Tuesday, July 1, 2014
When they are not on duty, most people would assume the American airmen at Norfolk’s RAF Lakenheath would spend their free time watching baseball rather than cheering on their home team at the World Cup.
However the United States’ unexpected success in getting through the so-called Group of Death despite losing 1-0 to Germany on Thursday has got everyone in the 48th Fighter Wing behind the beautiful game.
“At the start of the World Cup, I thought we had little to no chance of advancing,” said Maj Doug Grabowski, advanced clinical dentist at the base.
“I knew if we were to advance it would have everything to do with our first game and our performance against Ghana.
“Once we got off to our fastest start ever with a goal in the first minute, it felt like we had a real chance and the critics were wrong.”
In what Maj Grabowski described as an “edge of the seat thriller”, the USA did cause an upset with a 2-1 victory.
The US national side was on course for the same result against Portugal – until Silvestre Valera’s dramatic stoppage time goal took what would have been near-certain qualification out of their grasp.
“Instantly the Germany game was now critical, where seconds before it was a chance to rest our players,” Maj Grabowski said.
“Against Germany, I was very impressed with the controlled defensive game that we employed. It was our only chance. We were patient and waited on our chances and made key defensive plays – critical to the US strategy of playing a close game.
“That was the most excited I have ever been for a loss in my life.”
The airmen’s excitement was beamed back live to an audience of millions in their home country as the TV channel beIN SPORTS set up a live cam to film the Wing’s reactions.
“The 48th Fighter Wing is all in for this World Cup,” said First Lieutenant Keenan Kunst, from the base’s public affairs team.
“The hype has been huge and it’s been great to see fellow Americans get excited for the beautiful game and start to appreciate this sport.
“But, it’s been even better to see the US men’s national team tear through the Group of Death the way they have.
“Obviously, I was hoping for a better run against the Germans but despite some sloppy play on our end, I don’t think we could’ve expected a much better result against such a powerhouse team.
“I think I speak for a lot of us here at RAF Lakenheath when I say we’re ready for the next one and excited to watch it play out. I believe that we will win.”
Maj Charles Kistler, 48th Fighter Wing director of mission readiness, added: “Although a nice outcome, I have only seen this team play together three times. All three times the passing and man-marking has been dismal.
“Am I proud of the team? Yes. Am I glad they advanced? Yes. I just need to see better passing and defensive marking as too many missed shots led to a lack of offensive opportunities for the Americans and possibly more goals by the opponents.”
Maj Kistler added: “I think the squad manager Jurgen Klinsman has put together and the strategy he is teaching American professional footballers is good and needs to continue.”
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