I just got back from a week in Europe where, with the possible exception of France, it is all World Cup all the time. Imagine the Super Bowl lasting a month. The pads of butter on the plane were molded in the shape of a soccer ball (excuse my American characterization). The beer garden in Munich had an enormous projection screen to ensure no one misses a single off-sides penalty. Flying out while Germany was playing meant the airport was deserted because everyone was watching the game. France was not so ga-ga, probably because they hadn’t won a World Cup game since they won it all in 1998. They did manage to beat Togo later in the week, in spite of strong English fan support for Togo at least in the pub where I saw the game.
But England took the prize for most nuts. The English flag of St George, a red cross on a white flag, was everywhere as opposed to the Union Jack because it is England that is playing and not Great Britain. You are practically an Argentina fan if you don’t have at least two of these flags on your car. Yet all the insanity was matched with a fatalist attitude familiar to fans of underachieving sports teams everywhere that their team would find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory somehow.
I saw perennial powers Argentina and the Netherlands play to a 0-0 tie, and while you might expect me to heap scorn on such an unsatisfying scoring performance, it was actually pretty entertaining to watch.
They’re setting all kinds of new records for blood, ejections and poor officiating, so they do seem to have a strategy to reach out to the American market. And Budweiser is the official beer and they have some good Sportscenter-esque ads that don’t seem to be posted yet, but the site implies they will be.
So brush up on your nationalist football/drinking songs and enjoy the rest of the World Cup.