Tomorrow begins the World Cup, and I’m looking forward to some interesting matches. Thankfully, the U.S. and Korea are not in the same group this time, and its unlikely that they will meet in the second stage either They could meet in the quarter-finals if one team places first in their group and the other team places second, and of course both teams win their round of 16 matches. That’s really the soonest they could meet—if both teams place first or both teams place second in their group, the soonest they could meet would be in the finals. So I’m not really expecting to see a U.S. v. Korea match this time around, which is fine with me. It kind of sucks rooting for a draw.
Honestly, though, it will be a minor miracle if Korea makes it out of group play. I would be ecstatic if they did, but Korea is the low man on the totem pole in their group. They’re up against Argentina, Greece, and Nigeria, who are currently ranked 7th, 13th, and 21st—while Korea sits at 47th. The United States, on the other hand, stands a much better chance of advancing. We’re up against England, Slovenia, and Algeria (8th, 25th, and 30th), while we currently rank 14th.
This Saturday is when the action starts for both of my teams. Korea leads off with their match against Greece at 20:30 (Korean time), and then the U.S. has their first match against England at 3:30 the next morning (I’ll probably try to get some sleep after the Korea match and wake up again later on). Korea needs at least a draw against Greece if they want to stand a chance out of group play. Argentina is obviously going to be a challenge, and even Nigeria will be a tough nut to crack, so Korea really needs to start off on the right foot. I will be cheering them on in hopes that they pull off an upset.
As for the U.S., well, it’s pretty obvious that England is our toughest opponent. I think we can beat England, but I don’t know if we will. Honestly, I would be pleased with a draw. I think that would boost our confidence, and it would be a blow to English pride. I love England (I spent six months in London, and it’s my second favorite city in the world), but the British have a tendency to look down on us colonists, and it would be fun to bring them down a notch. That being said, I will be somewhat disappointed if we lose, but not too disappointed. We could still advance with wins against Slovenia and Algeria.
I don’t know if we’ll get out to join the crowds near City Hall for a street-cheering session. We did that eight years ago when the World Cup was held here and in Japan (and my record of it here is the oldest Imagery gallery on Liminality). It was the match against Italy, and it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever experienced. Part of me wants to get out to see another match with ten thousand of my closest friends, but another part of me wonders if it could ever live up to 2002. They’ve been playing commercials for some time now in an attempt to get people back in the spirit of that World Cup, but I wonder how effective they are. They seem to be pulling out all the stops for the street celebrations, with Kim Yuna and other stars coming out to lead the cheering. But it all seems a little manufactured. I know there was some of that in 2002 as well, but it felt a lot more spontaneous then. I suppose it helped that Korea was one of the host nations.
This time, though... well, what makes this World Cup different from the last one? To tell you the truth, I cannot remember off the top of my head what happened in the last World Cup. I could go look up the results and tell you how both Korea and the U.S. did, but I have little to no memory of it. With a finish in the top four, you can’t really blame Korea for being proud of their performance in 2002, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that we’re still living in the past.
But I babble. Whatever the case, I am looking forward to this World Cup. I may have higher hopes for the country of my birth than for my country of residence, but I will be supporting both teams with equal fervor. Chances are that the next time you’ll hear from me will be on Sunday, when I will be either very happy, partially happy, or bummed.