To step out of the Miami Beach sun and into brown-on-brown The Abbey Brewing Company for an afternoon World Cup game Thursday definitely felt like striding across the Atlantic to a small English town’s bar.
Various accents requested beers. Cigarette smoke rose. A few patrons wore England’s jersey with the Three Lions crest. Opinions on England’s personnel deployment were given. Most folks seemed to know each other and the staff. Not packed despite The Abbey running its happy hour specials during World Cup games.
Just on the setup, Uruguay-England promised the drama already typical of this World Cup. Italy’s defeat of England and Costa Rica’s upset of Uruguay hung a Loser Leaves Town threat over this game.
The worldwide telecast directors took every opportunity to go to closeups of Uruguayan superstar scorer Luis Suarez, well-known to England fans. Playing for Liverpool, Suarez led the English Premier League with 31 goals.
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It took me a bit before I realized Suarez, the sometimes cynically brilliant bad boy of soccer, looked like a grown-up version of teen actor Bradley Steven Perry, best known as the cynically brilliant bad boy “Gabe” on Disney Channel’s Good Luck, Charlie.
A well-placed nod by Suarez headed in a 1-0 lead for Uruguay.
As I ducked back into the South Beach light at halftime, a young man in an England jersey congenially asked how I was. Upon negotiating the accent barrier — his thick accent from a part of London, my nasal Midwestern twang — our conversation dribbled across myriad soccer topics.
He suggested several second-half coaching moves England’s Roy Hodgson should make, all of which Hodgson eventually made, save the removal of star Wayne Rooney. Rooney’s subpar performance against Italy drew LeBron-level heat from England fans who weren’t blaming Hodgson for playing him out of position (or at all).
And I learned his name was Sanjay and he was on a South Florida vacation for his 30th birthday. He’s also a Chelsea season-ticket holder.
Back inside, just as Sanjay lamented how an England loss would mean less time off and jubilation back home for World Cup games, Rooney’s right foot bunted home his first goal in three World Cups. The mood in the bar grew charged. England had carried the play and continued to do so. Sanjay loudly pleaded for one more strike.
As we discussed what result from Friday’s Italy-Costa Rica game would best coordinate for England with a 1-1 tie, Suarez attacked off the right side. English goalkeeper Joe Hart took the inside near post away, but gave the wide side, to his right. Hart also seemed to guess low, sliding as Suarez’s rocket zoomed over his right shoulder to make it 2-1 with less than six minutes left.
The game’s end brought a round of shots out for the Englishmen at the bar. Before the tournament, nobody expected England to need a defibrillator after two games of group play. But after the Italy loss, with Suarez waiting to save Uruguay’s World Cup, everyone knew this could happen. So, resignation trumped angst.
I exited onto 16th Street into the kind of afternoon rain that usually prompts me to put Penny Lane on the iPod. Sadly for Sanjay and those in the Abbey, the afternoon belonged to another Liverpool star.