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An American Fanís Journal

June 19, 1998: French cabbies and waiters know the truth.

June 16, 1998: The Great Paris Umbrella Riot.

June 14, 1998: A crowning moment for Nigeria.

June 13, 1998: Let the World Cup debate begin.

June 10, 1998: World Cup off to good start.

An American Fan's Journal: Free tickets provide Cupís best treat.

By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes Correspondent

LYON, France (Sunday, June 21, 1998) -- Come to a World Cup and after a week or so of non-stop world class soccer you can begin to lose perspective. Take yesterday as an example. We were sitting at breakfast when a Japanese gentleman at the next table leaned over to say he had two tickets to the Mexico-Belgium match that afternoon that he was not going to use, would we want them. Of course, we would, we replied.

Tickets in hand, we now faced a slight problem. We were having breakfast in Lyon, and the Mexico-Belgium match was taking place in Bordeaux, about as far across France as you could get from where we were sitting. A quick call to Air France, revealed they had two seats on a Lyon-Bordeaux flight that would get us to the Stade de Lescure in plenty of time. They also had a flight back to Lyon that would get us to bed by the witching hour.

So off we went, thankful that Air France had quoted our round trip in francs so we didn't have to think how much this little side trip was costing. It turned out surprising reasonable as Air France gave us a weekend discount fare.

We ended up seeing what so far has been far and away the best match of the opening round. I don't think I will ever forget the sight of a Belgium player chesting a cross directly between the legs of Jorge Campos, a shot that most soccer moms would expect their 10-year old goalkeepers to stop easily. I can hardly wait till the Cup is over and Campos can take his place as MLS's 10th, or so, best goalie (and second best on Chicago after Zach Thorton).

The Mexican comeback from 2-0 down was thrilling. They and their fans were joyful. Mexico now has the same kind of mission impossible as the U.S. It must get a point out of it's upcoming match with Holland, or hope that Belgium stumbles against South Korea, in order for Mexico to go through to the round of 16.

A travel tip for you. The food in the Bordeaux airport is about the best airport food I have ever had, and the wine list is about equal to the top France restaurants in America.


A final note, the city in France that seems to have best captured the spirit of the World Cup is Lyon. As bored as Parisians are with the whole Cup thing, citizens of Lyon seem genuinely excited. As an example, students from high school and university language classes have fanned out throughout the city to act as on the spot translators and guides for foreign visitors. Banners and flags are everywhere. People in the street are talking about the matches, especially those here.

It would be a shame to come to France for the Cup and only stay in Paris. Lyon is what a World Cup city should be.

Marylandís Bob Wagman wrote a nationally syndicated political column for Scripps-Howard for many years. At the same time he has covered soccer in North America for British and South African newspapers since the days of the North American Soccer League. His "Football In America" column now appears regularly in British newspapers. He can be e-mailed at MobileWag@aol.com.