With the U.S. out of the World Cup, you may be wondering "what's in it for us?" in this week's semifinals. There's plenty, I can assure you.
A new patriotism
If you knew the U.S. had a shot to win gold in curling in the next Winter Olympics, you'd stop ridiculing it as shuffleboard on laughing gas. Not only would you cheer on your fellow Americans, you'd even buy your favorite athlete's jersey.
Soccer die-hards and tagalong patriots alike skipped work Tuesday to see America play Belgium. Even when Belgium went up 2-0, it took only one touch from 19-year-old Julian Green to get you cheering "gooooooal!" Goalkeeper Tim Howard was even nominated for secretary of defense (on Wikipedia) and as the new namesake for a Washington, D.C., airport.
Better yet, last week's USA match was ESPN's most-watched World Cup game of all time. This just shows when it comes to soccer, we got game.
Final four fever
There aren't any surprises in the four semifinalists. Argentina, Brazil and Germany all have won multiple World Cups, and the Netherlands has been a finalist three times. But if you have an ounce of enthusiasm for the U.S.' soccer future, the semis offer an opportunity to witness the elegance of soccer's elite.
Plus, the final four of the World Cup isn't any different than March Madness. It's like watching Duke, Syracuse, Michael Jordan's North Carolina and Indiana with Bobby Knight yelling at the sideline. But the whole world is watching, and it's warm outside. Get to your nearest beer garden!
A new pastime
Soccer probably won't kick the football out of "Monday Night Football" anytime soon, but soccer in America is nothing new. Part of physical education nationwide since the 1960s, The Beautiful Game is part of us. One difference now is the U.S. dominates its region. Thing is, we've mastered the world's most popular sport. It's really time to treat this game as our own.
We're with the big boys now
What do Spain, England and Italy have in common? All have won the World Cup. Oh, here's something else: All three got knocked out in June, while the USA made the final 16. Don't forget, Group G supposedly pitted the USA in the "Group of Death." Yet we beat Ghana (which Germany couldn't do) and tamed Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best player in the world.
Each game brought out players' best. Clint Dempsey scored in the first minute against Ghana and left with a broken nose but played on. Green and Jermaine Jones showed world class pace. And Howard emulated Superman with 16 saves vs. Belgium.
Like it or not, the World Cup showed the good ol' U.S. of A. can do soccer like anyone. We won't ask you to give up the NFL or take up Manchester United over the Blackhawks. But admit it -- you couldn't stop watching if you tried.
Andy Frye is a RedEye special contributor.
WORLD CUP SEMIFINALS
Tuesday: Brazil vs. Germany, 3 p.m. ESPN
Wednesday: Argentina vs. Netherlands, 3 p.m. ESPN
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