The Quakes and their World Cup "what ifs"
Arturo Alvarez and Ramon Sanchez saw their dreams of competing in the 2010 World Cup Finals dashed when the Salvadoran National Team finished fifth out of six sides in the final stage of CONCACAF qualifying.
But that disappointment won’t keep the San Jose Earthquakes pair from watching the action as it unfolds in South Africa, starting today with the hosts’ 1-1 draw against Mexico.
“Obviously, we wanted to be playing there, but the only thing we can do is just sit back and enjoy the World Cup,” Sánchez said in Spanish, with Álvarez translating. “It’ll be a good one.”
For a younger player such as Álvarez, who will turn 25 later this month, it’s easier to avoid bitterness with thoughts of the future.
“The good thing about it is that we have the opportunity to maybe qualify for the next World Cup,” said an optimistic Álvarez.
Quakes coach Frank Yallop also never made it out of qualifying as a player for Canada or as its national team coach; nonetheless, he was full of excitement heading into the opener.
“You look forward to it, but you don’t realize how much you like it until the first match,” Yallop said. “And then off you go.”
Although the Quakes have several internationals on the roster, only one —Bobby Convey, with the US in 2006— has participated in the World Cup Finals. Convey is not, however, holding court in the back of the bus as teammates listen in rapt attention to his stories of the US’ journey through Germany.
“We don’t really talk about it, because there’s no point,” said Convey, who fell out early from coach Bob Bradley’s plans after a subpar 2009. “It’s just kind of negative. Everyone knows that I played in the World Cup the last time around, and I guess the natural progression would have been for me to go this time as well, but we don’t really talk about it. I just focus on being here.”
Yallop may have the worst case of World Cup “what-ifs” among the Quakes, though. He was a defender on the Canadian squad that needed a win at home against Mexico on the final day of CONCACAF qualifying to secure a berth in the 1994 World Cup Finals. Instead, the team lost 2-1, giving up the game-winner late, and was forced into a two-legged intercontinental playoff with Australia, which the Aussies won on penalty kicks in Sydney.
“Everything,” Yallop replied when asked what participation in a World Cup Finals would have meant to him. “When you start playing, you’re dreaming of the World Cup. I would have loved to be able to do that.”
Just like many fans who are without their own country to root for in South Africa, Yallop’s rooting allegiance lies Brazil and Argentina because of their unmatched technical prowess.
“They just look good,” Yallop said. “They just do the right things. They’re exciting, but they’re strong.”
Alvarez can get behind half of that sentiment, at least.
“I personally want to see Argentina and Messi do well,” said Álvarez, who is less than enthralled by Brazil coach Dunga’s defensive style. “I’m always usually a Brazil fan, but you watch Brazil and their play now is not the same.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @sjquakes.