Salvador: The Arena Fonte Nova provided the stage for 52,227 spectators to witness a pulsating encounter between the USA and Belgium that was only decided after a nail-biting finale in extra time.
Infectious chants of ‘USA, USA’ coursed through the stands in waves and even had the local Brazilian fans joining in by the end. It wasn’t enough, though as USA lost 1-2.
“It was a dramatic match,” USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann told Fifa.com afterwards.
Despite the defeat and the post-match chaos taking place around him, Klinsmann was a calm figure and smiled as he spoke. Indeed, that composure served the 49-year-old well during the match, as his decision to bring substitute Julian G reen on in the 105th minute paid swift dividends.
“Julian is one of our brightest talents and he’s still developing,” Klinsmann said of the 19-year-old Bayern Munich forward. “We’ve got a few young players coming through and that gives us optimism looking ahead to the future of American football and the national team.
“It was a phenomenal tournament for us,” Klinsmann continued. “We survived the group of death.”
The side may have suffered a painful defeat in Brazil, but football in the US in general has gained from the exposure and the level of support has been overwhelming. Stars from other sports, such as baseball, basketball and American football have been cheering the team on, as have a number of Hollywood actors.
“Football is definitely on the right track in the US,” a visibly disappointed Green said. “I’ve seen a few pictures on television of the pubs and stadiums in America and it’s fantastic to see so many people. I think the World Cup has been decisive in getting things going there. When I scored my goal I was so happy and I thought: ‘now it’s 2-1, we can still come back from this.’ ”
Nevertheless, the team’s style of play won over countless neutrals and showed that football is thriving in a country more renowned for its preference for other sports.
“We had a really good World Cup,” Jermaine Jones said after the game. “We showed a few countries who weren’t expecting us to do well that they always need to give 100 per cent against us. We’ve got a young team and now it’s up to the older players to try to lift them again.
“Losing is part of sport and unfortunately we experienced that today, but we’ll bounce back. I’m absolutely sure of it. I hope football’s standing has changed now. After the last World Cup, the euphoria went a bit over the top, but we’ve always said we’re a team that can create a lot of hype. We’ve showed the world that the USA is growing and everybody who plays against us knows we’re for real.”
That is certainly true, and after sweeping an entire country along with them in the process, the disappointment at being eliminated has been tempered somewhat. “I’m supporting Germany now,” said Jones, who was born and raised in Germany. “I hope they win it.”