Alfredo, a construction worker, could only find a table behind the wall at Panchita's. Bless unlimited data.

[dropcap]All[/dropcap] those 2014 reports were lying: Soccer may never be big enough in the United States. Not enough for a team to be the pride of the country, or for a result to have a major, long-lasting sociocultural impact. Certainly not enough to break the routine, like it does almost everywhere else, even for the fairly uninterested. How does one not recognize the man flipping the double bird at the World Cup?

Well, too bad for them.

For those who have time to follow our ramblings, may we go on and bring them to the light. Tell them that Brazil has won the World Cup a record five times. That Costa Rica has one of the best goalies in the world. That Peru just won its first World Cup game in 40 years! (¡Viva el Perú!)

There are things that may take a little longer to explain, though, like what’s up with that Maradona guy. Or how that team in the green Adidas jersey embarrassing itself yesterday morning was actually Germany. Not that Mexico was doing much better.

A worried crowd follows Mexico’s 7 a.m. game against Sweden. ‘El Tri’ lost 0-3, but still advanced.

[dropcap]It[/dropcap] is one thing to anger your fans with poor play as they make their way toward alcohol poisoning. But doing so while they’re having breakfast is just inconsiderate. As Mexico begged for elimination against Sweden on Wednesday morning, supporters at El Cafetazo on 16th Street shook their heads disapprovingly over their tamales.

After winning its first two World Cup games and lighting up the Mission, El Tri’s performance was a sort of regression to the mean. Sweden did not give them the same spaces as Germany, and pressed relentlessly. This resulted in more fighting for the ball and less fast-break counters for Osorio’s men.

Sobered by the champurrado and the specter of their premature boasting going nowhere, fans in full work attire stopped looking up, and instead turned to their phones. Germany was about to squander its chances against South Korea, and soon gifted Mexico its qualification.

The crowd was crestfallen as it decamped from the canteen. There were no Germans to mock, nor Koreans to hoist over their shoulders. The meltdown had earned Mexico a round-of-16 game against Brazil. They could have had it all; now they may be the next victims of the Neymar flop.

[dropcap]Argentinians[/dropcap] had a really dramatic, over-the-top weekend at the World Cup. Players had rebelled against their coach after their defeat against Croatia. Journalists were unpacking all their hard-earned gossip in hours-long TV specials. The federation even flew a witch doctor to the team’s headquarters in Russia. And still, La Albiceleste was only managing a tie with Nigeria, into the waning moments of the game.

At The Pork Store, a blonde woman in the next table kept screaming in her porteño accent: “¡Qué pelotudos que son!” (“You idiots!”)

Her American friend, sitting by her side, shopping on her laptop, seemed immune to the noise, and would only notice the game was tied a few minutes later. So Mariana, the Argentinian, became my buddy over halftime.

A fashion designer from Buenos Aires, she has been living in San Francisco for 18 years, and often comes to the Mission, this time for a conveniently scheduled 11 a.m. lunch. She had no more time nor patience for my small talk once the second half began.

Mariana, who not that long ago had been praising Messi for having “a magnet on his foot,” was soon screaming at him. Argentina had lost the plot again. “Retire, Higuaín!” yelled a guy in a white and light-blue jersey. Farther away, an older lady with a similar accent kept standing up and sitting down, turning from one screen to the other.

And then the mess paid off, as a cross found the Argentinian center-back in the center of the opposite area.

Tempting luck and living to tell the story seems to be a treat. But the players overextended themselves just to survive the group stage, and the break with the coach is bound to become a huge problem. So is France.

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] first round of the World Cup is not over yet, and all the fun is in Thursday’s 7 a.m. games. In a perfect world, Colombia and Senegal –both fan favorites — would go through, but they happen to play each other, in what could be a win-or-go-home situation. Teams are rarely looking for the same thing in final group games: Some most likely need a win, like Colombia; others can do with a tie, like Senegal. Other teams, like England and Belgium, may even be playing to lose? Knockout-stage drama we will unpack in the next post. For now, try not to choke on your chips!

Happy World Cup!

Previous coverage.

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