There was nothing German in my grandparents house. My grandfather would spit when we passed by the Mercedes dealer near our town. My grandmother -- an otherwise incredibly tolerant woman -- lost the ability to forgive on the day the last letter arrived from the old country. I began this World Cup pulling for the United States and England. I assumed Spain would win. I had spent the last two years watching the EPL and La Liga every weekend. I don't think I watched a single Bundesliga match during that time.
I fell in love with soccer watching the English Premier League. Up early every Saturday and Sunday to watch the matches on cable, admiring Lampard's steadiness, Gerrard's will to win, Rooney's excellence, Ashley Cole's daring runs. I admire the pinball they play in La Liga, but I'm passionate about the EPL. Give me the blood, sweat, and tears--I will choose craft over artistry every time. And so even as I root for the Americans in this Cup, I have a soft spot for the Three Lions. And today my heart aches a little. In its own way England's performance yesterday was as shocking as the U.S.
One of the most compelling narratives of the tournament will surely revolve around reigning FIFA World Player of the Year Lionel Messi and whether he can transfer his brilliance with Barca onto the international stage for Argentina. Aleksandar Hemon wrote about Messi (and the help he gets from his teammates) in April for TNR: This column was supposed to be about Messi, as he seems to be having a perfect season. He has scored 40 goals for Barca in his 45 appearances, 27 in La Liga alone.
In the run-up to the first goal in the recent game between Real Madrid and Barcelona—known around the world as El Classico—Lionel Messi, currently the best player in the world by a long shot, was fouled and knocked down, only to get up quickly, receive the ball, and pass it on to Xavi, who returned it with a sublime chip over the hapless heads of Real’s defense—and while Raul Albiol* thrashed around as though about to speak in tongues trying to stop him, Messi scored with a shot that simultaneously looked clumsy and exactly perfect.