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Soccer:  2010 FIFA World Cup  Yes, Grown-ups do Play Soccer

23 May 2010

Soccer is the world’s most popular sport – by far.  It is estimated that over 715 million people watched the final match in 2006.  Essentially the World Cup is the world soccer play-offs that occur every 4 years.  The years in between World Cups serve as qualifiers.  The potential host nation undergoes a bidding process and all venues are scrutinized much like they are for the Olympics.

There’s really only one problem with the World Cup.  The US has never won it.  Our best effort was in 1930 when we placed third, sadly, it was against a small field of teams (13) and half of them were from South America, where the tournament was played.  In fact, over the history of the World Cup, we have trouble even qualifying.  We’ve only managed that feat in 8 of the 18 tournaments that have been held.  For a nation that loves to win, we’re right up there with Scotland.  When we do make it, we rarely make it out of the first round of round robin games, losing to teams like Paraguay.  Yes, Paraguay is a country.  Try to find it on the map.

This year, the World Cup is being played in South Africa from 11 June through 11 July.  We’re ranked 14th nationally, and most predict team USA will at least make it to the second round.  The favorite is Spain.  We have a new coach and the air of an upstart after upsetting Spain last year in a match.  Most Americans will pay little attention to the World Cup despite the significant coverage major sports networks are going to pay it.  You can be sure that if you have buddies that grew up in any country other than the US, they’ll be emotionally distracted for at least 30 days this summer.
 
One Liner: “As long as we don’t lose our minds against England, we should be able to make it out of the group play.” – Referring to our first match, which is against England.  The English should win the group, but if we don’t collapse after a poor game, we should be able to beat the other two teams and advance.

The Basics

World Cup
Every four years, 32 teams compete in a play-off system for international soccer known as the World Cup.  For this year’s World Cup, over 200 teams (countries) vied for a slot in the event.  Unlike Americans, the rest of the world is rabid about soccer.  Players have been murdered for scoring goals on their own team by accident.  Really.  The Cup starts with every nation grouped into eight groups of four teams.  These teams play a round robin to determine the top two teams in each group.  Those top two teams move onto a single match elimination play-off.  Brazil has been the dominant team, winning 5 of the 18 tournaments held.

Terminology:

Pitch – What most Europeans refer to as the field.

Red Card – A penalty imposed on a player for committing a foul (kicking, tripping, etc).  It results in the player’s ejection for the remainder of the game.  His team must then play a man down.  A Red Card imposed without first receiving a yellow card is reserved for the commission of a violent a foul.

Yellow Card – A penalty imposed on a player for committing a foul (kicking, tripping, etc).  It serves as a warning to the player.  A second yellow card results in an automatic Red Card.

Penalty Kick – a free kick from close to the goal where a player gets to shoot at the goal with only the goalie in the net.  It is awarded after a foul is committed inside the penalty box

Shank – missing a shot at the goal when a player has an open shot.  (See also shank wall – a fictitious wall that is said to be needed behind a goal when a certain player seems to frequently miss).

Strike – a shot at the goal
 
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