For both dedicated soccer enthusiast and the casual sports observer, this week’s arrival of the World Cup brings a promising five weeks of world-class athletic competition. The tournament is everywhere. It’s hard not to get swept up in the excitement. After all, it isn’t every day that a billion people from all over the world break out the face paint, the pints, and the vuvuzelas (never mind, that was last time) and crowd into the stadiums and around TV screens, all in the spirit of self-imposed national pride.
It’s no secret that enthusiasm for the sport of soccer significantly lags behind the rest of the world on this side of the pond. The United States has never advanced past the quarterfinals since the first World Cup in 1930. Still, there’s just something about the competition that manages to capture our hearts, and imaginations, and to the dismay of productivity managers, our attention.
For navigating the World Cup, we caught up with Paste Magazine Soccer Editor and Total Soccer Show co-host, Daryl Grove, for some insight into the games. In the guide, we also include a handful of facts, statistics and a few related links to help give us some context around what we should expect for the next 5-weeks of tournament play.
World Cup insight from Daryl Grove of the Total Soccer Show
When we need to know the latest in the world of soccer, we tune into the Total Soccer Show, a radio show and podcast recorded here in our hometown of Richmond, VA. Entertaining and thoughtful, the show covers multiple perspectives and aspects of the game. We caught up with the show’s co-host and English expat, Daryl Grove (who also holds the distinguished honor of serving as Ledbury’s first model), for some insight on this year’s World Cup.
What matches are you most looking forward to watching? Which match will be the biggest upset? Can we expect any surprises this year?
I’m pumped for the openers for my two teams: England against Italy and the U.S. against Ghana. I love that both teams are starting with challenging opponents, make its feel real straight away rather than easing into the tournament with an easy game.
How far do you think the U.S. will make it this year? Which team will be our greatest challenge?
I’ve been getting more and more optimistic as kickoff gets closer, but it’s still a long shot to get out of the group. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, and I hope I’m wrong, obviously, but I think we’ll narrowly fail to make it out. The best team in the group is Germany, but we’re not really expected to beat them. Ghana is theoretically the most winnable game, but the biggest challenge is the second game, against Portugal. That game will likely make or break the U.S.’s tournament, and it’s also the game where we could shock the world by beating Cristiano Ronaldo’s team in front of a global audience.
Who will be the most talked about player this year?
Neymar will have everyone’s attention because he’s the poster boy of the host nation. Plus he’s classically, stereotypically Brazilian in a fancy footwork, “did you just see that?” kind of way. But there are a lot of lesser known players I’m excited about, like Paul Pogba of France, Romelu Lukaku of Belgium and, the guy that I’m especially excited to see, England’s Raheem Sterling, who’s only 19 and has the sort of pace that makes for great viewing, unless you’re playing against him.
Which four teams do you see making it to the semi-final? Who do you think will win the cup?
It feels obvious to pick the big names, but I’d guess it will be Brazil, Argentina, Germany, Italy. No Spain this time. But part of the fun is that it’s never quite that straightforward, and there will almost certainly be a surprise team in the semis. Fingers crossed it’s the U.S. or England. Or both!
What online resources will you be using for keeping up with the matches?
WatchESPN is great for watching on the down low at work. The Guardian’s website will be a great source for online analysis and opinions. There’s also an excellent, unrelated blog called The Shin Guardian, which does really smart tactical analysis of all the U.S. games. I’d recommend that to any U.S. fan looking for genuine insights into the games. Also, I just last month started a new a job editing the just-launched soccer section of the Atlanta-based Paste magazine, which I’m pretty excited about. Last but not least, Twitter is going to explode.
Do you have any World Cup viewing traditions? How do you like to enjoy the games?
Gus’s bar on West Broad is a great spot here in Richmond, especially if the American Outlaws are in attendance. I’m also looking forward to the USA v Portugal viewing party downtown the 22nd. But, if I’m honest, my favorite way to watch is at home with just a handful of fellow soccer nerds where we can really pay attention to what’s happening.
New episodes of the Total Soccer Show are posted weekly. Who knows, you may even hear a guest spot from our in-house soccer pundit, Paul Watson (Co-founder, CFO).
Some notes on the World Cup
83 different nations have participated in the World Cup. Brazil is the only country to participate in every edition of the World Cup, which takes them to 20 straight appearances including this year.
Brazil may benefit from home field advantage this year. All four World Cups played in South America, (1930, 1950, 1962, and 1978), have been won by South American countries.
FIFA requires hosts of the World Cup to have a minimum of eight venues. Brazil decided to build 12 for 2014. The 1982 World Cup in Spain featured the most venues—17 stadiums across 14 cities.
The numbers from 1 to 23 are the only ones allowed on World Cup jerseys, according to FIFA rules. Number “1” is traditionally reserved for the goalkeeper.
No country has been to more finals without winning one than the Netherlands (1974, 1978 and 2010). Germany, has lost four finals, but also won three. Totaling to 5, Brazil has won more World Cup tournaments than any other country (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).
Further Reading and Links
A well-designed and responsive calendar for keeping up with the tournament from London based design firm Karoshi. You can even customize the calendar based on your favorite country’s team colors.
Weighing in at 67 pages, this is the fifth edition of Goldman Sachs’ World Cup and economic report. “It’s a lighthearted way to use some of our tools on something that’s quite different from predicting non-farm payroll numbers and interpreting central bank moves,” says Jan Hatzius, Goldman’s chief economist.
3. The Science Behind the World Cup Ball [Video]
The science behind the design of this year’s World Cup ball could have a major impact on the game. Watch this short video from CNN for a look inside its engineering.
4. How Jurgen Klinsmann Plans to Make U.S. Soccer Better (and Less American)
A profile on U.S. Men’s soccer coach, Jurgen Klinsmann, from the New York Times. The article takes a look the coach’s realistic expectations of his team’s performance at this year’s World Cup, his decision to cut three-time World Cup veteran Landon Donovan from the national team, and how he plans to take American soccer to the next level of competition.