Soccer fans cheer on U.S. in Civic Center Plaza

Thousands of soccer fans clad in red, white and blue gathered in San Francisco’s Civic Center Plaza Thursday morning to watch the U.S. take on Germany in the World Cup on a jumbo screen set up outside City Hall.

This morning’s match in Recife, Brazil, ended with a 1-0 German victory but the U.S. will still advance to the knockout round because of a 2-1 Portugal victory over Ghana. Fans seated on blankets and lawn chairs or standing shoulder-to-shoulder watched largely in tense silence through the first half, which ended with no score.

“We believe!” the crowd chanted at halftime, many waving American flags or draped in them, or with their faces painted in stars and stripes. As the match was going on, some people played soccer in the fields on either side of the plaza.

America Scores organizer Colin Schmidt said at the break:

“0-0 at half is good. Hope is eternal at halftime. … You never root for a tie, but a tie in this case is good.”

America Scores organized the outdoor event today with the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. It didn’t remain a tie for long into the second half, as Thomas Muller quickly put Germany up 1-0.

The crowd loudly cheered when U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard blocked a shot by Per Mertesacker, but gasps and groans rose as Muller quickly fired another shot that Howard couldn’t keep out of the goal. A few scattered cheers went up from Germany fans, while others in the crowd, undeterred, began shouting:

“USA! USA!”

Tobias Packsch, 30, was one of the fans in the crowd cheering on Germany — he arrived in San Francisco from Berlin on Wednesday night. Packsch said he was satisfied with the 1-0 score:

“The U.S. are a very tough team, it’s a good result.”

Oluwaseun Okusanya, 28, a structural engineer from Oakland who stood in the back of the crowd propped on a bicycle and wearing an Oakland A’s cap, was less satisfied with the result:

“I’m a little sad about that goal, but it’s all right. … I think the first half was a lot better.”

Okusanya said that he was supposed to be working this morning at his office in the South of Market area of San Francisco but said that he’d rather be in the plaza. He said his employer didn’t care because most people in the office were watching the match anyway.

Schmidt said that he and America Scores are hoping to keep that momentum going for youth soccer events beyond the World Cup. “We want to bring kids out here” for healthy year-round sports on the plaza, he said. Soccer is perfect for the neighborhood because of its “international global appeal,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt estimated that 5,000 people turned out on Sunday to watch the U.S. play Portugal and between 2,500 and 3,000 fans came out today. The U.S. will next play the winner of Group H on Tuesday at 1 p.m. and the outdoor viewings in Civic Center Plaza will continue.

—  Scott Morris, Bay City News

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