Photo: Mark J. Rebilas

Columbia pubs thrive during World Cup

Local soccer fans, especially ones interested in “U-S-A” chants and other general ruckus, can find comradery and solidarity at two Columbia establishments in particular: Cock N’ Bull Pub and British Bulldog Pub.

Two of the British Bulldog owners are Liverpool fans, so they set out to create a soccer atmosphere from the start of their business. During the World Cup, beers from countries that are playing go on special during the games.

“We get some very passionate fans in here, people with Germany and Ecuador jerseys on,” said Chris Ahlberg, a service manager at British Bulldog.

Which isn’t to say the energy and fandom at the pub is equally distributed and objective, by any means. According to Ahlberg, the day of the U.S. vs. Ghana match was the biggest day of business in the pub’s history.

“[Watching the World Cup] is one of the ultimate forms of patriotism,” said Rob McAlister, a University of South Carolina graduate, and Columbia resident who watches games at British Bulldog.

Columbia residents and University of South Carolina students looking for emotional investment in the 2014 men’s World Cup need to look no further than the U.S. roster. For the second straight World Cup, Brad Guzan, who played two seasons at USC from 2003-2004, is one of three goalkeepers who made the final cut of 23 players who traveled to Brazil.

Guzan now plays professionally for Aston Villa in England after being named the MLS Goalkeeper of the year in 2007. Guzan has not played in the first two U.S. matches because he backs up the steady Everton keeper, Tim Howard.

U.S. soccer fans have not been disappointed with the results in Brazil despite the team’s “Group of Death” appointment with Germany, Portugal and Ghana.

Four years ago, the U.S. advanced out of the group stage of the tournament after Landon Donovan’s stoppage-time goal against Algeria. But just when it appeared the Yanks were ready to make a run, Ghana sent the U.S. home.

Apparently, the United States Soccer Federation was not pleased with the effort because head coach Bob Bradley was fired shortly after the return home from South Africa.

German manager Jürgen Klinsmann is now at the helm, and he has wasted no time communicating that he really is the boss. He stunned everyone by cutting Donovan, a fan favorite and all-time scoring leader of both the MLS and the U.S. national team. Donovan had played a key role in the U.S.’s clinching of a World Cup berth.

Klinsmann called it “the toughest decision of (his) coaching career,” although his statements were slightly undone by his son, Jonathan, who sent out a tweet mocking Donovan. The account was subsequently deleted.

So far, it seems as if the young squad hasn’t missed Donovan. The U.S. finally got the best of Ghana, the team that knocked them out of the last two World Cups. Veteran Clint Dempsey scored a goal in the game’s first minute, and John Brooks sealed the 2-1 win with a late header off of a corner kick in the defender’s first World Cup match.

Striker Jozy Altidore injured his left hamstring in the game, an injury that kept him out of the match against Portugal.

The U.S. almost clinched an advance from the group against Portugal, but the latest regulation goal in World Cup history — several minutes into stoppage time — meant the U.S. had to settle for a 2-2 tie, setting up a very important match against Germany on Thursday, June 26.

The Yanks will advance to the next round with a win or draw against Germany or if Ghana and Portugal play to a tie. If the U.S. lose, advancement will come down to goal differential.



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