Top Matches for the Opening Round of the World Cup
The World Cup starts this Friday, and I’m sure most of you are wondering, is that Stanley’s long lost traveling brother? No, this is a soccer tournament, like the NCAA basketball tournament, only different. Qualification for this tournament is over a two-year plus time frame. Athletes can receive money and don’t have to pretend to like anthropology 101. However, like the “big dance,” conference/continent winners get to go, big conferences (Europe) get the most bids and the rest of the world scrambles for at large bids. Also, just like the “big exploitation of college athletes for television networks and conference coffers,” it will be over in about a month.
Since this is an every four-year event like the Olympics and something you can’t be bothered with following on a day-to-day basis, I will be glad to provide you a guide to your watching schedule. This way, you’ll be up to date with the “water cooler” discussion. (By “water cooler,” I mean, “coffee shop two blocks away with a hot barista.”)
U.S.A vs. England: This match is on the second day of the tournament this Saturday at 11:30 am PST and should be a heck of a match as England is ranked #8 and the U.S. is #14. With the close ties between our two countries, the rivalry is there and the hype already has it as “Revolutionary War Redux.” Catchy, but I tend to think of it more as “We’re more likely to beat you at soccer than you ever will beat us in basketball, baseball or football.” Their response of course is, “Who would want to play those sports?” That’s when the real fighting will begin and we can finally see who can handle more punishment: England’s hooligans or anyone from Philadelphia.
Brazil vs. Korea DPR: If you’re looking for the David vs. Goliath match of this World Cup, you can’t get much better than #1 Brazil against #105 ranked Korea DPR on June 15th at 11:30 am PST. The American passion for rooting for an underdog might hit a snag, as this underdog was a part of the “Axis of Evil.” Keep in mind though that when Korea DPR is involved, nothing is impossible. Their leader, Kim Jong-Il once shot 38 under par with 11 holes-in-one in his first round of golf ever. And that stat has to be true, since it came from the Great Leader himself!
Spain vs. Switzerland: #2 Spain squares off against #24 Switzerland on 6/16 at 7:00 am PST. This is a big match for Switzerland if they want to advance out of Group H (which also has to play #18 Chile five days later). Don’t look for this to be high scoring affair: in 2006, Switzerland did not surrender a goal during the entire World Cup in regulation time, and was eliminated in the second round of the tournament by the Ukraine in a penalty shootout. On the other side, Spain went 10-0 in qualification for the 2010 World Cup, scoring 28 goals and only allowing five.
Slovakia vs. Paraguay: #31 Paraguay takes on #34 Slovakia on 6/20 at 04:30 am PST. The only reason you should be up that early is to debate which country boasts the hotter supermodel: Cindy Taylor or Adriana Karembeu. If you’re up, you might as well warm up a can of tomato soup for breakfast to salute Slovakian-American Andy Warhol and Slovakia’s first ever appearance in the World Cup.
Uruguay vs. Mexico: #16 Uruguay and #17 Mexico on 6/22 at 7:00 am PST is about as evenly matched as you can get according to the current FIFA rankings. Uruguay is a two-time World Cup champion (1930 and 1950), whereas Mexico’s best finish has been quarterfinal appearances each time it has hosted the event (1970, 1986). Mexico qualified by finishing second to the United States in the North American conference, while Uruguay (after finishing fifth in South America) had to defeat Costa Rica in a playoff for the last spot from the Americas. I would write more about this match-up, but I don’t want to draw attention to myself as I regularly visit Arizona.
Argentina vs. Greece: This pits the FIFA #13 in Greece against the 7th ranked Argentina team on 6/22 at 11:30 am PST. The Argentina team is led by the player of the year Lionel Messi and coached by Diego Maradona, who won the Golden Ball award given to the best player at the World Cup finals when he led Argentina to their 2nd World Cup title in 1986. Also, not ones to follow conventional wisdom, Argentine doctors have approved sex for the World Cup squad. For Greece, 2010 marks the second appearance ever in the World Cup. This will be a great match to see if experience, history and sex really matter.
Brazil vs. Portugal: Finally, on 6/25 at 7:00 am PST, #1 Brazil goes against #3 Portugal in the biggest opening round match-up of the World Cup. At this point you should be well versed in all that is soccer after fifteen days and 44 previous matches of soccer to know that they have saved the best for last. Since it is on a Friday morning, you could go to work late and stay late on a Friday night just to watch soccer. (I’ll wait for you to remove that look of stunned disbelief from your face. That’s better.) Oh well, there’s always the single elimination stage 2 part of the tournament that starts on Saturday morning at 7:00 am PST.
Finally, a sport that you kind of care about that you have to wake up early to watch. It’s that kind of combination that will make the coffee shop with the hot barista about the same as ever. Have fun watching every now and again!
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About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."