LINDA WERTHEIMER, host:
The U.S. soccer team played its first World Cup match yesterday, and despite high expectations for their debut, the Americans lost 3 to 0 to the Czech Republic. It's a disappointing start, but the thousands American fans who traveled to Germany for the game are still hoping there team can bounce back. NPR's Rachel Martin reports.
RACHEL MARTIN reporting:
Gelsenkirchen is a small sleeping mining town in the Northwest of Germany. But in the past couple of days, thousands of Czech and American fans have descended here. As game time approached, they transformed the city center in an electric hub of World Cup rivalry.
I'm on one small cobblestone street that is just a wash in red white and blue. The colors of both of those countries, the U.S. and Czech Republic, people getting their faces painted, people draped in flags, people ready to go, ready to cheer on there team.
Before the game, about hundred Czechs were dressed in war paint and national colors held an impromptu rally at one end of the main square.
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
At the other end, a much larger and louder group of American fans showed their own team spirit. A couple of hundred fans danced and chanted as they unfurled a huge American flag over their heads.
(Soundbite of crowd chanting)
But despite the enthusiasm and optimism of American soccer fans here, the U.S. team wasn't able to deliver. Both the U.S. and the Czech Republic are ranked among the top five teams in the world by the International Soccer Association. But the Czechs outplayed the Americans on several levels and dominated the game. They captured momentum in the first five minutes when Jan Koller scored the first of the Czech Republic's three goals.
Czech fans watching the game on a big screen TV in a Gelsenkirchen park erupted with joy at the early score. After that the Americans continued to make amateurish mistakes that the Czechs exploited to secure an easy win. Expectations were high that this U.S. team would reach the quarterfinals like the Americans did in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea. So the loss came as surprise to disappointed fans.
Mr. MICHAEL LAMPORTA(ph): My name is Michael Lamporta. I live in Dallas, Texas. I knew the Czech Republic was going to be hard, but I didn't think they were going to beat us 3 to 0. I mean, this is a huge hole we are in now, because we have to beat Italy and Ghana. I don't know, stranger things have happened. We still have a chance, but we're in a big hole.
MARTIN: But others, like Dennis Espinoza(ph) of Chicago, were ready to put the loss behind them and move on with complete faith in their team's ability to come back fighting.
Mr. DENNIS ESPINOZA: Right now, they're just playing a little too conservative. I think that they need to take a few more shots, get a little bit more aggressive. Yeah, we'll get some goals. We just have to get that first goal. After we break that ice, we'll start coming in. The USA will win it all. You'll see, USA will definitely be in the final.
MARTIN: But for that to happen the U.S. has to make it out of the first round of the tournament, and that means winning their next game, which takes place on Saturday against Italy.
Rachel Martin NPR News, Gelsenkirchen, Germany.
WERTHEIMER: You can find the latest results from the World Cup and the tournament schedule at npr.org/worldcup.
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