Winston Churchill was fond of reiterating that the sun never sets on the British Empire. The decolonization movement after World War II was instrumental in dismantling the British Empire. In recent decades, Britain has been unsuccessful in establishing itself as a world power in soccer. Its Premier League is considered one of the better leagues in the age of global soccer but the England national team has not fared well in the European Cup or the World Cup in recent decades. Britain playing at home won the World Cup in 1966. Since then Britain has been plagued by a trophy drought.
In Brazil 2014, England was knocked out of the group stage. Italy beat them 2-1 and Uruguay also beat them 2-1. England went to the World Cup with a nucleus of young talented players like Daniel Sturridge, Raheem Sterling, Danny Welbeck, Jordan Henderson and some seasoned hands like Wayne Rooney and Steven Gerrard.
The World Cup group of Germany, Poland, Ghana and the United States has been characterized as the “Group of Death”. All things being equal, logic dictates that Germany and Portugal should emerge as the two teams that advance. But in soccer, the ball is round.
Portugal played pitifully against Germany and Ronaldo was missing in action. Germany looked like world class material and spanked Portugal 4-0 opening some space for the United States to advance.
In the 2006 and 2010 World Cup, Ghana had beaten America and forced them to return home prematurely. In the 2014 World Cup, Klinsman, the American coach and psychologist, convinced his players that 2014 was a new day and should produce a different outcome.
Like Usain Bolt, America was out of the blocks like a bolt of lightning and in thirty seconds, Dempsey netted to put America ahead. Ghana kept coming like waves of Chinese troops in the Korean War but Tim Howard, the American goalkeeper, kept his team in the game. The Americans were under siege but the Ghanaians did not attack with great imagination. Nonetheless, they did equalize in the latter stages of the second half. The game was deadlocked but in the eleventh hour, the American substitute, John Brooks, a central defender, scored on a corner to put America ahead 2-1. Americans in Brazil and outside of Brazil erupted with unbelievable joy.
America still has a steep mountain to climb. Portugal is wounded but still dangerous. The Americans must beat or draw with Portugal to have a chance to advance. The Gods are smiling on Jurgen Klinsman and the Americans. Twenty thousand Americans travelled to Brazil to cheer on the red, white and blue.