By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
It wasn't a good sign for the Spanish contingent when Rob, co-owner of the Amsterdam Tavern, began rattling off the results of the previous winners of the EuroCup who'd made it to the World Cup. Like some soccer Rain Man, he went all the way back to 1968, detailing how every champion of the European tournament went on to fail miserably two years later on the global stage.
Outwardly, the Spain fans were unfazed. This year's squad looked unstoppable in qualifying and along with Brazil was considered a co-favorite to take home the Cup. The team boasts an unparalleled roster — to the point that many of its reserves would be in the starting lineups of other countries. And yet despite their almost unparalleled talent and an elegant style of play that emphasizes precision passing, Spain has never won a World Cup.
So it was that beneath their confident veneer, every Furia Roja fan in attendance was secretly a wee bit worried about the opening match against Switzerland.
A dozen or so Spain fans congregated on picnic tables in front of a flat-screen TV on the back patio. Some sipped Estrella Galicia beer, virtually all sucked cigarettes (no smoking is allowed inside the Amsterdam) as though the country was about to be re-conquered by the Moors.
Spain kept creating scoring opportunities with crisp, fluid passes but could never find the back of the net against an entrenched Swiss defense. As shots rattled off the crossbar and the hands of Switzerland's keeper, a hazy nicotine cloud accumulated under the tent.
In the 52nd minute, Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes broke free on a counterattack, leapt over the diving Spanish goalkeeper, knocked over a defender and scored what the announcers later called "a scrappy, ugly goal."
At the Amsterdam, shoulders slumped and Marlboros ignited.
The Gringos Gone Wild Cup for Most Americans Cheering Mexico
And the cup goes to... the Crowd at Latino Americana during Mexico's game against France
"I feel like I'm rooting for the neighborhood team."
That was the succinct explanation given by Evan Sult, drummer/vocalist for Cherokee Street-based indie-rock duo Sleepy Kitty, when asked why he was rooting for Mexico in its match against France.
Sult was sitting on the patio at Carniceria Latino Americana, sipping Corona and consuming a vegetarian burrito the size of an infant. Around him a raucous crowd of Mexicans was sprinkled with a handful of enthusiastic-sounding Americans, all of whom seemed at home joining in the cheers, throwing back cervezas, laughing at all the jokes being shouted in Spanish and going wild with everyone else when Mexico scored its first goal.
And what a goal it was.
Javier "El Chicharito" Hernández narrowly escaped an offside penalty when he broke free from the French defense and brought down a lofted pass from Rafael Márquez with his chest. After juking the helpless goalkeeper, Hernández tapped the ball into the wide-open net, screaming at the top of his lungs and spinning circles as he looked for a teammate to hug.
At Latino Americana, a tall, bald white man who'd been drinking a margarita from a gallon-size goblet let loose a deafening fingers-in-the-mouth whistle. Minerva López, the joker from Mexico's previous match against South Africa, spun circles on the sidewalk and waved a Mexican flag over her head.
Along with electric striker Giovani Dos Santos, the 22-year-old Hernández is part of the wave of the Mexican squad's exciting new young players. Upon being informed of this fact, a middle-aged American woman at Sult's table announced, "I like the young players. They look like little babies out there."
The Breakfast Club Cup for Exceptional Hangover Cure
And the cup goes to... Tip-Top Food & Spirits
Djordje "George" Korac is the soccer-mad Serbian American owner of Tip Top Food & Spirits in Soulard. Korac is short and barrel-chested, and he wears several gold chains around his neck and a sweat-stained bandanna on his head. He bends slightly backward when he laughs, and the sound that comes out is a muffled baritone roar.
Korac opened his bar at 6 a.m. on a Friday (after closing down at 2 a.m. the night before) to watch his country take on a powerful German team. Three other people — none of them Serbian — showed up to watch.
Asked if the kitchen was offering a special that morning, Korac replied, "Double cheeseburger," implying that the creation was the most appetizing food in the world at 6:45 a.m.
Pat, one of the stubble-faced American twentysomethings at the bar, turned and said, "Why do I feel like he's the kind of guy who could put down a cheeseburger and a beer right now, no problem?"
The better option was evapii: finger-size "special Serbian sausages" served with olive oil-drenched pita, salted tomatoes, fried red peppers, red onions and a small log of feta cheese.
The menu breaks it down phonetically — "che-vap-chee-chee" — but Korac explained that everyone calls them "che-vaps" or "chee-chees." Whatever you call them, they were a unique, tasty blend of grease and cheese. Combined with a Budweiser and a 1-0 Serbia victory, they were the perfect antidote for bottle flu.