The Boogeyman! Ronaldo! Bayern Munich! The Group of Death!
In the conclusion to the Top 20 Things to Know About the 2014 World Cup, Steven discusses:
16. The USA and the Group of Death.
17. Defending World Champions: Spain
18. The music of the World Cup
19. Best and worst World Cup jerseys
20. Isn’t soccer boring?
Listen in and become a soccer expert for those World Cup Watch Parties!
Welcome to the SteventheThorn Podcast! You’re listening to this podcast because I’m an authority on many things. Why am I an authority on many things? Because I have glasses and a beard.
In our last podcast, I highlighted five players to watch for the 2014 World Cup as part of my Top 20 Things to Know series:
1. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portgual
2. Lionel Messi of Argentina
3. Neymar of Brazil
4. Luis Suarez of Uruguay
5. Mario Balotelli of Italy
I told you that Ronaldo would have the tournament’s best hair, but that Neymar would be a solid runner-up. And I gave you fair warning that both Ronaldo and Balotelli will probably rip off their shirts if they score.
Today we wrap up the Top 20 Things to Know About the 2014 World Cup! Here are 16-20:
16. USA Group Matches
The United States must play the Boogeyman, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Bayern Munich. The Boogeyman is Ghana—who have eliminated us from the last two World Cups (Group Stage in 2006 and the Round of 16 in 2010).
Ronaldo, of course, is Portugal; he is the team.
And Germany is basically Bayern Munich without Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery.
Many people, myself included, felt like the United States had been eliminated from the World Cup as soon as the draw was announced. We have been placed in the Group of Death: Group G. Our group is undoubtedly the most difficult in the tournament. Every single team in our group—USA, Ghana, Portugal, and Germany—made it to the knockout rounds in the last World Cup. Germany made it to the semifinals, losing out to winners Spain.
Fortunately, the United States plays the Group of Death in a favorable schedule: Ghana comes first, Portugal second, and Germany third. Germany is the best team, and there’s a chance they might have locked up their place in the knockout stage by the time they play us. If the United States can get 3 points by beating Ghana, we have a shot at getting two draws against Portugal and Germany. And then maybe 5 points will be enough to get us out of the group. I think 5 points is a realistic goal for the United States, whether or not it gets us out of the group.
17. Defending World Champions: Spain
After losing 3-0 to Brazil in the Confederations Cup final, La Furia Roja is no longer the team to beat. However, neither is Brazil. There’s a power vacuum that will be filled on Sunday, July 13. But Spain has as likely a chance as anyone to be the one to fill that vacuum. They could very well repeat as World Champions, becoming the first team to win consecutive European championships and World championships. The loss in the Confederations Cup final may be the motivation to win in the World Cup final.
As always, the Spanish lineup is loaded. In goal is Iker Casillas, one of the greatest goalkeepers to ever stand between the sticks. Behind him are David de Gea of Manchester United and Pepe Reina of Napoli. Both De Gea and Reina could confidently hold their own if Casillas got injured.
Spain’s backline isn’t quite what it used to be, but it’s still great. Since the last World Cup, Spain' has lost Carlos Puyol, the ferocious lion-maned centerback from Barcelona. However, Spain’s backline still has Gerard Pique, Jordi Alba, Sergio Ramos, and the young Cesar Azpilicueta—who, along with the entire German national team—has one of the most fun names to say.
Spain also has the most formidable midfield in the world: Javi Martinez of Bayern Munich, Andres Iniesta of Barcelona, Xavi Hernandez of Barcelona, Cesc Fabregas of Barcelona, Sergio Busquets of Barcelona, Xabi Alonso of Real Madrid, Santi Cazorla of Arsenal, and David Silva of Manchester City. Juan Mata of Manchester United has been bumped up to forward for the purpose of this squad.
It’s just sick how loaded their midfield is. And Jesus Navas, one of Spain’s fastest midfielders, didn’t even make it to Brazil (which I think is a huge mistake).
Up top, Spain has a healthy David Villa, their all-time leading goalscorer. A healthy David Villa is a sure contender for the Golden Boot. Then they have Fernando Torres, Pedro, and Diego Costa. Again, it’s sickening how loaded Spain’s attack is. No one else can come close to Spain’s attacking power.
18. The music of the World Cup
The rumor mill on the interwebs is unclear on whether U2 will provide music for this World Cup. U2, the greatest band in the world, and the band with the most lucrative tour in music history, did the music for the 2006 and 2010 World Cups. But ESPN used Sigur Rós’s song “Festival” for a promotion released last December, so some people think the Icelandic superstars are the band for this tournament. I would be fine with either one. They’re both world-class bands.
19. Best and Worst World Cup Jerseys
One of the great things about the World Cup is the jerseys. You see the most talented players in the world wearing these great uniforms, and then you go spend too much money buying the same jerseys—and they don’t even give you the same powers! But, every World Cup, hope springs eternal.
1. Brazil home (classy yellow, color of champions)
2. Spain home (defending champions with crest)
3. Argentina home (the legendary and always fashionable blue stripes on white)
1. Spain away (nuclear green highlighter on black)
2. Mexico away (Charlie brown stripe)
1. Croatia home. Their tablecloth jerseys always elicit a reaction. I’m never sure what it is.
2. Belgium’s home jersey is odd. They have some faded finger-print-and-freckle-shapes on the jersey. I’m confused
20. Isn’t Soccer Boring?
Many people who ask the question, or who say with authority, “Soccer is boring!” are also baseball fans. This, I think you’ll agree, eliminates all of their credibility.
Now, before you go labeling me as a baseball hater, you should know that I enjoy baseball. I’ve been to dozens of Texas Rangers games and watched minor league games in multiple states. I’ve been to Busch Stadium and Wrigley Field. I like baseball. But it’s a slow, boring, silly game if you don’t know what’s going on and you don’t understand the technique and the strategy.
Soccer haters are ignorant of the athleticism, strategy, and skill required to play the game.
Of course, it’s also easy to hate what you’re afraid of—soccer haters may be afraid of the sport, because it is a rising power in the United States. And the game in America will only be helped next summer when the United States hosts the Copa America, the premier South American tournament.
But that’s next summer. This summer is now, and the World Cup is less than 24 hours away.