A sunny day of World Cup, from the outside of Mission Local's offices.

[dropcap]This[/dropcap] is why we can’t have nice things: We just keep craving more. Messi lights up for 20 minutes, and Argentinians want him to turn into old caudillo Diego Maradona. Coachless Spain starts stringing its passes and we visualize the goal that will never come. Mexican players start dreaming “cosas chingonas” (“badass things”), and their fans expect that longing alone to get them past their well-earned, Portuguese-speaking round-of-16 problem.

Illusion was killed by a reality check, but where would we be without it? Certainly not waking up at 7 a.m. (or earlier) to run to the nearest screen. Sometimes the things we imagine actually happen: a fully-realized potential, a major change in personality, a turn of fate. But more often than not, they don’t. So we pick another, more hopeful perspective to live through.

Or we can actually dream too much. That’s how I missed my trip to the Mission Monday morning. I only got to watch shattered Mexican dreams on TV.

Fans cheer for Uruguay against Portugal inside Mission Street Sports Bar, on June 30, 2018.

[dropcap]The[/dropcap] most notable occurrence of the World Cup is running into people drunk at 9 a.m. The streets are as calm and lonely as any Saturday morning; you wouldn’t know there are civilians going through an emotional roller-coaster — often for a team that is not even theirs — until you spot a concentration of fans outside a bar.

Perhaps anticipating the ways Neymar was about to terrorize them, Mexican-sounding fans had switched allegiances, first to disappointing Argentina, and later to perennial underdog Uruguay.

There has not been enough talk about La Celeste during the World Cup, but they kept a clean sheet for two weeks, and have been silently making their way to the later stages. Coached by former elementary-school teacher Óscar Tabárez, their current iteration is a mix of the old guard from their 2010 semifinal run (Suárez, Cavani, Godín) and their skillful young ‘uns (Torreira, Laxalt, Bentancur). There are not many Uruguayans in the Bay Area, let alone in the Mission, but it’s not hard to find their fans.

A bunch of them were waiting outside Mission Street Sports Bar Saturday morning at 11 a.m. The game had already started; they could see it on their cellphones. Some still wearing their Messi jerseys, others dancing on the spot — perhaps waiting to run to the bathroom — they were starting to lose their patience. I just wanted to try something new. Six minutes into the match, the bartenders took pity on their clientele. We tumbled inside as Cavani celebrated the first of his goals: a face-first ricochet.

Inside the bar, a small theater section showed the FOX broadcast on the wall. On top of it, a smaller one had the Telemundo broadcast, a few seconds ahead, sharing the deck with banners from the Warriors, Real Madrid, the Niners and the Arizona Wildcats.

Emanating from the audience, sitting in comfy couches, one could hear things that were never uttered with such passion in other games, not even in those where their team was involved. Argentinians tend to be quite morose when watching their own side; Mexicans, quietly hopeful; Peruvians, prepared for disappointment. Here, many were screaming “Vamos, vamos, vamos!” over their own clapping. Only one young man, dressed in Messi’s Argentina jersey, kept protesting the referee’s calls against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, slapping the couch with his beer-free hand.

The most admiring of “ooooohhhhs” came from time to time after a Uruguayan effort. “¡Estos sí se esmeran!” (“They do make the effort”), some kept repeating, alluding to those who don’t. Behind me, a couple of guys managed to swallow their Argentinian accents as the game wore on. They had been protesting La Albiceleste’s campaign at the beginning, then moved on to Uruguay appreciation. By the time I could ask, they seemed too inebriated to articulate. Or to remember to add “che” at the end of their sentences anymore.

They did clap along with the crowd as Uruguay qualified to the quarterfinals. Now the French are coming.

[dropcap]Among[/dropcap] the many things France did to exploit its resources against Argentina — but then again, never too much — was reinventing flight.

Reddit experts noted that what happened to that ball had a name before Benjamin Pavard kicked it to the mainstream: the Magnus effect. Most commonly seen in tennis and baseball, the phenomenon is observed when a spinning object drags air faster around one side, creating a difference in pressure that moves it in the direction of the lower-pressure side. Blame the goalie for lack of research.

A scientific challenge of a different nature was the one faced by Belgium in its round-of-16 game against Japan. Because of its assortment of first-level talent, the Red Devils have been candidates to go far in whatever tournament they entered in the past four years. They still haven’t topped their fourth-place finish at the 1986 World Cup, and haven’t even come close to beating the biggest teams.

Latin American soccer fans, however, hold them as champions of what is known as being a “pecho frío” (cold chested). The condition is characterized by a lack of passion and general disinterest in the matters at hand, even when one is 0-2 down with 30 minutes to go. Such was the Belgian situation this morning, until Japan’s goalie lent them a hand, and the fridge suddenly turned on. Tied 2-2 at the end of regulation, facing the prospect of 30 more minutes of running until fatigue, they wore out their legs in order to save their legs.

They will need to keep their chest temperature and correct their very static defensive lines if they want to stand a chance against Brazil. The best team in the tournament so far may have the best fans in the world, too. But only the best of the best know a lagging stream is the worst of pains.

Please, keep it spoiler-free.

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