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Tuesday, 18 June, 2002, 01:43 GMT 02:43 UK

US fans savour historic win

By Kevin Anderson
BBC News Online, Washington

Faithful footie fans in Washington sat in the Lucky Bar on Monday afternoon reliving the United States' historic victory over Mexico.

The game was replayed twice for fans who might not have got up early to watch the match live.

The time difference between the US East Coast and South Korea meant that the game kicked off at 0230EDT on Monday.

Chris institutes a media blackout when he can't get up for the early matches. He doesn't want to spoil the excitement of the match.

As time ran out, he pumped his fists and yelled, "Damn straight, damn straight!"

It was a sweet victory for fans of a sport still battling for recognition in the US.

'Lads have played great'

American fans who rolled out of bed before dawn were treated to an historic match.

Fans poured out onto the streets and high-fived passer-bys, some who probably had no idea what there was to celebrate so early in the morning.

"The lads have played great," said Chris, who was a goalkeeper on his high school's soccer team.

Many of the fans watching the game on Monday afternoon were like Chris; they either played or had children who played.

John Black is new to the game. "I've got a son who's six years old, and he loves, and I just want to make sure I know as much about as possible," he said.

He's been impressed with Cobi Jones and goalkeeper Brad Friedel. "That goalie's sharp," he said.

Indeed, it was the US defence that impressed that Mike Smith.

The Mexicans had possession for much of the game. "The Americans had such a great defence. The Mexicans couldn't get anywhere," he said.

Soccer impresses president

But these diehard fans were sceptical that the best US showing in more than a half century would give soccer a boost in a country where it still a minor sport compared to baseball, basketball or American football.

"I don't think this matters," Chris said, adding, "Those of us who love it will love it. Those who don't won't."

Mike Smith said soccer hasn't caught on as other sports have. "But if we won the World Cup, which is highly unlikely, or even came close, it would have an impact," he said.

But John Black says that while soccer might not challenge the national pastime of baseball, the sport is growing.

"Eventually, we'll get better and better as Americans playing it," he said.

The World Cup is definitely gaining in recognition. President George W Bush, a diehard baseball fan rather than a soccer fan, called the team to wish them good luck ahead of the match, a White House spokesman said.

Mr Bush admitted that he was a soccer neophyte but was now watching the World Cup with great interest.

Onto Germany

But as much as the fans would like to see it, they had their doubts that the US could beat three-time champions Germany.

Chris was worried about the number of yellow cards the US will carry into the match with Brazil, and he complained that Fifa didn't want the US to advance. "They even carded our goalie!" he said.

But fans still have hope. With a newfound confidence after the victory over Mexico, fans voting on the Washington Post's website thought by 60%-to-35% margin that the US will win.

The US goes into the match very much the underdog against perennial powerhouse Germany, but the US team was also not favoured to win against Portugal or Mexico. American fans are simply ecstatic to be through to the quarterfinals.

While victory is uncertain, one thing can be counted on. US fans will be lined up just after dawn outside the Lucky Bar come Friday morning to cheer for their side.

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