Tuesday is the day we advanced to the Round of 16, but more on that later.
Thursday morning was the Presidents Game, in which team and federation presidents and staff played a friendly exhibition game on the World Cup field.
I got to play and they split the teams up unevenly so my other three US counterparts, Kevin Milliken, Bernie Lilavois and Gio Gonzalez were all on the other team. My team won, but the final score is anyone’s guess. We played about 90 straight minutes with the sun beating down on us, not the indoor conditions to which I’m accustomed.
The real players came to watch us in the first half. I got a lot of nice compliments from the boys and I think I exceeded their expectations, but maybe they just started with low expectations!
The very special part came after the game when the Iraqi delegation presented each of the five confederations with a plaque on behalf of the Baghdad government. All of their team was there as well and I went down the line and shook each of their hands and thanked them for the impressive, thoughtful gesture.
Back to the real games, the US needed a win to have any chance of advancing, and we needed to win by about 13 goals against India to overtake Senegal for second seed in the group.
India is probably the weakest team here. In the 2015 World Cup they got outscored 83-1 in three arena soccer games. This year they lost their opening game 11-0 to Senegal. The US players were ready to get the goals they needed, but then the game started and we were not scoring at all.
The team was pressing and guys were yelling at each other. It took about 20 minutes to get the first goal and it came off the head of big Franck Tayou on a corner kick assist from Taylor Bond. Franck scored again to give the US a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Th US dominated possession. In the second half the flood gates inevitably opened, and the team rolled to an 8-0 win. Franck Tayou ended with four goals and an assist. Andy Reyes had two goals, and Israel Sesay and Marcus Jordan had a goal apiece.
We spent a lot of time doing the math and going over scenarios, and when Chile lost to Mexico, our 1-1-1 record became good enough to advance to the next round.
What we know right now is the US will play against Mexico at 2:30pm local/9:30am EDT/6:30am PDT or Czech Republic at 10:00pm local/5:00pm EDT/2:00pm PDT, with today’s remaining qualifying round games as the deciding factor.