If a team in any sport is going to be defeated in a tournament, there’s something to be said for being beaten by the eventual winner. That was the American experience in the soccer World Cup, which successfully concluded Sunday with Germany beating Argentina 1-0 in the final.
That’s the same score the Germans posted in beating the Americans earlier. Of course, the U.S. team is no Argentina, a powerhouse. Neither is the United States in the same league as host country Brazil, which was shockingly drubbed 7-1 in its semi-final against Germany.
These scores speak not about American parity with the world’s best soccer teams but growing respectability in their company. And that respectability extends to the greater regard for the game in the United States.
Soccer, as it is called here, may never have the following of baseball, football American-style or even hockey, but those who used to insist that it is somehow un-American are falling ever more silent. It didn’t take a World Cup to do this, and to be a critic of the game these days is to ignore the huge numbers of youngsters who play it across the nation.
That domestic audience created over the years has now reached a size that major media coverage of the World Cup is a natural, and market-savvy advertisers put their money where the demographics are. It helped that this was an especially exciting World Cup and the worst fears about Brazil’s ability to host it came to nothing.
Congratulations go to Germany, but congratulations are also due to the U.S. players who won respect by playing hard-fought games with the best of them. Increasingly, Americans join the world in its enthusiasm.