In the 91st minute of a scoreless match against Algeria, the US soccer team added a new chapter in the book of World Cup soccer. Going into the June 23 match, the Algerian team was winless, while the US had beaten Slovenia and played the UK to a tie. The pundits gave the often undisciplined Americans little chance of beating Algeria – but were proven wrong.
After 90 minutes of knuckle-biting back and forth that yielded no results for either team, the game went into what I imagine for soccer fans is the equivalent of ‘sudden death’ overtime. A “where the heck did that come from?” kick by the Americans in the first minute of the extra period sent the ball sailing into the net, and even for a non-soccer fan like me, it was exhilarating. Not only did the American team win, but it was a shutout! The 1-0 victory advances the US to the next round, farther up the play ladder than the Americans have ever been in the history of the World Cup.
This is not the first time an African team has been surprised by the wily and unpredictable Americans. In the third game of the 2009 Confederations Cup, the American team whipped Egypt 3-0 to everyone’s surprise. It’s safe to say, the June 23 defeat of Algeria was equally surprising for all the so-called soccer experts who had predicted that the Americans would go home losers.
This turn of events has not converted me into a diehard soccer fan – not even a die soft fan – but I have, like everyone else, been caught up in the moment. In many ways, this is a historical event. The first time an African country has been the host – and the South Africans have pulled out all the stops to make it a memorable event – although, I could do without the vuvuzelas – and now, the rowdy, play by the seat of the pants Americans have added a stunning chapter to that history, by advancing against all odds.
History favors the underdogs – this is a basic American philosophy. From the founding of the Republic, when an outmanned, outgunned bunch of ragtag colonials whipped the most powerful army in the world at the time, down to the present day. Americans seem to thrive on beating the odds; of defying the conventional wisdom. I am not predicting further victories for the US team. I didn’t predict they would get as far as they have. But, I would say this to those who blithely count them out based on past performance; think again. America is not a country that obsesses about the past. We have short attention spans where history is concerned. It is the now that counts, and the US soccer team has demonstrated that philosophy for the whole world to see.
Whether they win or lose the next game, where they come up against Ghana, is irrelevant. They have already earned their place in the sun.