By now, you’ve probably seen an ESPN promo or two for the 2014 World Cup. You have vague memories from four years ago, when a lot of your friends and co-workers seemed genuinely interested in soccer for the first time since 1994.
As a red blooded American you’ll surely be cheering for the US of A, but maybe if you adopted a second team you might enjoy the tournament a bit more. I’m here to help you with that challenge. I know that July seems a long time from now if you’re under a foot of snow, but I’ll break this up into four easily digestible portions over the course of the next few months. A few months might be all the time you need to come around to what the rest of the entire planet is watching.
For years all you ever heard was “all soccer players ever do is roll around on the ground crying”. But, over time realized that every time a wide receiver in the NFL didn’t catch the ball he made a pantomime motion of referee throwing an imaginary pass interference flag. And every time an NBA player drove to the hoop he would let out a yelp, thinking that yipping like a puppy that just had his paw stepped on might help him get the call. So you started to think maybe this type of whistle begging happens in every sport. If you’re not convinced I’d be glad to have you run at me full speed and then kick you in the shin with my metal studded cleats.
It hurts more than you think.
Now that you’re ready to give soccer a fair shake it’s important to keep a couple of things in mind. First off, there aren’t going to be any 4-3 matches in the World Cup. These are the best 32 teams in the world and while that might seem like a lot keep in mind that there are just over 200 soccer playing nations. There’s one thing that’s true in team sports in all 200 of these nations, as well as in all of our “American” sports, defense wins championships. In the group stage of the World Cup especially, it’s very very important not to lose. Winning would be nice, a draw will suffice, a loss is nearly catastrophic. For this reason every team is going to be reluctant to really “go for it” until the third group game when teams will need the maximum three points to advance.
For the Americans, realistically what we’re hoping for is a win versus Ghana and a draw versus Portugal. Everyone in our group is losing to the Germans, you can mark it down right now. If we lose to Ghana or Portugal we’re toast. If you’re an absolute goal addict what you’re hoping for in every match is that someone scores within the first twenty minutes. This will force the losing team to go forward in a way they wouldn’t otherwise and they’ll either score to tie it up or leave themselves exposed on defense and the goals will start flowing.
As an American I advise you to wear red, white, and blue on our gamedays. I would also advise you to take a day off of work and watch the match at a soccer pub. Applebee’s, Chili’s, and TGI Fridays are not soccer pubs. Buffalo Wild Wings is not a soccer pub. Type “soccer pub + (name of your town)” and see what comes up. Use your best judgment and watch the match somewhere new. With any luck you’ll walk in the door and see that the place is packed, if so, this is your spot. A great NFL game isn’t really that much better with a bunch of other people, a soccer match’s tension and excitement increases exponentially the more people you’re watching with
That’s it for this first installment of a planned four part series on the 2014 World Cup. Parts 2 and 3 will explore the teams involved and I’ll help guide you in your selection of a second team to cheer for (trust me, its important). And then in Part 4 I’ll tell you a bit about what to expect from the tournament as a whole as well as point you toward must see matches. Until next time……………