Taking a vacation during the World Cup is never a good idea, but the beauty of doing it in Europe is that you never miss any of the matches. I traveled to Munich to take delivery of my new car, take it for a spin on the Autobahn, and check out as much of Europe as I wanted. Let's just say that the Autobahn is as good as advertised -- there are more speed limits than Americans expect, especially in the cities, but the roads are impeccable and highly efficient. It really was a thrill to see Porsche 911s and high-end Audis, Benzes, and BMWs rocketing past at over 200kph, as long as you remembered to get back into the right lane before they crowded the rear-view mirror!
Unfortunately I didn't see as much of Europe as I would have liked, but Bavaria and Baden-Württemburg in Germany and Tirol in Austria were just as nice. I experienced different aspects of life there, from the big and medium-sized cities to Alpine towns and country villages. My German wasn't that great, but I was understanding more of what people were saying by the end of the trip, and I was always able to find at least one person who understood English. I stayed at the following hotels during my trip and highly recommend them:
Hotel Königstein and Park Inn in Munich,
Hotel Mercure in Garmisch-Partenkirchen,
Hotel Gastof Ochsen in Kißlegg,
Star Inn in Regensburg.
Now, as for the football...the original plan was to pick up my car and head out of town over the weekend. But I realized that Germany were going to play England on Sunday, so I had to stick around for the public viewing party! I went to the largest party in Munich at the Olympiastadion with about 30,000 other people. It was a fantastic experience and a great opportunity to see German fan culture up close.
After the match, you could hear car horns honking all over downtown Munich. There were flags hanging everywhere from buildings and cars, at every spot I visited during the trip. There really is a lot of excitement about the German squad, and why not -- they are an exciting team with a big future in international football.
The matches are broadcast by multiple TV networks during the day. Usually ARD (German public TV) would have one match and RTL the other, but there would also be broadcasts on Sat.1 and Sky, which are the cable TV sport channels. The commentary and analysis of the matches was quite extensive and featured coaches and former players, a few of whom I actually recognized. Jürgen Klinsmann was an analyst for some matches on RTL (I heard him during the USA-Ghana match), but of course it was in German so I couldn't understand anything.
Oh, and the last day of the trip I drove past the Allianz Arena on my return to Munich. It's an impressive structure, but FC Bayern seem to come up with more ways to separate their fans from their money:
All in all, it was a memorable trip for so many reasons, and it was fun to follow the World Cup in a country whose team was in the latter stages. It is really neat to see the excitement build throughout the country, and it was awesome to read about the excitement in this country, although it didn't last very long.
As you know, Mexico lost 3-1 to Argentina in their Round of 16 match on Sunday, which completes CONCACAF's participation in this World Cup. Once again a poor refereeing decision marred the match, but it didn't change the final outcome in my opinion.
When I return from Germany I will post a review of the three CONCACAF finalists.
Well guys, I'm finally in Germany after 36 hours of flying, delays, forced layovers (with sleeping on the O'Hare terminal floor included), and more flying. I was tired after a frustrating couple of days, but I'm in a nice (if cramped) hotel and I'm in possession of my shiny new thing. The trip can only get better from here.
As you may have guessed, the World Cup dominates everything here. Big-screen TVs are set up everywhere and you can see German flags on cars and houses. There are a fair amount of Brazilian flags as well. There are big viewing parties for the Germany-England game all over Munich - I will check out the one at the Olympiastadion which is supposed to attract about 50,000 people. And I do have my US shirt on in anticipation of the USA-Ghana match tonight.
I hope to write more posts later in my trip, but that will be affected by my ability to find Wi-Fi, which is quite expensive everywhere.
UPDATE: As you all know by now, the USA lost to Ghana 2-1 after extra time. It was a hard-fought and tense match, but the stronger team won in the end. I thought that this was a winnable game for the USA, and I still believe that, but the USA were outdone by poor selection in the starting XI and some poor tactical decisions. I highly recommend Zonal Marking's summary of the USA-Ghana match, found here.
(I tried to send this message out on Saturday via my mobile phone, but I was only able to get the post published on Sunday morning.)
I am too delirious and hurried to write anything incoherently. So here are some thoughts:
They're good at making us suffer, aren't they?
I understand why they say about a goal being an orgasmic moment now.
Yet another goal disallowed for offside. I'm not arguing for instant replay in soccer, I think it's not workable, but there needs to be better trained linesmen. The refs weren't responsible for the USA missing point-blank chances, though.
For me, the best player on the field was Altidore, followed by Bornstein. His play vindicated Bradley's selection of him.
It is only fitting that Donovan would score the goal that would put us through, after failing to take the lead in Germany 2006.
There will be no easy second-round game, but the possibility of watching USA v Germany in Munich would be awesome.
This is a fun team, a resilient team, and it's great that the rest of America is recognizing them.
The equation for the USA-Algeria match is simple: if the USA win, they are in the knockout stage. Any other result, and they are all but out (definitely out if they lose). Naturally the big question on the mind of Bob Bradley and all US soccer supporters is who should be in the starting XI tomorrow in Pretoria.
After Ricardo Clark's defensive error in the England game, I thought that José Torres would be a better fit as a defensive midfield partner to Michael Bradley. It wasn't a bad idea; it just didn't work out in the Slovenia match. At halftime Bradley brought on Maurice Edu for Clark and Benny Feilhaber for the non-functioning Robbie Findley, a move which brought immediate success and turned the game around for the Americans. I would like to see Edu start, but I'm not sure who should partner Altidore up front. Ives Galarcep thinks it could be either Buddle or Dempsey, with Stuart Holden entering the midfield if Dempsey moves forward. I think Dempsey might be more comfortable playing from a deeper position, which might be useful against a three-man defense that Algeria might play.
Most of the international papers that I've read expect a US win. Let's see if the national team delivers on their favored status.
On the twelfth day of the 2010 World Cup, Mexico confirmed their place in the knockout stages despite losing to Uruguay 1-0. Even though South Africa were defeating a depleted and demoralized France by 2-0, they couldn't score the additional two goals required to put them and not Mexico in the round of 16. When Flourent Malouda pulled one back for the French, the South African hopes were all but over. As for the Mexicans, they struggled to create opportunities against a tight Uruguayan defense, and Efrain Juárez's absence was felt in the linkup between defense and attack.
The good news is that Mexico will advance out of the group stage for the sixth consecutive time (they were banned from Italia 90), a streak bettered only by Brazil, Germany, and Italy. The bad news is that Mexico will face one of the candidates for the title in Argentina. It is a rematch of their thrilling round-of-16 match in Germany, and Mexico will be out for revenge and that long-desired fifth game.
FIFA has made their designations for the third round of group matches involving Mexico and the USA. (I think the designation for the Honduras match will be made in a day or two, but I'll be in transit to Europe by then.)
The Mexico-Uruguay match will be officiated by Hungary's Viktor Kassai. He has previously worked the championships of the lower age-levels, such as the 2007 U-17s and the 2008 Olympic Games, where he refereed the men's final. He has already worked as the match referee for one match at this year's World Cup -- the group match between Brazil and North Korea.
The USA-Algeria match will be run by Frank De Bleeckere of Belgium. The 44-year-old has been an international referee since 1998 and is highly regarded in the world game. He has experience refereeing high-profile matches, from the junior level world championships to UEFA Champions League, European Championships, and the 2006 FIFA World Cup.