I’m not proud of it, but for the next few weeks (or as long as the US team is alive), I’ll be going deep getting into what the rest of the known sport-loving world will be obsessing over this June, the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Among soccer’s bevy of championships worldwide, this one is their Super Bowl tournament of Super Bowls. Futbol-loving countries across the globe will be going batty cheering on their national squads in Brazil starting this Wednesday. Here’s Wikipedia’s breakdown of the FIFA World Cup:
The FIFA World Cup, often simply the World Cup, is an international association football competition contested by the senior men’s national teams of the members of Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), the sport’s global governing body. The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held because of the Second World War. The current champions are Spain, who won the 2010 tournament in South Africa.
The current format of the tournament involves 32 teams competing for the title at venues within the host nation(s) over a period of about a month; this phase is often called the World Cup Finals. A qualification phase, which currently takes place over the preceding three years, is used to determine which teams qualify for the tournament together with the host nation(s).
The 19 World Cup tournaments have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners are Italy, with four titles; West Germany, with three titles; Argentina and inaugural winners Uruguay, with two titles each; and England, France, and Spain, with one title each.
Alright, so there you go. The World Cup does indeed exist. So, what to do about it, right? Well, we’ve already been assigned a team to root for so let’s figure out what the tee time and the course record are.
Because the US takes only a passing interest in the world’s most popular sport, we’re merely mediocre when it comes to international competitions such as the World Cup. We have never won an international title in men’s soccer and the best we’ve ever done in the World Cup was in 1930 (OVER 80 YEARS AGO, MAN!) when we competed in the semifinals and lost. That’s not great for the world’s greatest country. More recently, a very fiery US Men’s team won their way into the 2002 WC quarterfinals but then lost to an equally stout German squad, 1-0.
On the left you can see the most up-to-date FIFA rankings. FIFA, of course, being the international overbearing association that oversees the sport. Everyone (and more) on the list to the left is in the tourney except the Ukraine. Likely because
Russia usurped their borders they didn’t qualify in earlier rounds. The USA is quaintly ranked 13th. It should be noted, however, that our group (which I’ll get to in a second) includes the 2nd and 4th ranked teams in the world. …Have you ever heard of “The Group of Death”? If not, you’ll hear plenty about it Thursday when the US starts competing within it. As a nicety, the FIFA folks threw Ghana in Group G as well just to make things fair, um, to make things bettter, um, to make four teams.
So, the qualifying for this tournament, as you might imagine–especially if you’ve ever tried to understand international soccer leagues–is pretty deep. Games started for this competition two years ago in regional primers. The US qualified for the World Cup by winning the CONCACAF Fourth Round which essentially was the culmination of a year’s worth of work and took the cream of the crop from teams geographically situated in Central and North America. Mexico, Honduras and Costa Rica also qualified from our region to make the World Cup.
In all, the World Cup has 32 teams broken up into 8 groups of four that will begin by competing within their groups to in an effort to find the best two teams in each placement. This is called the group phase of the tournament. Once that is complete, teams enter the “knockout phase” or the tournament phase. It will essentially be a sweet sixteen tourney from thence on.
As mentioned before, the US’s group, GROUP G, consists of soccer powers Portugal and Germany and also Ghana. It will be a tough draw, for certain.
You can see below that an average rank and average points per four team group reveals that Group G is slightly more difficult than Group D and that Group F and H are relatively the easiest draws in the international tournament.
Next, let’s discuss the team. Here is our roster:
So, we’ve got stalwarts Altidore, Dempsey and Howard (and notably not Landon Donovan who was controversially left off the final roster).
We’ve also got four folks who, though they’re playing for the US, hail from overseas locales. We also have a guy from Maryland, woohoo! You’ll notice him immediately on the pitch; he’s the one with dreads a mile long and extra crispy at that. Also, we have three players who take up positions in the English Premier League, likely the best single European Soccer League in the world. Certainly the league with the most bling in the world.
So, that’s the best I have so far. Guess you can’t fault me for trying to get into soccer to support the old Red, White and Blue, right? Good. So go out there and watch some soccer! Enjoy and GEAUX USA!!!