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USA v El Salvador
By Marc Skinner

It can be a lonely pastime following football in the Good Ole US of A. A week old "live game" on cable just ain't enough (especially if it's some Dutch league crap) and the pay-per-view satellite subscriptions make a night out on the piss in Stockholm look pretty cheap. As a seasoned ex-pat, I've got used to getting my footie fixes whenever I can so when they installed this Internet thingy on my desktop, it didn't take me long to find BSaD. For the first time in several years I won't be sitting in the North Stand this Xmas asking my brother about the players. I thought the least I could do would be to provide a match report of the cup game I saw this weekend : USA vs El Salvador.

Now my inclination to contribute this report came from a strange sighting on the way to the ground. You expect to see colours from around the world - maybe a Juventus flag, a Man Utd scarf, a Real Madrid cap. However, this bloke walked straight past me with a Watford scarf on. Before it had registered, he had disappeared back into the crowd. I didn't even get the chance to introduce myself as a fellow Hornets fan. As I saw no other European colours there, we can naturally assume that WFC are the best supported team in the world!

It was a great gesture of the "Septics" to arrange this tie 30 minutes from my home in Boston. I guess it was no coincidence that this potentially crucial game was scheduled for probably the coldest city in America bar Anchorage to make the El Salvadorians feel as much at home as possible.

I rounded up a couple of other ex-pat mates - one Leeds and one Wimbledon - and headed off to Foxboro stadium. By American standards it's a pretty crap stadium. 65,000 all uncovered so there's no atmosphere and it's ****ing cold as it sits atop a hill. How the locals last 4 hours watching the New England Patriots I'll never know.

We'd not been organised enough to buy tickets in advance as a sell-out was unlikely. Football is gaining in popularity - all the kids seem to play it, but at this level it probably competes with women's boxing in the TV ratings war. You can't help but feel that the networks are begrudgingly being forced to give it more exposure than they think it deserves. Pay back for USA '94, I guess.

Finding a ticket tout proved easier than finding the ticket office and so $50 found its way into an illegal immigrant's pocket and we found ourselves bang in the middle of the El Salvadorian contingent.

They must have emptied the jails in New York for the weekend as there was a sizeable number of people bearing a remarkable resemblance to the villagers from the Magnificent Seven in the crowd. Probably 15,000 of the 55,000 attendance. At least I think I now know what the Spanish for "The referee's a wanker" is.

The US had already qualified, but if Jamaica lost to Mexico and El Salvador beat the US then El Salvador would be on their way to France at the expense of Jamaica. So there was something resting on the game.

The match was full of incident, but of a pretty poor standard. The first half was dominated by the Yanks. They looked organised and the El Salvadorians looked clueless. I don't think they had one shot on goal. They went in at half time lucky to be just 2-0 down.

It was nice to see good behaviour in the crowd - there was some light-hearted banter, but our rendition of "You're shit, and you've qualified" aimed at the Americans seemed to confuse those around us and no-one joined in.

The game looked dead when the Yanks increased their lead to 3-0 after the break, but all it seemed to do was send their defence to sleep. A succession of chances followed by a dubious penalty and suddenly the score was 3-2. The small people around us became rather excited as El Salvador pushed everyone forward in search of the equaliser. They hit the bar from a well-taken free kick, but could not break through the now re-organised defence. Gaping holes appeared in El Salvador's own defence and it was no surprise when America re-extended their lead and that just about killed the game.

America will pose no threat to any of the big teams in France next year. It's a sin that three teams from North America have places for France. It's quite bizarre that Italy were playing Russia to make room for Jamaica. At least England will be there and so will I!