The Drink-'Em-Up World Cup

America's most international city was scandalously lubed

French chatter about rental cars and a noisy hotel was interspersed with ruminations about the tepidly played game. The men split a pitcher of light American beer, then two, then three, as the woman ordered some chicken wings and sipped gin-and-tonics.

All seemed well when France went ahead early as striker Thierry Henry nailed a goal.

Then Mme. Love upset the match, unseating herself unsteadily from her beau's side to assume a position between the other two men. Another round of brews and cocktails escalated heated glares to hissed exchanges. The half of the quartet being used as foils stared at the TV screen as the quarreling couple parried with louder and louder phrases, alluding to bouts of drunken infidelity.

Daniele De Rossi smacks the USA's Brian McBride in fine Italian fashion
Daniele De Rossi smacks the USA's Brian McBride in fine Italian fashion

Then aging French soccer hero Zinedine Zidane drew his second yellow card of the tournament, meaning he would miss the last group match against Togo the following Tuesday.

The quartet became a threesome when the frustrated 'fro-bearer slammed his stein down, departing with the universally understood cry of "Suce mon bite, salope!"

When Park Ji-Sung equalized for the Korean team in the final five minutes of the game, France's hopes of reaching the tournament of sixteen were hanging by a thread.

It wasn't the turnout he'd expected. At 1:00 p.m. Monday, June 19, Rodrigo Estadella, manager of OLA Steak & Tapas in the valet-filled Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables, scanned his airy restaurant. The tables, modern designs with nice place settings, were all empty.

Four people sat at the bar, only two of them watching the Ukraine-Saudi Arabia game on the flat-screen TV set. "The game times make it hard to get people here for the World Cup," Estadella admitted, referring to the seven-hour time difference between Germany and the East Coast.

A tall, handsome man from Madrid who wore a pastel-stripe oxford and tie, Estadella had distributed glossy cards advertising his World Cup lunch menu and two-for-one drink specials. He even posted a short ad on Craigslist.

He expected a spike in business, but it never happened. "Maybe if the games were in Mexico, in the evening on TV here, the response would be better," Estadella complained.

Just then, the TV blared, "Goooooooaaaaaal!"

Estadella turned quickly toward the screen. Ukraine had scored again. Then he admitted defeat; he should have listened to his wife. "She's from Ecuador," he added. "She watches all the games. But she watches at home. I asked her why — why not go out? öThe times are bad to go out. They're too early.'"

In a few hours, when Estadella's team, Spain, would play Tunisia, at least one person would be watching: Rodrigo Estadella.

It was 10:45 a.m. Tuesday, June 20. But inside Fritz and Franz Bierhaus in Coral Gables, it felt later. The five-dollar, sixteen-ounce bottles of Erdinger were going down smooth as Germany led Ecuador two to zero. The bar was packed with a 70/30 split of German fans versus enthusiastic Latinos in yellow jerseys. Spirits ran as high as mounting bar tabs.

A young Ecuador fan fired up the crown with a rousing cheer of "Olé, olé, olé olé olé!" before the beginning of the second half.

Tom, a middle-age man with gray hair and steel blue eyes, focused intently on the plasma screen. "Why aren't I at work? Because of the game," he growled. "I'm sick."

Sebastian Storfner, a 23-year-old graduate student at FIU, was a bit friendlier. "We've got to win the Cup!" the Munich native shouted with a healthy accent. Storfner wasn't interested in that night's NBA Finals. "American sports ... aren't really popular in Europe. They just take too long, with all of the breaks and stuff."

After Germany scored a third goal, Rodrigo G., a baby-faced drinker, said he was "just cheering for Ecuador to get one goal." After partying all night to celebrate his birthday, Rodrigo was shy about revealing his age. "Since I'm drinking, I'm going to say that I'm 23." His friend Mischa Rosenthel added that they will be back on Saturday, wearing Germany's jerseys.

And how old are you, Mischa?

"I'm 18 ... 19 ... 22!" he pronounced.

Well, technically they are all old enough to drink in Germany. Prost to that!

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