For the casual North American this whole World Cup thing can be a mystery. While soccer or futbol is popular, well, pretty much everywhere else in the world, soccer is just now moving up in the ranks of popularity in the United States, but it has a ways to go. Here are some quick facts to keep up with a couple billion of your closest friends who are also predicted to watch at least part of the games.
1. The World Cup to the world is like the Superbowl is to the United States.
To put it into perspective, though, 105 million people watched the 2010 Superbowl. 909 million people watched the final minute of the 2010 Championship game between Netherlands and Spain (Spain won 1-0).
|Where kids in Haiti play soccer - inside an unfinished building.|
2. The World Cup, like the Winter and Summer Olympics, are held every four years.
Host Countries are chosen decades in advance. In Brazil, there are actually 12 host stadiums where the soccer games are held throughout Brazil. Brazil has reportedly spent $11 billion to host these games ($270 million alone for a stadium in Manaus that will only be used for four matches – and is so remote it cannot be reached by car).
3. The US team consists of players from different teams.
It is not like the San Antonio Spurs or the Miami Heat going to Brazil – it is like the Dream team of the 1992 Olympics in Brazil. The captain, Clint Dempsey, is from the Seattle Sounders; other players are from Los Angeles Galaxy (Omar Gonzalez) and the Houston Dynamos (Brad Davis) and England’s Everton FC (Tim Howard, Goal Keeper). The coach of the US team gets to choose players in a try out situation. Much controversy came from the head coach, JuergenKlinsmann, not choosing Landon Donavan to play for the US World Cup Team.
4. Like the playoffs of football, baseball and basketball, there are brackets you have to get out of.
The US was randomly placed in Group G which was quickly deemed the bracket of death because the teams are good. This is putting it mildly as Germany, having won the World Cup three times already, is not only favored to top the group, but advance into the finals. Ghana knocked out the US’s chances of advancing in the 2010 games and beat the US team in the 2006 games. The US could have a hard time advancing into the 16, hence the “death” name.
There are no time outs, very few substitutions (if any – once a player is subbed out, they may not come back in), and the clock does not stop for anything. Well, except snow in a 2013 World Cup qualifying game between Costa Rica and the US Men’s team in Colorado. Then there’s this thing called stoppage. If a player is injured (or “flops” – more on that later), or a yellow/red card is called, time is added to the clock. It could be three minutes, or four minutes, or whatever the ref says. It seems random. And the clock on the screen does not always match the refs watch. More randomness.
6. It appears there are a lot of injuries.
The more the merrier. You would think Oscars are handed out for a performance. Actually, it is called a “flop” and is one way to slow the game down (since the clock doesn’t stop) or get a yellow/red card called on an opposing player, or get a penalty kick. Often you will see a player go down that, from their actions, you would think would require an aid car or medivac helicopter. Then, after the card/penalty is given, they get up and walk to the sidelines. The player stands on the sideline until the next out, then walks back in the game. Nobody subs in or out unless and aid car or stretcher really is called in.
7. After the “Full 90” (meaning the whole 90 minute game) the game can end in a tie.
Whether 0-0 (or “nil, nil”) or 1-1, the game just ends. Sort of anticlimactic, but that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
Bonus: Why the US vs Ghana game was so important on Monday: Twice Ghana kicked the US out of the World Cup running. Once in 2010, the other in 2006. The US’s 2-1 game on Saturday thumbed their noses back at Ghana.
Another bonus: Brazil has won 5 World Cups, Italy 4, Germany 3, Argentina and Uruguay 2 and England, France and Spain at 1 each.