When the U.S. played England to a 1-1 tie in Rustenburg on Saturday night, the most heart-breaking moment for forward Herculez Gomez came right at the final whistle.
Gomez was standing on the sideline, waiting to come on as a substitute, but the match ended just before he had the chance to make his World Cup debut.
All of which has made him hungrier than ever to see some minutes this afternoon when the U.S. plays Slovenia at Ellis Park.
"I have to constantly keep reminding myself that I belong," Gomez told reporters earlier in the week at the U.S. base camp in Irene. "During training sessions, slowly but surely my confidence keeps growing.
"There are a lot of people excited for me, and I'm excited to be representing millions and millions of Hispanic-Americans. I know I have a huge opportunity, and all I have to do is just be ready."
The opportunity could come today.
Meanwhile, U.S. coach Bob Bradley on Thursday repeated what he has said over and over again, that Slovenia is a disciplined, well-organized team that cannot be taken lightly.
The reason why is obvious. Although Slovenia's players are not household names, they do play in some of Europe's better leagues, including the Belgian, French, Dutch, German and Italian circuits.
"We watch other leagues around the world and we're familiar with the guys," U.S. captain and defender Carlos Bocanegra said Thursday. "We're not going to go into it taking anybody lightly just because maybe the rest of the world doesn't know their names."
The U.S. players are determined not to go into the final first-round game, against the Algerians on June 23, needing a win to advance. They want to win today and give themselves some leeway.