GOOOOOOOAL!!! by El Szalay

I am absolutely, definitely, most certainly not a sports person. I wouldn’t even say I’m a soccer person. But god, I love the World Cup.

Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. But El, if you hate sports, why do you enjoy the World Cup? Simple. I think soccer is the perfect blend of entertaining and understandable. I understand the basics of baseball, but it’s extremely boring. Figure skating is amazing to watch, but watching Yuri!!! On Ice isn’t enough to make me understand the sport. When it comes to soccer, not only do I mostly understand the sport (I played until 4th grade– I’m basically an expert), but I also like the fast pace of the game. Plus, growing up with a German father, the World Cup is a huge deal in my house. We watch most of Germany and the USA’s games every year. We all went bonkers when Germany won in 2014 and nearly cried over whatever 2018 and 2022 were.

Because this is a World Cup year, I wanted to take the time to think about some of my best (and, in some cases, worst) memories related to the tournament.

The earliest World Cup I actually remember watching was 2014. If I’m being completely honest, however, I only remember the finals. The satisfaction that came with beating the host country 7-1 will never be topped. To all of my Brazilian friends who may be reading this, sorry not sorry. <3

Going into 2018’s World Cup, I was stoked. Not only did I think Germany was going to do well (oh, how naive I was), but I was going to be in Germany for most of it. I arrived in Goslar in time to go to a watch party outside of the Kaiserplatz and watch Germany face Sweden. They had already lost to Mexico a week or so earlier, so losing to Sweden would not only be embarrassing, but also meant Germany would be done for. The game was tied 1-1 at the end of the 90 minutes, and though a tie wouldn’t have been bad for Germany, a win was definitely better. Well, thank goodness overtime exists and Germany scored four minutes into it. Hope was back up. Germany was back in the game.

Final game of groups in 2018 rolled around while I was in Berlin. Germany would be taking on South Korea, and it seemed like there was a clear winner. I was at a Biergarten with my family to watch the game, and nearing the end of the 90 minutes, the game looked like it was going to be a 0-0 tie, meaning Germany would place third in the group. Not great, but better than last place! Unfortunately, South Korea scored not once, but twice in overtime. The entire room fell silent as everyone left. To quote Taylor Swift, “I’ve never heard silence quite this loud.”

One of the first games I watched in its entirety this year was the USA vs. England. I am by no means a proud American, but if there’s one thing I will never do as a citizen of the United States of America, it is admit defeat to the English. The game was a 0-0 tie, which means no defeat had to be admitted! And now that the English lost their quarterfinal to France, I don’t have to worry about the English winning anymore. Thank god.

This year, I hoped that maybe Germany would do at least a little bit better than whatever 2018 was. Because their first game was early in the morning over Thanksgiving break, I slept through it. I went downstairs around lunchtime to find my dad sulking in the kitchen. As it turned out, Germany had lost to Japan. As I put it, “if I had a nickel for every time Germany lost to an East Asian country that isn’t necessarily known for their soccer team during the groups stage of the World Cup, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot but it’s weird that it happened twice.”

Germany’s next game was against Spain. If Germany lost, they’d be out of the World Cup. Naturally, I was nervous. My faith was not very high after what happened with Japan. My dad and I turn on the TV to watch the game when we found ourselves in a pickle. FOX, the channel we’ve been watching the games on, were too busy broadcasting the Browns game. There was only one other channel we had access to that was showing the game: Telemundo, which is entirely in Spanish. No one in my family speaks Spanish. This was literally the only way to watch the game. I don’t typically listen to the commentary that closely, but it was noticeable when I suddenly can’t understand it. Near the end of the first half, Germany scored! My dad and I were so excited, but as we were celebrating, we were quickly interrupted by the goal being ruled offsides. The real kicker here (pun VERY much intended) is the fact the commentators were talking about the goal being offsides, but my dad and I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. We had no clue what was going on and spent the entirety of halftime scouring the internet trying to find out what happened. We felt better once we understood the call and it was really funny in hindsight, but it was very stressful in the moment. At least Germany tied the game before it ended.

Group E (Spain, Germany, Japan, and Costa Rica) in general was such a strange group this year. You mean to tell me that Japan was able to beat Germany, but not Costa Rica? Make it make sense. After Germany’s loss to Japan and tie with Spain, it all came down to their final game with Costa Rica. So long as Germany won the game like they were expected to, they would move on to the Round of 16. I couldn’t watch the whole game, so my friend (who doesn’t understand soccer at all) texted me live updates. It was an absolute roller coaster, but Germany pulled through and beat Costa Rica 4-2. Unfortunately for Germans everywhere, however, Japan beat Spain. This meant that Japan and Spain had the most points in the group and moved on, leaving Germany in the dust. I was VERY upset. Thankfully, now that the Round of 16 is over and both Japan and Spain lost their games, I can watch and laugh. Again, to quote Taylor Swift, “karma is my boyfriend.”

As of writing this, the World Cup is over. Argentina won the finals yesterday, but I can’t say I’m too thrilled about it. Out of the countries that made it to the semi-finals, I was really rooting for Morocco. They were the only team that made it to the semifinals that I was remotely interested, but at least the French didn’t win again (sorry French people). Honestly, I could write a whole separate blog about the final, but I don’t really feel like it. Oh well, maybe the Women’s World Cup next year will be less depressing.

6 thoughts on “GOOOOOOOAL!!! by El Szalay

  1. Wow, what a chronicle of your history with the World Cup. I totally believe that you did actually say ““if I had a nickel for every time Germany lost to an East Asian country that isn’t necessarily known for their soccer team during the groups stage of the World Cup, I’d have two nickels. Which isn’t a lot but it’s weird that it happened twice.” That sounds just like you.

    Also, thank you for the pun about “kicker.” 🙂

  2. I somehow turned on the TV and watch the last 30 seconds of the final as Argentina won. Similarly to you, I’m not thrilled, but I’m not upset.

  3. UGH I miss the world cup already. Why is it only every 4 years?? I completely agree with your analysis of soccer as a sport–it’s very easy to understand, and boy is it entertaining.

  4. We seem to have very different world cup experiences because I have the exact opposite feeling s for most of these events.

  5. i’m the same as rafa lol. i was thrilled when argentina won, but it is interesting how our experiences were parallel and still so different.

  6. The most invested in soccer I’ve ever been was rooting for Morocco in this year’s world cup. Might have to get more into it in the future.

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