As an Englishman this World Cup has been pretty dreadful for my team, with the Three Lions out after barely a week.
But watching as a neutral it has been enthralling, with the USA and Belgium serving up the latest thrilling chapter on Tuesday night.
Belgium were perhaps deserved winners in the end given the amount of chances they created, but it was hard not to feel a large degree of sympathy for the USMNT given the effort they had put in over the 120 minutes.
I also doubt a 90 minute 0-0 draw – and eventual 2-1 defeat – has ever been so warmly received in America, a nation where football is far from the number one sport.
I don’t mean that as a condescending European either, I know all too well that football/soccer has a huge, knowledgeable and ever growing fan base across the Atlantic.
The MLS is no longer a sub-standard retirement home for ageing players past their prime. While the national team are no longer viewed as plucky underdogs - they stand side by side with the rest of the world’s elite – something the organisers of USA ’94 must have dreamed of 20 years go.
But this game did seem to capture the imagination of the US public like never before. Those who have previously viewed the game with suspicion were lured in by the blood, sweat and tears offered up by every player. TV stars, actors, singers, hell even the President were viewing the match. And as a football fan that is wonderful to see.
What was also wonderful to see was the reaction to one man’s display in particular. You know whom I am talking about.
Tim Howard threatened to become a one-man destroyer of Belgian dreams, steadfastly refusing to let the ball past like the footballing equivalent of Gandalf. His 16 saves is a World Cup record and his display – even in defeat – will go down in history.
It is also an emphatic answer to those who perhaps questioned whether – at 35 – Everton should consider replacing him.
Goalkeepers can play on much longer than outfield players, even until their early forties, but some do begin to lose their reactions as time goes by, the lost split-second proving costly at the highest level of the game.
Thankfully it seems Tim Howard is still very much at the peak of his powers and will be a reassuring presence in the Everton goal for years to come.
And for those who are relative newcomers to the sport I urge you to check out Howard’s performances in an Everton jersey.
Everton’s team display many of the characteristics shown by Jürgen Klinsmann’s side during this memorable World Cup. And after a record-breaking points season last year that ensured a return to European competition next campaign, it would be great to have you all along for the ride.