With the World Cup around the corner, it’s only fitting that I would try and enlighten us American folks to the beautiful game. Lets go over some quick facts about next years World Cup. First things first, we’re out of South Africa which means there wont be those dreaded Vuvuzelas! I feel like the “Anti” soccer fan always finds something nitpicky to support their rather poor argument for not watching soccer. In the last World Cup it was the vuvuzelas. The typical go-to is always the diving and acting that goes on. Well if you don’t like that why do you watch the NBA? And I’m sorry but if you were running nonstop for 90 minutes I would probably fake an injury for 30 seconds so I could catch my breath and get some water too. If you consider the amount of time accounted for diving and stoppages or what we like to call “extra time” its only about 4-5 minutes a game. In an NFL game you are happy if you get a 4-5 minute commercial break. Let that soak in for a minute.
Anyways, lets move on to this year’s host, Brazil. The 12 host cities for the 2014 World Cup were announced back in May of 2009. For those who really know their Brazilian cities the 12 are: Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Brasilia, Porto Alegre, Curitiba, Belo Horizonte, Cuiaba, Salvador, Recife, Natal, Fortaleza, and Manaus. What’s even cooler for fans of the new modern stadium is that half of the chosen host cities will have their games in brand new venues built specifically for the World Cup. Even the ones that aren’t going to be venues have been significantly upgraded.
Over the past year the USMNT (U.S. Men’s National Team) has had a, historic run. At one point they had the second longest win streak in the world. They’ve come a long way since their struggles early in the qualifiers. People forget that the US had to win the final game in preliminary qualifiers just to get to the Hexagonal. Not to mention an opening day loss to Honduras in the HEX had some thinking there was going to be a coup against coach Jurgen Klinsmann. But like in all American sports it was all just a big overreaction. The way Klinsmann handled Landon Donovan’s three-month sabbatical really set the tone for the whole team. Obviously the team continuing to win helped ease the American anxiety for why Americas biggest soccer star wasn’t automatically back on the team when he felt he was fit. But making him work his way back into the team and earn his spot made a point to the rest of the team and future USA stars that no one is bigger than the team. Good call Jurgen. But lets halt the love train for the USMNT in next years World Cup. Realistically, you can’t expect the U.S. to make it to the final. Are they taking the appropriate steps to advancing further in the tournament? Yes. But not quite yet, and its important to note this because the worst possible thing that could happen is that we struggle next year’s World Cup and the American media starts to turn on Klinsmann. It’s a bit unfair to say this but his true impact on the USMNT wont be felt really for another 10-15 years when our youth systems his group has set up really take place. But he needs longer than three years to make this a reality.
Worst case scenario – U.S. doesn’t make it out of group play.
Best “Realistic” case scenario – Get to the quarterfinals.
Other than the USMNT what teams should the casual fan back based on how they pick their teams?
- “The Homer” – Brazil. Being the host country, they will have the most support during the whole World Cup process.
- “The Glory Hunter” – Spain. Its easy to pick Spain because they have won the past two European Championships in 2008 and 2012. And the last World Cup in 2010.
- “The Unfulfilled Potential” – Germany. How many times in major competitions has Germany reached the semifinal or final and lost. You can almost guarantee that this team will be in the final four. The problem? They always “Pull the Clemson”
- “The Offensive Juggernaut” – Holland. If you like watching an up and down style of soccer with plenty of attacking prowess then you should back Holland. With the likes of Robin Van Persie, Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder there’s always the opportunity for a goal.
- “The Heartbreaker” – England. It seems like the English fans talk down about their team, then they make it out of group and the fans think they will win the World Cup only to see their team exit earlier than expected in a major competition.
- “Underdog” – Belgium. The reason I go Belgium here is because they have a world-class defender, midfielder and striker in Kompany, Hazard, and Lukaku. If you have those three things and you’re flying under the radar, I like it. I told Tucker about them back in January and its looking better and better every time they play.
- “Ladies Pick” – Portugal. Why? Simply Cristiano Ronaldo. I don’t think I need to go much further with this one.
Here’s the moment everyone has been waiting for: the predictions. We can just go ahead and eliminate anyone that’s not a European or South American country. To date only two teams outside these regions have even made the semi-finals let alone a final. The USA in 1930 and host South Korea in 2002. So now that we’ve eliminated a possible 14 or 15 of the teams lets dig even deeper. The reason for the “or” is because of a potential one game playoff to get into the World Cup. Only three teams have won outside their continental zone: Spain (2010), Argentina (1986), and Brazil (1958, 1970, 1994 and 2002). So that brings us to only 5 or 6 teams left, Spain, Brazil, Argentina, Columbia, Ecuador, Chile and Uruguay. There hasn’t been a back-to-back World Cup champion since Brazil did it in 1962, so I don’t like the chances of Spain repeating. Columbia, Ecuador, and Chile have combined for one third place finish in previous World Cups (Chile 1962), so that eliminates them. That leaves us with Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. Since Uruguay hasn’t technically qualified for the World Cup yet and has struggled mightily through qualification, I’m not liking their chances to hoist the trophy. And then there was Brazil and Argentina, two bitter South American soccer rivals. Messi vs Neymar. It’s the only notable accolade that, the world number one, Lionel Messi doesn’t have in his cabinet. I feel the Argentine team has a bit more experience and that’s why I like Argentina to lift the World Cup in Brazil in 2014.