fans included, could be proud and encouraged but there was work yet to be done.
A win, and nothing less, was required. Everything that every man on the squad had worked for over their entire lives came down to one game, one moment to lift a nation. It must be noted the controversy and political upheaval back home in Iran that our third opponents were facing could not have been easy to deal with. And yet, they put on a proud display in a match that was one of pure heart and determination. Pure will and grit was needed to see the ball over the line for Pulisic. How many times did our coaches tell us to run all the way to the line, to give every ounce of effort to be there on the end of the pass? That spirit was embodied in the sacrifice on display, the strength of all of us supporting back home to get on the end of the pass and see us through. What jubilation and euphoria at such an incredible moment, a moment that will be remembered forever.
A wise man once said “football is a humbler” and this quote rings quite true to my ears. Flying high into the round of 16, our confidence soaring at having earned the respect of the footballing world, it seemed our inexperience was our downfall. A tactically simple yet effective gameplan from the Dutch proved too much for the young Americans to adjust to. A brave performance, an energetic performance; yet a game we don’t want to remember and one we cannot and should not ever forget. Only by learning through this chastening experience can we return four years hence as hosts and impress on the world’s stage once again!
The World Cup is a journey, an adventure with a story to tell. The tale of this edition has been nothing short of remarkable. A memorable tournament to be sure. The magic and wonder of the world’s game on the world’s stage. A gift to those who know and love this sport; inspiration for all.