If a team in any sport is defeated in a tournament, there’s something to be said for being beaten by the eventual winner. That was the U.S. experience in the World Cup, which ended Sunday with Germany beating Argentina 1-0 in the final.
That’s the same score the Germans posted in eliminating the Americans earlier. Of course, the U.S. team is no Argentina — a powerhouse. Neither is the United States in the same league as host country Brazil, which was shockingly drubbed 7-1 in its semifinal against Germany.
These scores speak not about American parity with the world’s best soccer teams, but rather growing respectability in their company. And that respectability extends to the greater regard for the game in the United States.
Soccer, as it is called here, may never have the following of baseball, American-style football, basketball, or even hockey. But those who used to insist that the game is somehow un-American are falling ever more silent.
It didn’t take a World Cup to do this. To be a critic of the game these days is to ignore the huge numbers of youngsters who play it across the nation.
The domestic audience has reached a size that major media coverage of the World Cup is assumed; market-savvy advertisers put their money where the demographics are. It helped that this was an especially exciting World Cup, and the worst fears about Brazil’s ability to host it weren’t realized.
Congratulations go to Germany, but also are due the U.S. players who won respect by playing skillful, hard-fought games. Increasingly, Americans join the rest of the world in its enthusiasm.
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