Duke athletes hail from far and wide—including several countries currently competing in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. This is part three in a running series.
Gretchen Miller, a senior central-defender from Fairport, N.Y., has been hard at work this summer in Beaverton, Ore., at an internship with Nike, but the nine-hour time difference between South Africa and Oregon hasn’t kept her from following the United States’ magical run to the round of 16. This transcript comes from a phone interview conducted on the eve of the Red, White and Blue’s colossal showdown in Rustenberg with Ghana. The questions are in bold.
How closely are you following the World Cup?
Well I’m on the West Coast, so usually when I get up there’s one game just starting and one already played, so I’ll watch the games before I go to work [at Nike], and then while I’m there people usually have the games on.
Where were you when the group-clinching goal against Algeria was scored?
I was at work, and my manager actually didn’t come in that day, so a bunch of us went into his office to watch the game. We were kind of freaking out because the game was coming down to the last two minutes [with the US needing a goal to advance], and the people I was with didn’t really follow soccer, so it was pretty interesting. But when Landon scored, you could hear screams from the hallways and everyone was high-fiving.
How big of a controversy would there have been if Landon doesn’t score, and we get eliminated?
From the coverage I’ve seen after the game it’s been one of the main talking points of the commentators. I know there was complete outrage after [Maurice Edu’s] goal was called back in the Slovenia game, but one of the interesting things I’ve heard [from experts] is that we shouldn’t have put ourselves in that position in the first place. To go down 2-0 in the first half [against Slovenia] and have to fight back like that…while disallowing that goal hurt us, in reality we should have never put ourselves in that position.
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There have been a few questionable calls and disallowed goals in the tournament, but FIFA has continued to take a stand against implementing any kind of replay system. Is that something you would like to see in the international game, and perhaps even at the college level?
If you look at the other major sports [in America], they have replay systems in place. Referees are human, and they make mistakes. The game moves so quickly that having something where they can look at [plays] again and slow them down, like in the NFL, I think would be beneficial. However, I think that soccer’s such a free game that’s quick and on-the-move, that replay might take something away.
We’ve got a favorable draw in front of us if the United States can get past Ghana, so how far do you think the US can go?
I think the next match [against Ghana] will be the most difficult match we’ve had thus far. Ghana is an incredibly athletic team, so I think they pose some interesting challenges to us. I think that if we’re smart in trying to break them down, and try to play like we did against Spain [in the 2009 Confederations Cup], then I think that we have a really good shot to beat them. If we get past Ghana, hopefully we wouldn’t have a let-down game [against either Uruguay or South Korea], but I think making it to the semis would be really feasible.
We’ve seen throughout the tournament that the traditional soccer powers aren’t invincible, and that just about any country can win on a given day. The round of 16 starts today, but who is your pick to lift the trophy in Johannesburg come July 11th.
You know, I’ll probably go with Brazil. I know they’ve gone away from their typical Brazilian flair, and are focusing on winning no matter how it looks. It’s hard to say though, I think on any day there could be an upset.
Aside from the soccer, one of the biggest stories of the Cup, at least in the American press, has been the Vuvuzelas. Do you hate them, or would you like to see them in Koskinen this fall?
I think it might add a bit of flair to Koskinen…but it might not help us out on the field too much. From everyone I’ve talked to, people just can’t stand them. I’ve gotten to the point where I’m not noticing them, because [the sound] is so constant.