June 12, 2014
It’s time to start calling soccer “football” again. The World Cup is back. Brazil is hosting.
Kicks off today at 4PM ET and goes until July 13. 64 games in five weeks. Watch it at your local sports bar on ESPN, ABC, and Univision. Or watch it at your desk here.
Brazil. In 12 different cities. Brazil is not a tiny place. So you’ll have to take a plane to get around.
32 teams from all different countries. It took them two years to qualify for the Cup. But it took them no time to start taking selfies. Teams that make it are divided into eight groups of four. In each group, the top two teams advance to the knockout stage. Losers pack their balls and go home.
Good for you. But… 3.2 billion other people watched the last Cup — almost half of everyone on Earth. This only happens every four years. And it’s about more than kicking a ball. The World Cup has always had historical and political implications; Hitler used the Cup to promote Nazi propaganda; in 1969, soccer legend Pele’s arrival in Nigeria brought a ceasefire to a bloody civil war. So yup, big deal.
Never. Again. Brazil banned those and created the “caxirola” (pronounced “cashy rolla”), which was supposed to sound like a rain stick, or the background of an Enya song. Turns out thousands of those don’t sound good either, so now they’re banned. Try just clapping.
Turf is always greener on the other side. Some of Brazil is really excited to host around 600,000 tourists and spend $11 billion while doing so. Others not so much. The stadium where the opening match is being held still isn’t finished. And another one is literally in the rainforest. Meanwhile, officials say it’s best not to scream if you get mugged.
Brazil’s economy is moving about as fast as you do after Sunday brunch. Some people think the money spent on all of this should go towards more practical things like building schools and roads. And they’re not being quiet about it. Subway workers went on strike, tear gas has been thrown by police, and people have been throwing up signs that say “F*** FIFA.”
The Federation Internationale de Football Association and ruler over all things football. The people in charge have been riddled with bribery scandals (cough, Qatar 2022, cough).
Expect flags, not logos. These national teams aren’t the club teams you normally hear about.
Brazil: They’ve got the talent and they’ve got the home field advantage. Double threat.
Germany: Zee Germans are top contenders. But no European team has won on South American turf. Ever.
Argentina: Fierce rivalry with Brazil.
Spain: They won last time.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): Officially considered the World’s Best Player (and cover model). Let’s hope his model girlfriend stays awake.
Lionel Messi (Argentina): Crowned the best player in football FOUR times. El Capitan, and Argentina’s second-highest scorer ever.
Neymar (Brazil): So good he only needs one name. The home team’s best chance at getting to the finals, and becoming the country’s next Pele.
Luis Suarez (Uruguay): The Mike Tyson of football. Once got a 10-game ban for biting an opponent.
Michael Bradley (USA): One of the best players wearing stars n’ stripes. His dad used to be the coach.
Landon Donovan (USA): Wasn’t invited.
Well, the coach doesn’t think they can win. So there’s that. The US’s first game is on Monday at 6pm ET. And, this year they’re in a group that’s known as the “Group of Death.” Muahaha.
Pitch: Not like in baseball. Still soccer. Another word for “field.”