(I wrote this on the train yesterday; it took a while to find puters with USB. Apologies if it’s dated.)
The dust has settled a bit for our crew. Weâ€™ve given our one-armed man hugs to K-Town and ridden the ICE five hours to Berlin, where we expect to spend the next couple days.
Weâ€™re still stewing a little about the game. Unable to find an English newspaper at any of the various rail stations where weâ€™ve spent most of the day and cut off from the Internet, the only coverage weâ€™ve been able to digest has been German TV highlights and a copy of todayâ€™s La Gazzetta Sportiva. (Shockingly, while the Italian paper thought that Lippi should be blamed for this disastrous result, there was hardly an account that fit with what we had all observed in the stadium: that we had completely outplayed the Italians and stood proudly even when it was 10 v 9.)
You donâ€™t get any sorts of replays in the stadium, so we didnâ€™t know until today how badly McBride had been cut up. We also still donâ€™t have an answer in re: what the call was on the disallowed Beasley goal. I assume our next connection with the Internet will answer some of those questions.
What you need to know about the atmosphere at the game:
–When we arrived in K-Town at 2 in the afternoon, I was pretty concerned about the levels of American support. The Italians were already there, drunk and singing. There seemed to be lots of them and a distinct minority looked like criminals and low lives, and were doing things like calling 12-year-old German girls whores. In all fairness, most were pretty mellow, but there was definitely a group who qualified as the sorts of hooligans the alarmist press is always warning you about. But as the day went on, more and more Americans arrived, and by 5 the scene on the Marktstrasse was loud and charmingly pro-USA. Overall, relations between the USA supporters and the tifosi were pretty chill (with one notable exception, to be discussed at a later date). Just a lot of singing and shouting from both sides.
–The Italians definitely had a much deeper catalog of songs than we did. Our supporters relied way too heavily on â€œWhen The [Yanks] Go Marchinâ€™ In,â€ though I did appreciate the ongoing â€œAmerica,â€ â€œ%$&* Yeah!â€ call-and-response routine. The Italians kept doing this thing where theyâ€™d sing opening riff from the first White Stripes record, and it was pretty compelling. Overall, though, the whole thing could have used a bit more things sung to the tune of â€œHail To The Victors.â€ In the interests of good taste, we managed to hold back on the E-A-G-L-E-S chants (though we did sneak one in).
–K-Town was a lovely venue for the pre-game nonsense. It was just small enough to have a festive village feel, but there was still plenty of places and things to check out.
–Though it should go without saying, I went another day without a vegetable. Pork sandwich in the afternoon, kabob at 3 am. Luckily I had plenty of beer in between.
–I was blown away by the fact that almost everyone at the match (especially the USA supporters) had a silly costume on. It was hilarious. Like soccer Mardi Gras. I particularly enjoyed the Italian gladiator dudes, and the guy who was a cross between Captain America and a Viking. Also, these Italian guys had a shopping cart and two gigantic jugs of wine, and were making random people chug. Also, this woman was walking through the Fan Fest in nothing but USA body paint and a g-string.
–All that said, one of the folks in our groups has the best hair weâ€™ve seen yet. Seriously. People stare. And they are right to stare.
–Iâ€™ll be curious to hear how it sounded on TV, but the American supporters were louder in the stadium than the Italians. We were sitting in the Italian section (more on that later) and even we were able to shout down the Italians at times. Of course, it helped that our team was playing with heart and pride and their team was playing like a bunch of cheating cowards; I imagine the thrill of cheering for diving and simulation eventually wears off.
–A bunch of English guys were chanting â€œSame Old Eye-Ties, Always Cheatingâ€ to the tune ofâ€¦I dunno, the little thing that clocks play when they chime the time. Said chant, um, resonated.
–For the avoidance of doubt, this Italian team was complete crap. Before minute 75 (when our guys completely ran out of gas), their offense consisted entirely of lobbing the ball towards Toni and Toni trying to fall down. I remain shocked the game didnâ€™t end on a dubious penalty in the 89th minute. Theyâ€™ll likely advance, but they will beat no one of consequence. Thereâ€™s just no there there. And yes, it seriously upsets my sports feelings to have to root for them on Thursday.
–The post-game scene at the USA bars was pretty solid. People were cheesed off about not winning the game, but everyone was pretty ecstatic about how weâ€™d played. After the Czech game, I think everyone was a little worried weâ€™d turn in another stinker. And when youâ€™ve made the effort to fly across the ocean to support your team, thatâ€™s not a comfortable feeling. For a lot of people, I think the result last night justified the entire trip.
–Of the course, the absolute best part of the post-game scene was the band playing at the main Fan Fest: Bon Jovi tribute band BONGIOVIO. Uh huh. Thatâ€™s right. Bongiovio. Tough not to believe that was an omen.