Fans in Gainesville enjoy United States’ return to World Cup
It was the first World Cup match for the United States in eight years
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The wait is finally over, the United States is back in the World Cup.
After missing soccer’s biggest tournament in 2018, it had been eight and a half years since the US played on the biggest stage.
They returned to action Monday with a 1-1 draw against Wales.
Fans in Gainesville packed into local bars to catch the action. Kids took off from school and adults took off from work to cheer on their country.
The Gainesville chapter of the American Outlaws--US Soccer’s fan group--held a watch party at Lillian’s Music Store in Downtown.
Despite missing out last cycle and struggling a bit in qualifying, fans are holding high expectations for the team in Qatar.
“I honestly believe that if the team plays with enough heart throughout the tournament that they can beat anybody cause that’s just how football is, anybody can beat anybody on their day,” said Adrian Ovalle.
“We gotta get out of the group stage, hopefully win it,” said Gainesville Outlaws chapter president Mat Precourt. “Win the first knockout game and then compete from there. Anything can happen once you get past that.”
This year’s World Cup is enveloped in controversy with critics blasting FIFA for awarding the tournament to Qatar.
Accusations of corruption and bribery swirled after Qatar won the tournament in 2010. Since then, concerns over conditions faced by migrant workers building the infrastructure have come to light. Human rights groups also spoke against Qatar over their government’s stances on women’s rights and treatment of LGBTQ+ people.
Most fans said they are trying to just enjoy the competition, but it can be very difficult at times.
“For a fan not so much, but when you step back and think about it a little bit, you kinda think about all the stuff that’s been talked about in the press and the media,” said Precourt. “But for me it’s just about watching the USA and hoping they can get some wins.”
The draw with Wales makes things very interesting in Group B, with the US having two games remaining to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Their next game is against England on Friday.
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