Nick Jurney is our regular Mostly Sheep commentator. When I asked him to comment on the World Cup, he said, “I don’t speak futbol.” Then he produced a football, spiked it and drank an American beer. So I’ll take this one.
Introducing the World Cup is a lot like introducing the Super Bowl. Hey, there’s this huge tournament and billions of people are going to watch it. So instead we will just say, Here’s Mostly Sheep’s guide to watching the World Brazil.
Serious story line of the tournament
After seven years of planning, host country Brazil is still not ready for the World Cup. Strikes, corruption, and protests plagued construction efforts for tournament’s 12 venues. None of this will matter if the matches go off smoothly as Brazil will celebrate the tournament being hosted in South America for the first time since 1978 Argentina.
Brazil’s other storyline is rampant poverty. For the Sochi Olympics, Russia could just crack down on any unsavory elements but Brazil has favelas–the overpopulated slums in its cities. Some are controlled with gangs others just have extreme poverty, but it’s a problem so big in Brazil it will be hard for the television broadcast to ignore the poverty of Brazil.
The newbie guide to the World Cup in a paragraph.
Wins are 3 points, draws are ties and 1 point. Each team plays 3 group stage games then the tournament enters a playoff system where the team with the most goals wins unless it’s tied then you go to penalties.
The experts guide to the world cup in a word
Germany, Argentina, France, Brazil or Holland? I will not talk about Spain.
I don’t hate Spain but I don’t like them. Spain could do the unprecedented and win 4 major tournaments in a row. Not since the ‘62 Brazilian team has a country won back-to-back World Cups. If they do win, this Spain team will go down as one of the greatest teams in the history of the sport. What’s even more impressive is the lack of a true worldwide superstar. Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Cesc Fàbregas (Barcelona) and Juan Mata (Manchester United) are good players but not in the same class as Ronaldo, Van Persie, Messi.
Number of minutes before ESPN tells you it’s not soccer but fùtbol.
Two minutes. ESPN will from its very first broadcast annoy us all by telling us all how the rest of the world calls this sport. Soccer, football, fùtbol it doesn’t matter except on the lame Sportscenter highlights.
ESPN’s coverage at 2010 South Africa was excellent with Ian Darke and Steve McManaman being the standouts of the broadcasts. ESPN hates soccer and I expect a lot of misses when they ask Alexi Lalas to open his trap on the US team. Macca come baccca.
Brazil will riot if:
I’m a little scared because the host country could descend into a civil war if they don’t make it to the finals.
Brazil versus Argentina. Neymar and Messi against each other in a South American World Cup in a South American country. If this does happen, both countries could be going to war afterwards. Maybe that war will go to penalties.
US’ Chances or El Grupo Azteca Ōllamaliztli
Remember in school when your history teacher said the Aztecs used to play a ball game with their hips and losers were killed. That’s the group of death and the U.S. has found itself matched against Germany, Portugal and Ghana.
Germany is Germany and should, at minimum make the semifinals. However, at the World Cup ‘06 Jurgen Klinsmann, now US Coach, was the coach for Germany losing at the 119’ minute in the semis. Redemption and revenge is on the line.
Portugal is mostly Cristiano Ronaldo with some other guys. The team should be a second tier European minnow but CR is so good he can take the team to the quarters. If CR plays poorly the door is wide open for the US.
Finally Ghana. They are big, fast and we do not match up well against Ghana.
Best case scenario, the U.S. might be able take a point off Germany or Portugal and beat Ghana. That would give the US 4 points and needing help with the goal difference. Should the US beat Germany or Portugal, sit down and buckle up, Jurgen Klinsmann is going to make a run.
The U.S. will play Ghana on the 16th, then Portugal on the 22th and Germany on the 26th.
Who cares about Landon Donovan?
The guy scored penalty goals and one incredible clean-up goal in South Africa. This year’s tournament is Clint Dempsey’s final story line at age 31. For the U.S. to go anywhere Michael Bradley (Toronto FC) will need to control the midfield and not make bad passes. Jozy Altidore (Sunderland) will need to relearn how to score goals. It’s a problem with Jozy. And the defense will have to play fast, tight and physical against world class players.
Or the U.S. could go home with no points losing by 4 against Germany, after losing 2-1 to Portugal on a Ronaldo free kick, and having only 5 shots on goal in a 1-nil loss to Ghana. This is the fear.
Matches to Watch (Non-U.S.)
Luis Suarez versus England. Luis Suarez of the Uruguayan side had a sensational year at Liverpool with 31 goals for his club. He knows the England players and their style. If there’s one man to ruin England’s tournament it’s the Liverpool front man.
Spain versus Netherlands. It’s a rematch of the 2010 Final and it happens in the group stage. But there’s another story line here and one that has both club and country ramifications. Dutch Coach, Louis Van Gaal will take over Manchester United after the World Cup with fellow Dutchman Robin Van Persie is spearheading the attack for club and nation. A great tournament by Van Gaal and he lands in Manchester as a savior. A poor tournament and United Fans will tighten the leash.
The Franch, I mean the Franch
France is more like Franch, the French dressing—ranch mixture from TV’s Breaking Bad. That’s French Football. In 2006 Zinedine Zidane, the French legend, headbutted an Italian player in the final costing them the game. In 2010, Les Blues imploded again after the team revolted against their manager Raymond Domenech.
Here’s the thing about the French. They either self-destruct or make the finals. This 2014 team has players that can win the World Cup with Karim Benzema (Champion’s League winner with Real Madrid), Hugo Lloris (Tottenham), Patrice Evra (Manchester United) and Frank Ribery (Bayern Munich). If France and not Franch show up, they play beautiful football.
Franch 2 aka Mexico
You have to feel sorry for the fans of the Mexican team. Every World Cup the team is brought down either by aging stars or dysfunctional teamwork. The Mexico team is so disorganized that during qualifying matches, manager Miguel Herrera fielded a team mostly made up of club players. Arguably Mexico’s best player, Chicharito, Javier Hernandez (Manchester United) could be on the bench in favor of a team dominated by Club Leon and Club America players.
Inevitably, there will be one or two minnows to capitalize on a mistake by a big nation. I’m watching Belgium. They have one of the easier groups against Russia, South Korea and Algeria. They also have Eden Hazard and Vincent Kompany, key figures of Manchester City’s Premiership title.
Best looking worst team
Except for Ghana don’t worry about the African Nations. I think there’s a rule—the better your kit (team shirt) looks, the faster your team gets knocked out. The Ivory Coast wins for best looking kit so that means they will lose all three group games.
Who will win?
The cameramen. You know how in baseball, the cameramen seem to find an attractive girl in a tight t-shirt. This is what Brazilians wear when they need to dress conservatively. I would be surprised if by day 3, feminist bloggers didn’t start a hashtag:
Who will win #2?
This is the most open tournament, since 2002. It’s so open even England has a chance to get their hopes up of reaching the semis and then see their fate sealed by an act of divine cheating. No wait that’s every tournament.
Then you have the Brazil fans who aren’t right in the head and will demand a trophy. I will guarantee one thing, there will be a lot of talk about redoing penalty shoot-outs and that’s the only given at World Cup Brazil.
March Madness x 14 days = lost job
The World Cup kicks off June 12th and the final is played July 13. During the group stages the tournament is like March Madness everyday with three games on average broadcasted. The best part is you can watch soccer all day with games starting at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Don’t have ESPN? Watchespn.com will stream all the games.
In 2010, I was at a pub in Denver when Landon Donovan kicked home the winning goal against Algeria. Type into the Google machine “World’s Reaction to Landon Donovan’s Game Winning Goal” if you can’t remember four years ago. Only the Colorado Rockies’ 2007 Wild Card win and the Denver Bronco’s first Super Bowl win are ahead of the 2010 Donovan goal. There is no explanation why soccer brings out this type of emotion. Only the World Cup can force a bunch of complete strangers into a pub at ten in the morning, screaming U-S-A after one of your own countrymen puts the ball into the old onion bag.
It’s World Cup fever.
(Also Nick Jurney loves it when you ask him about soccer. Tweet him at: @nickjurnals. You can tweet me at @johnmrod)