When the first goal hit the back of the net, the crowd in the bar went wild. When the equaliser came there was a collective, resigned sigh. Their team is not expected to progress far in this World Cup but, all the same, they dare to dream. No, not the United States, but South Korea – some of whose supporters I joined on Tuesday in a bar near Wilshire Boulevard at the heart of LA’s Koreatown.
The US is a young football nation, but look in the right places and you’ll find that Los Angeles, for a few weeks, has become one of the world’s least likely “soccer” cities. And why not? This is where Beckham came for the twilight years of his playing career. The current US coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, lives just down the coast in Huntington Beach. And the Rose Bowl in next-door Pasadena was where Italy went down to Brazil on penalties in the 1994 World Cup final.
At the Village Idiot pub on Melrose, a favourite of Hollywood Brits, there was a queue down the block for the first England game. People celebrated when the US beat Ghana, others when Mexico drew with Brazil, and yet more were glued to South Korea vs Russia. South Korea reached the semi-finals on home turf in 2002... which makes them a more successful World Cup nation than the US or Mexico, never past the last eight.