BY KURT WEBER
We are in Salvador, Brazil for the Switzerland vs. France game. The Swiss have traveled well, and sit in flocks of outdoor cafes within the old town, geared in red regalia. The French, are more conspicuous, only sporadically spotted in their blue jerseys.
The day is hot and humid, reaching into the mid 80s. For some of our traveling Seattle crew, this is our last game and evening in Brazil. We are looking forward to a competitive match between two solid teams.
The throngs of fans, made up of Brazilian yellow jerseys, the Swiss red, and the French blue make their way to the stadium. Along the way, we are greeted with a chorus of “Hopp Schwiiz!” Over and over…the Swiss version of “USA! USA! USA!”
Once inside the renovated stadium of 50,000 fans, we are greeted by fans on both sides trying to curry our favor. We are wearing our USA “bombpop” jerseys, and trying to stay neutral – but its hard to remain neutral with the Swiss constantly approaching us and saying hello, and asking which city we are from, and more. One Swiss fan tells me that the Swiss come from a cold climate, but have a warm heart.
The match begins, and it appears, for several minutes, to be a solid chess match. That is, until France’s counter-attack scores the first goal. The stadium erupts with French singing. And the songs continue minutes later with another counter-attack.
We begin to sense a distinct difference in the speed and precision of the teams. France is making beautiful plays, and the Swiss look a bit befuddled. The score reaches 5-0, before the Swiss get on the board. The game is a blowout – with the Swiss getting one last goal to make it a 5-2 final. We saw a showcase tonight – and now have reason to believe the French have a legitimate shot at winning the Cup.
For us, however, we quickly become focused on Sunday’s game and our own team’s chances against Portugal.