"Soccer is in a league of its own when it comes to substituting athletics for politics," says Gerard Baker in The Wall Street Journal. When American and British fans sit down on either side of the Atlantic to watch the U.S. play England in the World Cup on Saturday, more than a simple game of soccer will be at stake. For the English, it is a chance to beat their "longtime friend, occasional foe, distant relative, [and] superpower usurper." While England has won seven of the two rivals' nine meetings on the soccer field, that is an "incomplete scorecard," says Baker, when you look at the clashes that have taken place in other realms:
It doesn't take into account the hefty defeat of 1776 (an early showing for the Tea Party crowd); the late winner the U.S. scored in 1781; the thumping victory on away soil the English achieved in 1812...or that very long game that lasted from the late 19th to the early 20th century and which resulted—after overtime and penalty kicks—in England finally ceding its crown as Political, Economic and Military World Champions to the ill-bred upstarts from across the Atlantic.
Then there are the cultural scores to settle: the defeat represented by all those GIs who stole away British women while the men were off fighting in the Second World War; the terrible trades that saw England provide Jane Austen and Charles Dickens while getting John Grisham and Dan Brown; or the deals whereby the U.S. got Cary Grant and Bob Hope, the other side Madonna and Gwyneth Paltrow."