A thirsty kickoff to the World Cup

GlobalPost correspondent Michael Goldfarb live-blogs the USA-England World Cup match from a London pub.

4:30 p.m. ET — The game is now totally dominated by England ... a boxer's pressure ... but the opponent won't go down. Isn't quite knocked into submission either ... a counterattack with a lucky knockout punch is definitely within the USA's capability.

There are 10 minutes left in the game. Liam Leahy is still standing firm.

Now England break four on two. Nothing comes of it. Intensity and desperation fill the White Hart.

Liam is getting a little bit aggressive ... if it all kicks off I'm going to have to choose a side ... with him.

Game is winding down ... an end not with bang but a whistle. 

1-1 is the final score.

Liam pronounces himself satisfied with the result, predicting England and USA will get out of the round robin group and meet again in the knock-out stages of the tournament.

"Little improvements mean we will take them in the next round," he says confidently. And certainly tonight's performance by Team USA was very credible. They were lucky to score but not lucky to draw.

Anyway to return to my theme at the start of the evening: If you have a minute tomorrow go online and check out how the British press covers this game in comparison to the American press. You'll see the difference. 

My theory is that until American society cares about Team USA the way the folks in the White Hart Pub care about England, until they suffer the way these folks are suffering now, until the old phrase of my high school lacrosse coach the late Sandy Philips stops ringing true to American ears "A tie is like kissing your sister."

The intangible emotion Team USA needs to build on its credible growth simply can't happen.

As for England: Their supporters at the White Hart can still live in hope.

4:05 p.m. ET — Some more about Liam Leahy: He's from Gloucester, Mass., but pronounces it more like an English person Glosster rather than the native Glaw-stah. He is carrying the weight and burden of the American nation in this pub ... although my guess is outside of the World Cup he would be slightly skeptical of excessive patriotism ... but this is what the World Cup is really all about: providing a template for these primitive feelings to be safely played out ... too bad the folks at think tanks in Washington don't go in much for this kind of displacement activity.

(Instant replay just showed the England keeper Robert Green making a save as excellent as his clanger to let in the American goal was ugly ... The crowd behind me are singing the theme from The Great Escape).

Rooney very nearly scored ...

If you have friends who think football/soccer is boring, you must get them a tape of this game ...


3:50 p.m. ET — The second half is underway ... and I scored two Coronas (my preference would have been for the Cornish Ale but they didn't have a keg at the bar in the back of the second garden ... where I discover another couple of hundred people watching on TVs set up around the perimeter of the White Hart).

Sustained pressure since the start of the half. England's main man Wayne Rooney beats Howard but an American defender clears the ball off the line. Now Emile Heskey has a go ... and Howard makes a smothering save.

The half is only 7 minutes old.


3:25 p.m. ET — Half-time ... exciting stuff ... In South Africa and at the pub. A guy in an England shirt mimed setting Liam Leahy's American flag on fire. All in good fun. But I'm not too worried for Liam's safety. He tells me he works in documentary films and looks like he can handle himself. 

The other reason I'm not worried is that the White Hart is about 50 yards north of the Stoke Newington police station. Nothing is likely to get out of hand here. The Stoke cop shop has an unsavory reputation since 20 years ago for taking a cavalier attitude to prisoners' treatment. Much more enlightened now but they will be ready for the usual rowdiness that follows England games.

The queues for the restrooms are getting longer I may be able to sneak to the bar and finally get that beer I've been wanting.

Back after half time.


3:15 p.m. ET — Sometimes I wonder why they call this game football ... most of this half has been a game of head ping-pong — definitely the fast and the furious rather than the beautiful game of intricate passing and long possessions.

GOAL ...  The England goalkeeper has just lived out his worst nightmare, bobbling an easy long-distance shot and letting it into the net with a minute left in the first half.

Liam Leahy is taking a risk ... he has unfurled the Stars and Stripes and draped them around his shoulder and is cheering — alone — for Team USA.


3:05 p.m. ET — 28:22 of the first half and a real flurry by England leaves USA goalkeeper Tim Howard in pain. English forward Emile Heskey, built like an NFL fullback from the pre-steroid era, clattered into him ... looked like a clean collision to me. We'll see how badly Howard's bell was rung in a moment.


2:55 p.m. ET — My man Liam Leahy is standing tall — but grimacing.  USA had some possession around the England penalty area but nothing came of it. He has a drink ... a pint of lager from the look of it. I still haven't had a drink.

A word about the surface the two sides are playing on.  The last time I saw soccer balls bounce like this was on Astroturf at Giants Stadium when Giorgio Chinaglia was going to single-handedly create interest in soccer in the U.S. Landon Donovan was a toddler at the time.

18 minutes and Jozy Altidore missed what a beautiful cross from Donovan and what should have been the USA equalizer ... then England nearly score on a counterattack.

This is good stuff ... I am getting genuinely thirsty.


2:40 p.m. ET — Patriotism tends to be under done by the youth of this country ... not tonight: "SEND HER VICTORIOUS! LONG TO REIGN OVER US. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!!!!!" roars the crowd ... seats are at a premium in the White Hart but they are useless while the match is on ... everyone is standing. Rooney is the last roar. Then an intense silence descends. Football is more serious than life, you know. Game faces are on around the pub's crowd. Will to victory being transmitted by collective telepathy to South Africa ...

GOALLL!!!!!  A nit of pressure, a through ball for captain Steven Gerrard and England grab an early lead at around 3:30 of the first half.


LONDON, U.K. — 2:30 p.m. ET — Well, it is rare that the hard news cycle and the sports news cycle dovetail perfectly but here we are: England vs. USA at the World Cup is playing out against a simmering row between Britain and the U.S. over the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

So here we are just before kick off at the White Hart pub in Stoke Newington, in the London borough of Hackney on a day when the pages of the newspapers are filled with irate letters about Barack Obama's harsh language for BP as it is called here, and "British Petroleum" as everybody in Washington seems to be calling it. Finger pointing unpleasantness that actually didn't exist in quite the same way when George W. Bush and Tony Blair joined the two nations together to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Now, it may well be that if you're reading this in the U.S. or are an American abroad you are not aware of this overlay of political drama to the upcoming World Cup soccer match. And that is one of the clear reasons why it is likely England will win.

Everything in this country today is happening in the shadow of the match. The cross of St. George, patron saint of the English, is flying from every third house. It waves from half the cars in the street. Rupert Murdoch's Sun newspaper gave away a free flag in every one of the nearly 2 million copies it sold today — along with a free 1 pound bet at Ladbrokes bookmakers. (The return on that investment would be about 15 cents should England win ... that's how strong the odds favor the team).

Currently in the White Hart, the largest pub in Stoke, I reckon there are upward of 700 people, inside and outside in the two gardens. No one who wasn't here an hour ago is going to get served ... that's how deep the crush at the bar is right now ... I wasn't here an hour ago so I am extremely thirsty.

The patrons are booing right now as the British sportscaster holds a baseball bat and mocks the pretension of calling the fall classic the "World" series.

The view in the pub is England will win ... but it won't be easy. Liam Leahy of Boston takes exception. He is wandering around the pub in a T-shirt that reads: The Empire Strikes First. My own view at the start is England should win because America's soccer fans haven't suffered enough disappointment down through the years to merit my support. I guess what I'm saying is that when American society reaches this fever pitch of anticipation it will be possible to start taking the U.S. team seriously

And the kickoff is now ...


The stars:

England's Wayne Rooney: He looks like Shrek but he scores

Argentina's Lionel Messi: The brightest star at the start of the World Cup

Brazil's Kaka: Can the church-goer kick Brazil to another World Cup trophy?

Ivory Coast's Didier Drogba: Africa's shining hope suffers last minute injury

The stories:

South Africa's soccer comes a long way from apartheid

North Koreans arrive in South Africa with no fans

Who's the better host: Johannesburg or Beijing?

Video: Soweto rocks World Cup with calabash stadium

Slide show: South Africa readies for World Cup 2010

Africa's first high speed train