As Saturday came to a close, I had to lament the fact that going forward in this World Cup I stand as a man without a country. I had just watched my last hope fizzle as Mexico played its best game. Nonetheless, the tri-color came up short against this year's scoring machine in blue & white vertical stripes. Argentina won 2-1 using 2 extra time periods of 15 minutes to close the books on their opponents.
Earlier this week, the USA failed to break out of the round-robin phase and ended their hopes in a futile effort against Ghana 2-1, who took the opportunity provided by the Italian's defeat of the Czech Republic in a 2-0 simultaneous third group match to advance in our place.
Costa Rica was somehow missing. I know they were here. We saw them score a couple of goals against Germany in the opening match in Munich on June 9th... the most prolific opening match in WC history, as they went down 4-2 on a leaky defense. After that, it was down hill from there. I saw them play their farewell match in Hamburg where Ecuador had their way with them and after three games here in Germany, no one recalls that they were here.
The one pleasant surprise was the Trinis who came ready to take names and be counted. For 174 minutes of the 2006 World Cup, the team from the smallest country in WC recorded history, showed themselves the equal to two european giants and perenial qualifiers. Sweden and England both knew they had been in a battle with Trinidad & Tobago. The point Trinidad won from Sweden will long be remembered as a sweet victory.
So, at the end of the first day of the Round of 16, my mind turns to what we have to do to get better results in the future. Others will analyze what went wrong. Others will decide on their next steps to reset their ships to navigate these international waters without ending up on the rocks. I hope to be a lighthouse and help them find their way to stay off the rocks. We need to solve the common problems we face to achieve the excellence we know can be ours.
Amazingly, the answers for each of our disappointed members are different. There is no one size fits all answer. At a time when we are forced into cookie cutter solutions because of international calendars and other confining plans, we have significant challenges in seeing to it that each of our future qualifiers can reach their potential and enjoy greater success.
The work is ahead of us. Good luck to those who remain.