The Nuremberg Mayor introduced me to U.S. Ambassador William R. Timken, Jr. and his wife Sue in the pre-game VVIP lounge. They were nice enough people, originally from Ohio and with a much better understanding of American Football than Soccer. We exchanged some pleasantries about the connections of American Football and Soccer, specifically our common friendship with Lamar Hunt. Beyond that the Ambassador did concede a general absence of familiarity with the game but that over the last eight months he came to understand the impact of FIFA and the World Cup.
I asked, as much to offer comfort as anything else, if they had any questions about the game. Sue came right out with it, and for the Americans, may go down as the quote of the day... "Since the Goals are sooooo big, how come the ball just doesn't seem to go in?" Well, other than a well hit ball by Clint Dempsey, the only goal scored by the U.S. team in World Cup 2006, they might be asking themselves that same question all the way back to the United States. Today's game ended a short run at trying to recapture the glory of 2002.
I responded to Mrs. Timken that there is more than shooting at an open goal from a static position. The game is about movement, about the other players who are working against your sending the ball home. It is all about pressure too. The pressure of carrying a label in a ranking system which unfairly sets intercontinental comparisons; pressure of needing to live up to a set of expectations based on previous performance and also the pressure of holding on to favorites in places where they no longer produce the results needed. There are many things which stop you from scoring goals.
On this day, Ghana, as it had in its upset match with the Czech Republic, proved that it was a team worthy to advance to the round of sixteen. Congratulations to them. To Mrs. Timken, it simply goes to prove that the game is not as easy as it seems. It isn't just about a big goal and a small ball. It is about the 22 men on the field and how they use that 90 minutes of the world's attention to become part of history.