FOX Sports Insider
At a giant party at Tokyo Dome — speaking of surprises, that’s where Mike Tyson lost to Buster Douglas — fans hugged and broke down in tears after their country’s epic 2-1 win.
In Saudi Arabiaa day before, a national holiday was called to commemorate the shocking victory of his team over Argentinian, while many of the large number of Saudis living in Qatar flooded the streets of Doha, stopping traffic by gleefully waving flags from the windows of their vehicles.
The sight of fans celebrating and reveling in national pride is what makes the World Cup so special. Watching those scenes, wherever your loyalty lies, can’t help but warm the heart.
Shocking surprises continue
Japan overcame an early deficit to score two second-half goals and stunned Germany in the first World Cup game for both teams.
And, from the USA‘ perspective, the top two stunners of this tournament should also provide a measure of vindication.
Two months ago, Gregg Berhalter’s team played its only two World Cup warm-up matches, facing Japan in Dusseldorf, Germany on November 23 and Saudi Arabia in Murcia, Spain four days later.
No one pretends that the US results, or the performances associated with them, were good. Japan’s game ended in a 2-0 loss. The Saudi clash was a bitter affair, ending 0-0 with little mitigating entertainment.
“We got our butts kicked,” Berhalter said after the Japan game. “We’re not proud of that. We think we should have played a lot better.”
However, as the past two days in Qatar have shown, those “friendlies” weren’t the total disaster many American fans made them out to be, either, with some US supporters even going so far as to call for Berhalter’s sacking.
US Soccer Twitter has been outraged by the back-to-back disappointments against such supposedly weak opposition and has taken on both the coach and his team, presenting the results as supposed evidence that the current World Cup campaign would be a bleak exercise.
So a couple of necessary facts here. Japan is a quality team that has grown in stature and danger level steadily over the past decade and more. After taking the lead against Germany, they held on bravely, but confidently, and are now in a great position to advance from one of the strongest groups in the tournament.
Saudi Arabia excelled in their Asian qualifying group, finishing top of the standings with just one loss in 10 games. Although his return won against Lionel MessiArgentina will go down in history as one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history, their coach and players insisting they aren’t done yet.
Hindsight is wonderful, obviously, but that pair of results adds retrospective context to what were seen as US readiness catastrophes. No, the US didn’t play well, which sometimes happens in set-ups. And no, the opposition, as we have now seen, was not a group of desperados without strength, but the eventual conquerors of a pair of World Cup favorites.
Saudi Arabian fans celebrate
Saudi Arabian fans celebrate after their team posted a 2-1 victory against Argentina, scoring one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history.
As for the celebrations, they continue. In Tokyo, translator Hirotaka Kondo told me over the phone that fans were partying late into the night after the Germany game ended around midnight. The next morning, the elementary school teachers encouraged their students to make messages of thanks and support to send to the heroic members of Samurai Blue.
“People here love this team, but everyone knew the history and the strength of Germany in the World Cup,” Kondo said. “This is a special day. It seems that this is the day when football grew in Japan.”
Saudi Arabs, thousands of them, appeared to be spending their new national holiday planning routes to the Qatari border, with reports of large numbers of people traveling overland heading to the World Cup venue ahead of the second match. on Sunday against Qatar. Poland.
And, in a viral clip shared widely online, a Saudi fan was so thrilled by his team’s victory that he ripped his front door off its hinges.
It has been one of the most memorable starts to a World Cup, and Saudi Arabia and Japan have had a lot to do with it. We have been reminded that no World Cup game ends before it starts.
That there are no guarantees in a tournament like this.
Previous England-United States
Stu Holden, Maurice Edu and Landon Donovan anticipate the United States’ game against England on Friday.
And, in an event where every little boost of confidence is welcome, the Americans are entitled to a small but worthy boost ahead of their crucial Group B clash with England on Friday (2 p.m. ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App).
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