Just to prove that it's not about jingoism (no matter what George Orwell says) take a look at the Indy's serialisation of the late Arthur Hopcraft's book, The Football Man. He described how, along with Geoff Hurst's fabled hat-trick, the 1966 World Cup gave us the fans' unexpected love affair with the giant-killers from North Korea:
When they beat Italy 1-0 to win a place in the quarter-finals, the crowd fell upon them in hysterical acclaim. My lasting memory of that match is of a tall British sailor lugging two Koreans off the pitch, one under each arm, like prizes...
This public response confirmed conclusively that football belongs to the people, that it is the conflict and the setting which possess them in their ownership. In a matter of days a dark, slant-eyed footballer with a name like a nonsense rhyme can be adopted as a personal representative by a Middlesbrough labourer just because he is expressing hope and liberation through the one art the labourer fully comprehends.
It often sounds unduly pompous and pious when men talk ceremonially about football's role as a bridge across national frontiers. But that is because the occasions of such statements are usually pompous, and so turn a decent truth into a banality.
BTW, the German blog Atlantic Review has some good links on football and America, including a Palm Beach Post list of the ten reasons why the game hasn't really taken off in the US. I like these best:
1. We Didn’t Invent It
10. Mexico beats the U.S. too often
And this photo sums up Rooney-mania very nicely.