A silhouette of the stadium lights as they were coming on at Loftus Staidum in Tshwane/Pretoria. This was taken back in our trip to South Africa when they held the FIFA world cup there. I thought the lights coming on slowly would be an appropriate way to represent how some of our brains feel on Monday morning
I’ve been reminiscing over our trip to South Africa back in the summer of 2010, well it would be their winter This is supposed to be a soccer ball but I think it looks more like a disco ball, in either case it was setup by the city of Tshwane/Pretoria to promote tourism in the city. This was outside the stadium prior to the final group stage match for the US and Algeria, what we expected to be a boring match had one memorable ending. I posted about it back in the day when this blog was in its infancy. We also happened to see former US President Clinton in the stands.
June 25, 2010 was our final match of the world cup, 8 out of 8! We did it, we made it to every single game and it was almost over. We were happy to see Spain play Chile because it was two strong teams that couldn’t afford to lose specially Spain who were facing a must win match, but at the same time the mood was slightly somber, we knew it was the end. Me & my brother were flying out the next night! Our little escape from reality into football heaven was just about to end.
Chileans were by far the most festive fans that we’ve seen at this world cup. Through our stay in South Africa we heard the infamous Chi-Chi-Chi-Chile chants (made world famous by the mine rescue operation in Chile a few months later). However that day we got to see them in numbers chant and dance to their songs. They were super friendly, welcomed everyone, danced, sang, posed for pictures, just created an amazing atmosphere for our last world cup experience.
As far as the game goes Spain scored two goals in the first half, they were up 2-0 by the 38th minute after Iniesta had scored. David Villa scored the first from 40m out when the goalkeeper came out to clear the ball from Fernando Torres outside the 18 yard box but only for it to land to Villa. Chile was also reduced to ten men after one of their players received two yellow cards. Even though that Chile scored a quick conciliation goal in the 47th minute, Spain’s Tiki-Taka was its best. In a way they put us to sleep with their masterful possession of the ball, they just kept on passing the ball and creating a chance when they felt like it or at least it appeared that way. Chile never posed much of a threat to tie the match and it ended with a 2-1 scoreline. With Switzerland failing to beat Honduras, Spain ended up topping the group with Chile in 2nd place which earned them a date with Brazil in the round of 16…
We didn’t leave the stands until every player left, it was really over! From now on, its back to watching the games on TV….
Since the draw was announced back in December of 2009 we were not looking forward to today’s game between the US & Algeria, matter fact we even thought of trading our tickets for another game if possible. But as they say, when you least expect you get the best surprises. From a neutral’s point of view today’s match was probably the most exciting match of the tournament, but we all have our biases towards the teams we support We made the one hour drive to Pretoria and we got there quite early so we walked around the stadium and grabbed a bite, after the constant celebrations we were quite malnutritioned and we were starting to feel it that day!
We got to the stadium and we got seated, we had the first row of the upper deck so we had rail guard in front of us. Our tickets were in the heart of the US fans, everyone around us was supporting them. The beauty of this match was that all 4 teams in the group were still in it, and Slovenia out of all teams were in the driver seat, a tie would have seen them through, a win for the US or England would also see them through. However an Algerian win required some help, which was Slovenia beating England! Remote chance but they were still in it.
The game was wide open, a treat for any neutral. Both teams attacked in numbers and left themselves open for the counter attack. If my memory serves correctly the US had the most of the chances in the first half but Algeria had the most dangerous one of the first half when the hit the crossbar. The US fans got the news they wanted to hear, England was up 1-0 by the 23rd minute so all the US had to do was win and they win the group, yes win the group that everyone thought Capello’s England would just dominate! The English were doing their part but the nerves were starting to get to the US fans as they are not getting the goal that they need.
The 2nd half was no different than the first, chance after chance but the US started to take more control of the match. They knew they had a chance, they had to go for it but for some reason they couldn’t buy a goal even if they could. Dempsey hit the post and missed his own rebound when he had an empty net, chance after chance was wasted and regular time had run out. Some of the US fans were on the verge of tears infront of us, had this result stood it would’ve been England and Slovenia that qualify. And in the first minute of extra time, Landon Donovan pounced on a rebound and placed the ball in the back of the net. I kid you not the stands shook, the crowd went ballistic, we were in the middle of the mayhem. People, beers, flags, hats, stuff was flying everywhere… it was insane! We truly enjoyed it and to be honest, they quite deserved it. They were the better team in that match.
Oh the final whistle hadn’t blown yet! There was still one last chance and it was a corner for Algeria, not really sure what happened but one of the players kept on arguing with the referee and he got his second yellow card so he got his marching orders. Shortly after that corner the referee blew the final whistle and a few “bad apples” starting to throw objects at the field. They were coming from the Algerian side, but one thing worth noting was that the Algerians were organized. They had their “leaders” in the stands that I guess led the songs and that sort of stuff, those guys immediately stood up and asked for them to stop throwing objects and they succeeded. It was nice to see how they wanted to show they were good sportsmen, they cheered their team and the US team when they walked by them. Left us with a positive impression with how well behaved they were even after the loss. There are always the few bad one that ruin it for the rest of us.
Going back to the US now, they won the group that no one expected them to. The team had gone around the stadium to salute the fans but spent most of its time in front of us, as I mentioned earlier we were in the middle of the US fan base. After seeing the passion of the US fans for their team, how they travelled in numbers to South Africa, whether you like it or not: US Soccer is here to stay….