ORIGINAL 501—BURNFIN: It only comes once every four years

6/11/2014

In the summer of 2010, I sat in a local bar in my home state of California just as the sun peeked over the horizon. The bar did not usually open until 11 a.m., but today, it was opening at 6.

In the summer of 2010, I sat in a local bar in my home state of California just as the sun peeked over the horizon. The bar did not usually open until 11 a.m., but today, it was opening at 6.

Dozens of people came in with a choice between fruit bowls and a bacon omelette, and the bartender put on the U.S.A. vs. Algeria group match of the World Cup in South Africa.

Yes, that match.

The one where the United States Men's National Team needed to beat Algeria to win the group and advance into the knockout stage for only the third time since the 1930s.

Entering stoppage time, the Americans and Algerians were tied at nil, until a lethal counter attack produced perhaps the most important goal in American soccer history as Landon Donavan scored on a rebound of a blocked Clint Dempsey shot to put the Stars and Stripes on top, winning the group over England and Slovenia.

It is one of those moments I'll always remember. And that's saying something, because, well, I know nothing about soccer.

I actually know nothing about an awful lot of thingsplenty will back that upbut soccer, especially.

Yet, every four years I become a soccer fanatic. The World Cup is just a mammoth event, with the excitement permeating every inch of the sporting world for a month straight, even dumb ole' (American) football and baseball fans like me.

So with the tournament beginning on Thursday, I'm as anxious as I ever am for a sporting event to begin, and that includes the World Series, Super Bowl and NCAA national football championship.

I know enough to realize that I had about as good a shot at getting drafted in the last week's MLB draft as the USMNT does of winning Group G, let alone competing for the title.

But it does not matter. I'm going to root for the Red, White and Blue, and when they get knocked out, I'll inevitably root for another squadperhaps Italy, since my aunt and uncle live in Florence (forza Italia!).

Hutchinson News' sports editor Brad Halier had a good column on Sunday aimed at helping us novices decide which country to back, outside of the U.S.

If you love the Miami Heat, Seattle Seahawks, Boston Red Sox and Duke's basketball team, he writes in one scenario, then you might want to root for Spain, the reigning World Cup champions.

You're also the worst sports fan I've ever heard of.

Still, there's plenty of options to choose from. Take your pick and enjoy, and in a month, like me, go back to American football, waiting for the Broncos to shore up the defense, the Chiefs to become more explosive, K-State to eclipse its inevitable Big 12 title, and Kansas, to well, maybe win two conference games? Sorry, Jayhawks.

The tournament begins Thursday with host Brazil taking on Croatia at 3 p.m. The first match for the U.S. is 5 p.m. Monday, when the Stars and Stripes take on the personal executioners from the past two World Cups, Ghana. The Americans were knocked out in the group stage of the 2006 World Cup in Germany with a 2-1 loss to Ghana, and then were eliminated four years later in South Africa with a similar 2-1 loss to Ghana, this time in extra time in the round of 16.

The Americans then play Portugal at 5 p.m. on June 22, and finish the group stage with an 11 a.m. match against world power Germany on June 26.

Sports reporter J. Levi Burnfin can be emailed at lburnfin@gctelegram.com

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