Is this the game of the decade for the U.S. team? Has there ever been a more anticipated U.S. Soccer match? Impossible to say, really, but Rustenburg is rocking. There's not much around Royal Bafokeng Stadium, which is about two hours outside of Johannesburg, but there's one little place just across the street. You can see it in the attached picture: hundreds of U.S. and English fans waiting until the stadium opens.
I went over for about 30 minutes. The beer is cheap (I'm confused as to how they have enough, they're selling like a dozen a minute), and there's a projection screen showing the Argentina/Nigera match. The English and Americans appear to be co-existing quite nicely. Next to the "pub" part of the establishment is a joint selling raw meat, red meat and chicken. You carry the raw meat and bread out to a giant stone grill and you grill it yourself. Interesting set up, but the line was long to buy raw meat. You can see videos of all this stuff in the video player below on the right. I uploaded three videos of the scene across the street from RBS.
The sun has just set here in South Africa. The gates to the stadium open in about 45 minutes, but everyone I talked to "across the street" said they'd be staying there longer, mostly for the cheap beer (less than $1 a bottle is what someone told me).
As for the game itself, it's been a long time in the making. The stadium holds 38,000 people. One Englishman I spoke with said there may be a few more Americans than English inside the stadium, but the English would be louder. That was certainly the case during the pre-game party.
I follow a few of the players on Twitter. Here's what they were saying today:
Oguchi Onyewu: "Today is the day people ... many years of dedication, that's what it's all about! Hope everyone has freed up their schedule for 2:30 p.m. ET!!"
Maurice Edu: "Game 2nite vs. England! Thanks for all the continued support and well wishes! Keep it coming! See you guys there 2nite!"
Apparently England coach Fabio Capello has told his squad to avoid swearing at the referees tonight, specifically warning Wayne Rooney. England's Steven Gerrard said, “Wayne’s experienced enough now to deal with it… He understands we need him on the pitch and every player has been warned by the manager and coaching staff.”
Also of note, South Africa goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune said that he felt his team's fans weren't loud enough on Friday. That was surprising to read considering the Bafana Bafana fans filled a 89,000-seat stadium and seemed to be blowing vuvuzelas the entire match. Khune said: "There were not enough vuvuzelas. It was more like a Mexico home game ... I'm disappointed that we didn't blow a lot of vuvuzelas, but let's hopes in the next game we blow more."
Since I'm here in South Africa, and since I'm the one attempting to relay what this World Cup is all about, I read this column today by a local newspaper writer. I know there are people who want to talk about the starting lineup and the formation the U.S. might use, but ... well ... That information isn't available until about an hour before game time. So here's this column if you're interested in what the mindset was like in Johannesburg when the country was awarded this World Cup: naysayers.
About two hours from the match ...