WICHITA, Kansas – World Cup fever was alive and well Tuesday, as hundreds of soccer fans got together to see if the US could advance any further in the tournament.
Fans at the Fox and Hound in east Wichita were hanging on by a thread to see if the Stars and Stripes could survive and advance to the quarterfinals of the World Cup for the first time since 2002.
But the party atmosphere at the beginning of the match quickly gave way to tension throughout the 120 minutes.
“Yeah, it’s just been really cool to see Wichita get behind soccer more, seems to be growing all over the country,” soccer fan Justin Ochs said.
They faced a tough test from Belgium, a team in the middle of a so-called “golden generation” of individual talent. And their 2-1 victory was enough to send the U.S. home.
Fans here wanted a win but were pleased with Team USA’s effort.
“They did really well, tried really hard, which is important in soccer, and I think we have a lot of good times ahead of us with US Soccer, some young players that did really well, we couldn’t get it in, but played well,” soccer fan Jeff Reed said.
“We played well,” Ochs said. “We were the underdogs coming in, but we had some chances there at the end, but you know, we put forward our best effort.”
Win or lose, U.S. fans think the team’s performance signals a turning point for the growth of the game here.
It makes it better,” Reed said. “We like it more now. We want to watch it more if it’s exciting.”
“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” Chris Baldwin, of the Wichita chapter of the American Outlaws supporters’ group, said. “The amount of people that we have here today is unbelievable. And it’s just going to keep getting bigger and bigger.”