Local venues brace for more World Cup fever on Thursday - The Buffalo News
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Local venues brace for more World Cup fever on Thursday

Camp out.

That’s the advice of Greg Nicotera, bar manager for Mes Que on Hertel Avenue. Though Team USA’s third tournament game, a pivotal match with Germany, is slated for Thursday at noon, Nicotera is expecting another wall-to-wall crowd.

Buffalo has caught World Cup fever, and with it has come the inevitable question: Where can we watch the game?

For Thursday, fans have a number of options – two places that have become the most popular spots, Mes Que and Canalside, both expect big crowds again. A handful of other local establishments also are feeding fans’ fervor for the action and benefitting from the surge in business.

Elmwood and Hertel avenue will both be hot spots Thursday. On Elmwood, Acropolis, Papa Jake’s Saloon, Caffe Aroma and Mister Goodbar will show the game. On Hertel, in addition to Mes Que, Globe Market and Salumeria Belsito will be popular destinations.

Downtown, The Lodge has emerged as the Chippewa Street restaurant/bar of choice for soccer fans. And in the suburbs, Pizza Plant, with two locations in Amherst, has sought to establish itself as the go-to spot.

Peter Altholz, co-owner of The Lodge, said his business had 80 people for the first game and 100 for the second. The attraction was not just its 13 televisions, which have screened every game of the World Cup, but the fact that the bar has brought in beers from many of the countries playing in the tournament.

The Lodge also has had Brazil-themed drink specials, such as Caipirinha, the country’s national cocktail, which is made with sugar cane liquor, lime and sugar. It is a different type of World Cup destination, less sports bar and more upscale dining.

Pizza Plant’s philosophy for attracting World Cup fans is simple: Beer. Pods. Soccer.

The restaurant’s social media team has been publicly cheering on Team USA, referencing what has become the communal chant in a Facebook post Sunday: “USA USA USA! I believe that we will win!”

During Sunday’s game, a 2-2 tie with Portugal, an estimated 6,500 in Buffalo watched on projected screens – 5,000 viewing the two screens at Canalside and 1,500 gazing at another on Hertel Avenue.

“Canalside cranked, we cranked – it just says about what soccer is in this area,” said Mes Que co-owner Tony Christiano. “It’s one of the top markets in the country … everybody is doing great. That’s what we wanted.”

Laura Magee, a spokeswoman for Canalside, said decision makers, taken aback by the success of Sunday’s event, are in the process of mapping plans for Thursday’s game.

There will be two screens again, twice the number of portable toilets and more food trucks. The screens will be raised higher so more people can see them. Because it is a midday event, alcohol will not be served.

Mes Que is expecting to reach capacity again, with room for 70 to 80 inside, 30 to 40 on the patio and 60 to 80 viewing a TV out back. Though the game kicks off at noon on a workday, Nicotera and Christiano said they expect the crowd size will match what it has been the first two games.

They recommend showing up by 9 a.m.

Mes Que won’t have a projector on Hertel like it did Sunday, when people filed onto the closed-off portion of the avenue, and many watched from lawn chairs. Mes Que rented the projector, which it placed by Spot Coffee near North Park Avenue, specifically for Sunday’s game.

Mes Que rented its big screen from the same company as Canalside, Christiano said.

“The day we got the permit, we were all high-fiving. ‘We got the TV!’ And then Canalside announced it literally 15 minutes after,” he said. “We were like, ‘Oh my God. Is anybody going to come?’”

Christiano said if Team USA advances, the restaurant will consider renting the projector again, but it was not feasible to block off part of Hertel on a Thursday afternoon.

The city’s recent infatuation with the World Cup has not translated into extraordinary Nielsen ratings, perhaps partly due to how many residents have crowded into viewing areas.

Buffalo registered an 8.7 rating during Sunday’s game – higher than the 8.6 drawn by the closing Game Five of the NBA Finals on ABC, but lower than the average rating for Monday Night Football games on ESPN (9.8) last season.

Buffalo Sabres games were typically in the fours and fives last season, and the lowest-rated Buffalo Bills game last year (a Dec. 8, 27-6 loss to Tampa Bay) landed a 26.6 – which means the least-watched Bills game last season did more than three times as well as Sunday’s World Cup game.

The Sunday game’s numbers were up 35 percent from USA’s World Cup opener, a 2-1 win against Ghana, which registered a 6.5.

The masses watching outside in Buffalo drowned in “ooohs” when Portugal tied Sunday’s matchup at 2 in stoppage time.

After the Americans had come back from a 1-0 deficit to take the lead in the 81st minute, a deft cross from reigning FIFA Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo to Silvestre Varela shot down fans’ spirits. They’re hoping for a better result against the favored Germans on Thursday.

Team USA’s odds of advancing to the knockout stage are currently 86 percent, according to World Soccer Talk, while the odds of Germany advancing are 99.9 percent.

Ghana and Portugal, the other two teams in what has been crowned the “Group of Death,” currently have odds of 8.47 percent and 5.6 percent, respectively.

Though the tiebreaker situations are many if the United States comes up short, the reality is clear: Win or tie and the Americans are on to the quarterfinals.

News TV Critic Alan Pergament contributed to this report. email: amansfield@buffnews.com

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