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May 27, 2017

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Taiwanese excitement for World Cup ramps up

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Taiwanese people are into their baseball and basketball, but soccer has never given the island much cause to get excited, until in recent years, when it became a favorite pastime to troop to popular bars and cheer for your team during international competitions.

In the buildup to World Cup matches, hundreds of Taipei residents get decked out in their team's colors and wait excitedly outside sports bars, some betting on nil-nil draws while swigging beers.

British sports bars are rare in Taipei, as elsewhere else in Taiwan. But tucked in an alley in Taipei's bar-swamped East District, On Tap is an excellent example of a popular British bar that has attracted roughly 100 people cheering and toasting at every game.

U.S. soccer fans erupted in celebration across the country Thursday as their team reached the next round of the World Cup, fueling a surge of popularity for a sport that has struggled to gain a foothold in the country.

Crowds gathered in bars, pubs and in front of open-air big screens nationwide to watch Team USA battle Germany — a losing effort for the Americans, but enough to move on in the tournament in Brazil.

U.S. native Andrew Jacobus was patriotic all the way, saying that he has watched all of America's games in one sports bar or another, and showed up at last night's game with a Taiwanese colleague.

"Taiwanese people don't strike me as people who love football, but they do show a lot of interest when the World Cup begins; you see many people flooding to the bars for every game," said Jacobus, whose favorite player is Clint Dempsey.

Swiss student Anastasia Stephani headed to the bar with three local friends, all of who were rooting for Germany. "Actually, I'm for the Netherlands, because they're good as a team and playing really well this year ... it's nice being able to watch a FIFA game at a bar, because people are generally less excited back home," said Stephani.

Taiwanese students Tracy Huang, Winnie Ho and Peggy Fang claimed that they were firm supporters of Germany, but Fang added that it was "less convenient to watch live FIFA games in Taiwan," as there are fewer sports bars in Taiwan than in the U.S., where she is currently studying.

Both floors of the bar were packed to bursting, with several projector screens and TV's showing the game, soccer fans roaring at every miss and every save.

Germany's Thomas Mueller scored to give the European heavyweights a 1-0 win over the U.S. team.

But Team USA went through to the knockout round anyway, after Portugal's 2-1 victory over Ghana was not enough for them to overtake the Americans in second place in Group G.

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