All evening and through the night football fans were watching television or searching the internet on Tuesday to see the latest nations to book their place at FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014.
We had 70,000 at both the Olympic Stadium in Kiev and at Karaiskakis Stadium in Piraeus, but only 500 in Andorra, 900 in Cyprus and 1,114 in Luxembourg. One of the medium sized crowds was the sell-out 24,500 at Columbus Crew Stadium in Columbus, Ohio for the big rivalry between USA and Mexico.
I once spent a week in Columbus (actually it was a few hours) to watch Ohio State Buckeyes v Memphis NCAA college soccer, in the Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium soccer/track facility on campus. In the vast carpark were hundreds of expensive motor homes where wealthy alumni had parked overnight for a grid iron clash the next day at 104,000 capacity Ohio Stadium.
US Soccer is 100 years old and the national team competed in the very first World Cup in 1930, reaching the semi-finals. In 1950 they caused a sensation by beating England 1-0 in Belo Horizonte Brazil, but it would be another 40 years before they graced the world stage again. In 1989 with a shot heard around the world, Paul Caligiuri scored the only goal in Port of Spain to down Trinidad & Tobago 1-0 and reach Italia '90. They lost 5-1 to Czechoslovakia in Florence, but Paul scored, and with defeats to Italy in Rome and Austria in Florence, Bob Gansler's squad went home early.
In 2001 then national coach Bruce Arena asked his bosses to play Mexico at a location where there would be an intimidating atmosphere and little opposition support. Forget the 90,000 plus attendances in Southern California, Texas or Florida where Latinos would outnumber Gringos. There was one occasion in Los Angeles in the 1970's when the Mexican team was actually assigned the 'home team' locker room at The Colisseum.
The Crew had moved into the first soccer specific stadium in 1999 built by their visionary owner Lamar Hunt after playing in Ohio Stadium from 1996-99. In 2001 they beat El-Tri( the tricolor) 2-0 in freezing conditions where the visitors didn't even come outside for a warm-up session. The same result in 2005 and 2009 at the same location. This September 10th it was 90F and humid, but still intimidating. Fan groups such as SAM'S ARMY, AMERICAN OUTLAWS and more saw to it that everybody rooted for the home team with painted faces, songs, chants, banners and continuous noise.
Eddie Johnson opened the scoring in the 49th minute but had to be substituted later due to injury. His replacement Mix Diskerud, making his Hexagonal debut, set up the second for Landon Donovan. Possibly the best player Michael Bradley of AS Roma was missing for the second match running after twisting his ankle in the warm-up last Friday in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Even though Clint Demsey, recently traded to Seattle missed a last minute penalty, the game was over. Everybody had to wait an hour for the result in Tegulcigalpa between Honduras and Panama (2-2). It meant that both USA and Costa Rica had booked their tickets to Brazil. With a couple of rounds to go Mexico will have to battle with third placed Honduras and fourth place Panama. There is a showdown in Estadio Azteca October 11th Mexico v Panama.. Four days later the Canaleros are home to face USA and Mexico go to Costa Rica. After eight matches: USA 16 points, Costa Rica 15, Honduras 11, Panama 8, Mexico 8, Jamaica 4.
Three teams qualify automatically and the fourth place team plays home and away in November with OCEANIA champions New Zealand, who will be no push overs at the Biscuit Tin in Wellington.
It used to be SO easy for Mexico, who have lost their way even at home. They have three 0-0 ties with USA, Costa Rica and Jamaica and lost 1-2 to Honduras this series. The coach was fired last week but the new one didn't do any better.
So far we have Brazil as hosts, Australia, South Korea, Japan, Iran, Netherlands, Italy, USA, Costa Rica with more than likely Germany, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Switzerland, Belgium.
www.footysport.net if you want a FAN-TASTIC tour to Brazil next June/July. Great prices and experience-the last 12 World Cups. Pass the word along, and bring your Speedos for Copacabana.