By Justin Sink - 07/03/14 12:58 PM EDT
President Obama praised the U.S. men's national soccer team for capturing the attention of the entire nation during a phone call to stars Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey.
In a video of the phone call posted by the White House on Thursday, Obama praised the team, which advanced to the round of 16 before being eliminated in an overtime loss to Belgium.
"I just wanted to call and say you guys did us proud," Obama said. "You guys just did great, and as somebody whose first sport was soccer - although I wasn't ever that good - to see the way you guys captured the hearts and imaginations of the whole country is unbelievable."
"You're going to have to shave your beard so they don't know who you are," Obama quipped.
Howard also received a phone call from Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel, who invited him to visit Washington. Following his historic performance, an Internet meme suggested Howard should be named secretary of Defense.
On Wednesday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest quipped Hagel would agree Howard "demonstrated an ability to repel an opponent’s attacks with remarkable courage."
On Tuesday, President Obama dropped in on a White House watch party, catching part of the game with about 200 staff members following the game in the Old Executive Office Building auditorium.