Thursday, June 12, 2014
Maybe you’ve noticed. The world has gone soccer crazy, as it does every four years when the FIFA World Cup is staged. This phenomenon has occurred since the 1930s, with a brief hiatus for World War II, and this year’s tournament is held in one of the world’s hottest hotbeds for the sport – Brazil.
Whether you know the difference between a striker and a goalie, the World Cup is the perfect excuse to shirk your family and work duties, crank up the big screen, grab 3 or 4 containers of Gordo’s Cheese Dip, chips and a cold one and watch the athletic feats of guys whose names you can’t pronounce.
Unlike the Olympics, where wealthy countries tend to dominate, the World Cup, while still powered by a huge adrenaline rush of nationalism, has been called the “fairest, most competitive global athletic competitions.” Countries small and large have played well in the World Cup and this play has electrified their countrymen watching the action back home.
As a public service, Gordo’s Cheese Dip is serving up a little primer on the World Cup. This should enable you to converse adequately with those Brits, Argentines, Germans and others you work with about this wildly popular sporting event. Pay no mind that you have no idea how soccer is played. It’s a game on TV, OK? When there’s a game on TV, we watch it. OK.
Now, you might be tempted to place a friendly wager with your friends from foreign countries on the outcomes of this tournament. So long as you don’t put any serious money on the U.S. team, you should be good.
Kickin’ Out the Jams
This soccer tournament lasts a month. Between opening day on June 12 and June 26, all 32 teams who qualified will play three games each in the phase of the tournament known as the group stage. Garnering three points for every win and a point for every tie, the teams will be whittled down to the best 16 — two from each of the eight groups. They will then face off in a do-or-die knockout round beginning June 28. The final is July 13.
It’s interesting how some teams seem to dominate the World Cup. Only eight teams have won it. England, France and defending champion Spain have won it once each. Argentina and Uruguay have won it twice. West Germany has held the trophy aloft three times, Italy has claimed victory four times and Brazil has won it five times.
For decades, conventional wisdom has held that South America, the land of street soccer, Futsal and foot-volleyball, produces the greatest players. But with the exception of Brazil, Europe now produces the greatest teams, with their training academies and sophisticated coaching. This is the part of the world that created the patient defensive juggernauts from Germany and Italy and the Netherlands.
These European teams have developed training which allows any player to play any position at any time. They have been called “machines with interchangeable parts.” This may not strike you as impressive, but just imagine NFL Quarterback Drew Brees changing positions with his offensive tackle between plays!
Unlike the European teams, South America has always cheered the individual style – more scoring and less defense – as much as results. When you remember this is the continent that produced players like Pelé and Diego Maradona, who could work magic with a soccer ball, this makes complete sense. However, this style is changing.
According to several sports wire services, as more South American players have infiltrated the European league, South America’s best national teams have begun to take a far more disciplined and results-oriented approach to international competition.
Time Out for Gordo’s
You can’t celebrate the biggest athletic event in the world without the best cheese dip in the world. That would be Gordo’s Cheese Dip. You’ll also get a kick out of Gordo’s-inspired snacks and dips. Just click here for complete recipes.
Who’s the Best in the World and Why?
According to the FIFA website, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Colombia hold four of the top eight spots in its current world ranking. Those four teams and Chile are all in the top 10 on the other major, more complicated ranking system table, where Brazil holds the top spot. Asia, North America, Central America and Oceania are pretty much also-rans in international soccer.
Europe accounts for 13 of the 32 World Cup teams this year. Also, it has more big countries, and thus deeper talent pools, than South America. The best explanation for Brazil’s five world championships and Germany’s three may be their populations. With more than 200 million people, Brazil is the world’s largest soccer-obsessed country. But South America’s next-largest country is Colombia at 48 million, followed by Argentina with 42 million. There are seven European countries with populations of 45 million or more, including Germany with 82 million.
World Cup Trivia (To Impress Your Non-Soccer Friends)
The soccer gods (aka FIFA) introduce a new soccer ball every time World Cup tournament is held. The latest World Cup ball, made by Adidas, called “Brazuca,” has some major changes from the ball used in 2010.
- The classic 32-panel, hexagon-pentagon design has given way to propeller-shaped panels.
- In order to stabilize the aerodynamics of this year’s model, Adidas added about half an ounce to the weight of the ball.
- They gave it a pebble-like surface (similar to a basketball) and deepened the seams in an effort to make the ball sail more steadily through the air.
This new ball design will eventually make its way to every level of soccer play. So, you can expect to see it being used for your kid’s team in the very near future and this means you will likely be buying this new ball for your junior striker or goalie.
Here’s some more invaluable World Cup trivia:
- Brazil is the only country to participate in every edition of the World Cup, which means they been in the big show 20 straight times!
- The record for most goals in a single World Cup game belongs to Oleg Salenko who found the net five times in 1994 against Cameroon.
- The record for the most goals by one player in a single World Cup has stood for 56 years (!). It belongs to Just Fontaine who scored 13 in 1958.
- Host nations have won the World Cup on six occasions (Uruguay, Italy, England, West Germany, Argentina and France)
- For winning the 2010 World Cup, Spain took home $30 million (US) in prize money. This year’s winner will win $35 million.
- British bookmakers make Brazil the favorite, just ahead of Argentina and Germany.
Hopefully, this will get you started in your World Cup watching parties. Just don’t forget the Gordo’s and you should be great. If you have any other questions, just ask the 8-year old who lives down the block. Most likely, she plays every Saturday morning and knows all the rules!
Photos from Flickr Creative Commons and Wikipedia