BOCA RATON, Fla. — Despite the United States men's national team's tough loss against the Netherlands on Saturday, South Florida fans describe a winning atmosphere for the highly-anticipated World Cup match.
The team made waves in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, advancing from group play undefeated. The U.S. had a 1-1 draw against Wales, then a no-score stalemate against England and finally beat Iran 1-0 Tuesday to propel forward into the knockout stage for the round-of-16 matchup.
The match, which began at 10 a.m. on the east coast, drew fans far and wide to South Florida pubs, including the Lion & Eagle English Pub located off Federal Highway in Boca Raton.
The pub's owner, Rob Allen, said a couple hundred packed both the inside and outside of the pub, with some fans arriving as early as 7 a.m.
The early wake-up call was no big deal for some fans, like Jeff Tartarkin, who told NewsChannel 5 he's gotten up much earlier for matches before.
"I did come in at 4 a.m.," Tartarkin said. "I think you have to do it. It's one of those niche things, sort of, I can say I was up and about watching, getting breakfast, drinking coffee and watching the game."
Allen and his employees got up early to prepare the pub for fans. However, he said he doesn't mind the early morning wake-up call since the increase in revenue and the exciting environment make it well worth it.
"It's definitely a shot in the arm right before the holidays," Allen said. "After the last few years, COVID put a damper on the service industry, so the World Cup is definitely needed and appreciated."
Fans agreed the camaraderie is needed — perhaps more so than the outcome of the match itself.
"The atmosphere out here is electric," soccer fan Steven Wotocek said. "I mean, it really is. That's why I come out here. I'm standing in the sun. I don't even have a hat, I'm balding, but it's the atmosphere you come out here for."
"When America plays, everyone sort of rallies around the same team, so you've got a hundred-something people all cheering one way, and it's impossible to not get excited," Tartarkin said. "You're hugging people you don't know. You're high-fiving people you don't know, and that's the best part of being at the pub for the game."
However, the U.S. fell to the Netherlands 3-1 on Saturday, disappointing Tartarkin and other fans' predictions.
"Guaranteed win," Tartarkin said confidently at the beginning of the match. "I don't know who's gonna score, but they're gonna win."
Even though he was wrong Tartarkin and Wotocek said they can walk away without too much disappointment, knowing a community came together to represent a country they're proud of regardless.
"I love this place. I love the USA. I love soccer," Wotocek said.
The Lion and Eagle English Pubwill air every World Cup game through the final round.
The knockout stage is a win-or-go-home phase of the tournament, meaning now that the U.S. has lost they are officially out of the World Cup, losing another chance at finally making it to the finals.
The U.S. has never made it to the final round, much less won a World Cup.
The Netherlands advances to the quarterfinal round and will play Friday against the winner of Argentina and Australia.