I thought I had this whole blog series figured out. Today's highlighted match was supposed to be Portugal-Germany. It's the biggest game of the day from a contender standpoint, after all—the indomitable power of Die Mannschaft, who've finished third or better in the last three World Cups, locking horns with a formidable Portugal squad built around the world's second best player (yeah, I said it).
But a funny thing happened on the way to the office this morning. My iPhone was on shuffle and lo, as I was pulling into the parking lot, the dulcet tones of none other than Mr. Lee Greenwood himself floated through the speakers. Every last hair follicle standing on end, "God Bless the U.S.A." permeated my entire being. It was a sign. A sign that read thusly: 'MERICA!!!
Portugal, smortugal, Germany, schermany. It's Team America's first World Cup game, y'all! I'm challenging anyone that is proud to be an American ("where at least I know I'm freeeee") to STOP whatever you're doing today at 5PM CST. For the love of all that is everything you've ever held sacred, DON'T MISS THIS GAME! This country is great at almost every sport—keep your cricket, India—but as a nation we've been consistently outclassed in the world's A#1 game.
As Hunger Games analogies go, we're Rue, whereas the rest of our group consists of Katniss (Germany), Finnick (Portugal), and Peeta (Ghana). Our team needs sponsors in the worst way. So, please get pumped up about this! Watch this video. I'll wait… If that doesn't light a fire in your heart, consult a physician. Let's all be soccer fans and root the red, white, and blue on to victory! Every Rue has their day, and today is ours.
Match to Watch: USA vs. Ghana
Stars and Stripes against the Black Stars. If you're a World Cup enthusiast, that should sound familiar. That's because this is the third consecutive World Cup we've faced Ghana, and we're an ugly 0-2 in those tilts. And this grudge match won't be any easier. Ghana have a bevy of speed and talent in the attack, led by Asamoah Gyan and Kevin Prince Boateng. We, the Yanks, have a bone to pick and finally have some offensive power with which to exact revenge. Jozy Altidore and Clint Dempsey are looking to find the back of the net early and often, facilitated by Michael Bradley in the middle. In all likelihood, this match ends in a draw, but I'm taking the Americans here. It may not be pretty, but USMNT coach Jürgen Klinsmann will find a way to lead us to victory. My Pick: USA 2, Ghana 1
Player to Watch: Michael Bradley
I used to think the only reason Bradley made this squad was because his dad used to be the coach. That was until he consistently made plays like this. He's now the fulcrum of this team, tracking back on defense, making key passes on the counterattack (see hyperlink above), and providing the creative spark that the USMNT sorely needs. For Ghana to go down in flames today, Bradley needs to be at his absolute best.
Match Day Dish: Smoky Portuguese-Style Mussels (Portugal)
My Lee Greenwood change of heart didn't have a built-in match dish contingency plan, sadly. Call this a consolation dish for ignoring Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.'s plight against ze Germans. The good news is this dish is super fast—25 minutes until it's time to enjoy the fruits of your labor. The smoked paprika and kielbasa give the mussels a great smoky flavor. Don't forget to send your recipe pictures in for our Instagram contest (details here) with the hashtag #CLKickingDishes. My Argentinean Pork rendition will go up later today. Cheers, and happy World Cup day five! USA!!!
Total Time: 25 min.
- 2 teaspoons canola oil
- 2 ounces chopped turkey kielbasa
- 1 1/4 cups chopped onion
- 8 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 pound red potatoes, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (about 3 cups)
- 1 3/4 cups unsalted chicken stock (such as Swanson)
- 1/2 cup white wine
- 40 mussels (about 1 1/2 pounds), scrubbed and debearded
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 lemon wedges