In the latest in a series of exclusive player interviews for the FIFA World Cup 2022, Christian Pulisic shares his memories of watching the USA at previous tournaments growing up and speaks about this one in Qatar...
Christian Pulisic, who scored the goal against Iran that put his side into the knockout stages, is one of the senior members of a youthful USA squad in Qatar for this year's World Cup, having been a key figure during their qualifying campaign and captained the team to victory at the 2021 CONCACAF Nations League, when he scored the winning goal against Mexico in the final.
Like all but one of his international team-mates in Qatar, 2022 is Pulisic's first experience of playing at a World Cup. Ahead of the USA hosting the next edition, alongside neighbours Canada and Mexico, the Chelsea winger is hoping to emulate the exploits of the USA heroes he grew up watching in 2010 and 2014, which feature heavily in his favourite World Cup memories.
First World Cup you remember?
'I actually think the first one I can remember was when I was living in England when I was very young. I can just remember watching some of the games with my family. It must have been 2006 and I was only seven, so I don’t really remember too much, about the tournament or being around the England fans. I just remember watching it with my family.'
What are your memories of watching growing up?
'It was always a big event with the family, so we would sit down and watch as many of the games as we could. My family are all big into their football so we all get together and watch the games together, for sure.
'Watching the World Cup together maybe isn’t as big a thing in America as it is in England, but for sure you get together with your family and watch the games if you’re into football.'
First memory of watching in the USA?
'South Africa in 2010 I have a decent memory of, with the opening game against England, when Tim Howard was at his best and Rob Green's mistake let Clint Dempsey score the equaliser.
'I always loved the World Cup and watching the USA in the 2014 World Cup is some of the best memories I have of watching football growing up, for sure. That was a really good tournament for us and a really good team, with players like Howard, Dempsey and Michael Bradley.
'It was the one where we were unlucky not to beat Portugal, because they equalised in added time, and we scored a late winner against Ghana. We went through in a really tough group that had Germany in it as well, we had some really good memories from that one.
'Those two tournaments are both good memories for me, especially 2014. I always wanted to play for the national team, so that was big inspiration for me. Those were some of my heroes and I wanted to be like them, for sure.'
Favourite World Cup goal?
'For me, I think it was when Landon Donovan scored against Algeria in the 91st minute of the last group game in 2010. It was such a tight group and we were going out until that goal gave us the win and put us above England and Slovenia.
'Just the memory of that sending us to the next round as group winners and the celebrations. I just remember running around my house and it was a really big moment, so that was like the biggest one for me, for sure.'
Memorable World Cup moment?
'I think the final between Italy and France in 2006 sticks out, with the Zinedine Zidane headbutt on Marco Materazzi and their goals and then going into penalties before Italy won. There’s so many World Cup memories, though.
'Just remembering some more of the best goals, not by the USA, there are so many of them. Andres Iniesta scoring for Spain in the 2010 final, Mario Gotze scoring the winning goal for Germany in the 2014 final, both in extra time, those moments stick with you forever.'
Best player you’ve seen at a World Cup?
'I would say James Rodriguez in the 2014 World Cup for Colombia, when he had an unbelievable tournament. He scored some fantastic goals and that was special.
'There have been a lot of amazing performances, but that one is the player that I remember the most, for some reason.'
Favourite World Cup kit?
'It was before I was born but I’ve obviously seen pictures of the USA kits in 1994 everyone liked and they were good. There’s been some amazing kits for the USA since. I remember all the kits, not just the World Cup ones, so it's hard to think which ones were at a World Cup.
'I remember one that was blue with a white stripe we wore as the second kit at the 2010 World Cup that was really good. There’s been so many good ones for the US that I remember, though.'
Have you played in a World Cup at youth level?
'I played and scored in the Under-17 World Cup in Chile in 2015. We had a tough group but it was a good experience. That was a big one for me, it was special, I just wish we had a better tournament. We had a great team and unfortunately we just got some tough results, but it was a big experience and it felt like a little World Cup, so it was special.'
Stadium you’d like to play a World Cup final in?
'For me it doesn’t matter which stadium I play the World Cup final in, it would be spectacular anywhere, obviously. Hopefully it will be in the Lusail Stadium in Qatar! But wherever it is, I think the moment would be so special, with my family there, it doesn’t matter where you are to be honest.'
Playing in Qatar 2022…
'It’s everyone’s dream when you’re growing up, picturing yourself scoring the winning goal in the World Cup final, it’s the biggest event there is. So it’s a dream come true to be able to play in the World Cup in Qatar, it’s one of my biggest dreams just to play in the World Cup, to compete and try to win.
'People in the US are excited, the support has grown a lot. I think a lot of people are watching us at the World Cup all over America, so that's really special, and my parents are going to the games. There’s big support for the team and just for the sport in general.'
Are people in the USA already excited about hosting the next World Cup?
'I think there’s a lot of excitement about it. The sport has grown so much over the last five years and now to have a World Cup in the US, over that time in the next four years the sport is going to continue to grow, so when that comes around I think it’s going to be massive.
'People are really going to turn out and put on a show, it’s going to be a really big step just for football in our country.
'Around World Cups is the biggest time for Americans that they watch the games, so definitely the World Cup brings it to the next level, but I’ve seen the game just grow so much in general.'