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Monday, June 5, 2006

All around the world

O.k., so I'm starting to get into the World Cup soccer thing. This week, I'm going to start calling it "football" and wear my one yellow t-shirt around. The action starts Friday morning at 9 our time. It looks like all the games -- wait, I think they're called "matches," right? -- are on cable, but not streaming live on the internet (at least, not in America). I'll try to watch at least parts of a few ga -- er, matches -- at the beginning, although it looks as though it may take a couple of days for the real fireworks of the tournament to start in Deutschland. (I wonder if Cousin Jim will get into this, since he was stationed over there in the Army. Which reminds me, when is he going to blog about the time that Granny Bogdanski came to Germany to visit him? But I digress....)

I know virtually nothing about the World Cup, but I've now taken a look at the tourney setup. There are 32 teams in there, broken into eight groups of four. They play a kind of round robin -- each team plays against the other three in its group, which takes around two weeks all told -- and then the two best in each group advance. There's some kind of scoring system based on win, lose, or draw, but that's for the advanced kids at this point.

Some of the groups are stronger than others, and so it matters which group you wind up in. I take it that the USA got itself dropped into a difficult group, while the powerful Brazil squad got into an easy one. Is that part of it fixed? Is this like women's figure skating?

Anyway, just to keep me awake during the June Madness that's about to begin, I've picked a team in each group to root for. Given my lack of "football" expertise, the selections are almost random, but does it matter at this stage? I don't know or much care if they stand a chance, dang it, but here are my boys:

A - Poland. I mean, come on, that one's obvious. The match against Germany should be a good one.

B - England. So I have something in common with the Kinks.

C - Argentina. Because it's all the way down there.

D - Portugal. How I wish I were watching the games from there.

E - USA. Of thee I sing.

F - Brazil.
They've got this Ronaldinho guy who's the next Pele, maybe.

G - Togo. This is the year.

H - Spain. See Portugal, above.

All right, the excitement mounts. Now you soccer types out there, help me out with the rest of this -- is there a halftime? And you can't touch the ball with your hands, right? Can you bump guys out of the way? Do they do that hockey thingie where the ball can't go across the line before the players? They don't have "icing the puck," obviously, but is there something like "grassing the ball"? Is it like baseball, where you can read a good book while the game's on and not miss much?

When the fans get nasty, will ESPN and ABC show it, or will they act like nothing's happening in the stands? Are there cheerleaders? Who buys advertising time for these games -- are they selling cars and beer, or is it sardines and hair mousse? Is that guy who screams "GO-O-O-O-OAL!" still around?

Comments (29)

Don't the Brazilians produce the next Pele every four years? None has measured up yet.

I'm taking the Portuguese.

Brazil against Portugal would be a great matchup. There's, shall we say, some history there. By my reading of the schedule, that match couldn't come until the finals or the third-place game.

To answer your questions:

Scoring System:
Win-3 pts.
Draw-1 pt.
Loss-0 Pts.

If teams are tied, ties will be broken on goal differential, that is if Team A scored 5 goals and gave up 4 it would advance ahead of Team B if Team B had scored only 4 goals but also given up 4.

The game is 2 45-minute halves with a 15 minute intermission between them.

Touching the ball with your hands is illegal except when the goalie does it.

You can bump guys out of the way although you may be called for a "foul" (a free kick), a "yellow card" (a particularly bad foul and a warning), or a "red card" (which means explusion from the match and your team must play with 1 less player).

There is no icing but there is offsides. If the ball is passed ahead of a player on their offensive end of the field and there is less than 2 players ahead of them, it is a free kick to the other team.

ESPN and ABC do show the fans, there aren't cheerleaders. Mostly people wave flags and set off flares in their country's colors. Oh and they chant. Some examples are "Ole, Ole, Ole, Ole" (generic) and for the US team "I want a rope, a tree, to hang the referee, I said I'm blind, I'm deaf, I want to be a ref" as well as "Que sera' sera'! Whatever will be, will be We're going to beat (team/team nickname) Que sera' sera'"

The advertisers are mostly the ones you'd have for major sports out here and all games are played with no ad breaks during play, only during halftime. However, the field is surrounded with advertising boards.

Oh and the guy who screams "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLL" is on Univision. It really has to be done in Spanish and the full pharse is "GOOOOOOOOOOOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL (Player's name who just scored) GOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL"

Is it going to be on Univision? It might be fun to have it going in Spanish, at least part of the time.

My understanding of the offsides rule is that an offensive player can't be behind the last defender(not counting the goalie) at the moment the ball is kicked forward to him or her. They've tinkered with this because it is so lame to see the defense rushing forward to create an offsides situation.
I would say the successor to Pele was Argentina's Diego Maradona. He's through now, but he was brilliant.
If you check out Portugal look for Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays for Manchester United. He's flashy but he's brilliant. The British like to say "Brilliant" more than we do.

"Is it like baseball, where you can read a good book while the game's on and not miss much?"

I got to see a couple of Brazil's first-round games in '94. Our seats were right next to a section full of Brazilians, and from what I could tell they didn't watch much of the game -- too busy playing assorted musical instruments and dancing. You'd really have to see a game live to get a full appreciation of the World Cup.

Here's everyone's favorite non-authoritative source on the process of selecting the tournament groups:


Since the second World Cup in 1934, qualifying tournaments have been held to thin the field for the final tournament. They are held within the six FIFA continental zones (Africa, Asia, North and Central America and Caribbean, South America, Oceania, Europe), overseen by their respective confederations. [...] The current finals tournament features 32 national teams competing over a month in the host nation(s). There are two stages, a group stage and a knockout stage. [...] In the first stage (the group stage), teams are drawn into eight groups of four. Eight teams are seeded at the draw (based on both current FIFA World Rankings and recent World Cups), and assigned a group. The other teams are drawn at random. Since 1998, constraints have applied to the draw to ensure that no group contains more than two European teams or more than one team from any other confederation. [...]

In the preliminaries, teams Mexico and USA appear to have tied for first. But Mexico had a much larger goal differential, so I expect that's why they became the seeded team.

I would say the successor to Pele was Argentina's Diego Maradona. He's through now, but he was brilliant.

To this day, people in England will put down everything they're carrying and offer to fight you in the street if you say anything good about Maradona, particularly if you say something laudatory about his "Hand of God" goal in 1986.

I received my NE Portland Community Center booklet this weekend, and the centers are going to be showing (I believe) every game. They also encouraged those attending to dress up in their teams colors, etc. I don't remember if they were going to have food or not. I tried to google the information, but could not find it. It sounded like a fun, family outing.

Every game is on Univison or some other Spanish language network I believe.


I believe there's another center showing the matches in Spanish as well, but I'm not sure which one.

One of the incredible things about England versus Argentina in 1986 - the match where Diego Maradona had the "Hand of God" goal - was that the two countires were only a few short years removed from fighting each other in the Falkland Islands War.
Yes, it was a blown call and Diego admitted he touched the ball with his hand, but I seem to remember later in the same match when Diego had a spectacular goal after a lengedary run through the British defense. He was the biggest star of his era and had complete charisma on the field. Sadly, he got involved with drugs and ended up a mess.

All of the games are going to be shown live on a (free) big screen at Dishman and St. Johns Community Centers. I thinik that Dishman is in English and St. John's en espanol. At least I hope so because I will be at Dishman at 6am on Saturday to watch England play Paraguay.

If it's in Spanish I can at least enjoy the commentator celebrate the goal(s) with the classic "GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL" exclamation!

Yes, it was a blown call and Diego admitted he touched the ball with his hand, but I seem to remember later in the same match when Diego had a spectacular goal after a lengedary run through the British defense.

Yeah, he ran past five guys--I think that goal was voted best goal of the 20th century, or something along those lines.

Here's the video clip of that goal, for anyone who hasn't seen it. The first couple moves are just freakish.

Have fun Jack. The "Beautiful Game" is played at its highest level during the next month. Think about this if nothing else, 4 years ago around 1/3 of the world's population watched the Championship match. This is BIGGER than even the Olympics and a lot more fun.

Univision is a great station for watching world cup games, even if you can't understand spanish. The US broadcasts are usually overladen with "interest stories" and the broadcasters spend far too little time talking about the actual action going on in the game. At least on Univision, you are constantly hearing the names of the players and you gotta love it when anyone scores.

Back in 1982, when I was a youngster playing in high school, I made the cable repair guy wait to fix our local reception while I watched the semifinal match go into overtime and then into penalty kicks.

I root for the good ol' USA and then Deutschland (family cultural influences on that one), though neither one are expected to do much this year.

My pick is for Brazil to break the South-America-never-wins-in-Europe curse. They are just that good.

have fun jack.

I believe the HorseBrass on SE Belmont usually has the games (especially the England games, obviously) on TV. Great atmosphere to take in a game, too, as long as your lungs can handle it.

Here's the schedule for the games being shown @ Horsebrass

Jack, you probably should know a little about strategy. There's the effective but frustrating "pack the defense and wait for the breakaway goal" that the Italians used in their last World Cup championship. There's the "whole group forward - whole group back"- style of Germany's last championship and then there's the blend of everybody else. Also, the ultimate way to celebrate a goal is to remove your jersey, yank out the flag in the corner, put your jersey on the flag and then wave it high in the air till the ref stops you.

I miss the Ickey Shuffle.

re hilsy comment.

Brazil won in europe in 1958. only South American team to do so I believe!

Jack, below is a very technical definition of offside.

A player is in an offside position if:
"he is nearer to his opponents' goal line than both the ball and the second last opponent on the opponents' defensive half of the field.

It is only an offense if:
A player in an offside position is, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:
- interfering with play or
- interfering with an opponent or
- gaining an advantage by being in that position

Have fun, Jack. It's a simple game, and it's fun.

I'm TiVo-ing all the games. If I'm short time, I'll just watch them on fast forward and stop them for what looks like a notable play.

Nice job picking someone from each group. It makes it a lot more fun.

Offsides is a rule they invented since most stadiuums can only show single-digit final scores. I still don't 90 minutes and every score is practically 1-0. I have the same gripe with hockey, a lot of puck moving, but no scoring.

I have the same gripe with hockey, a lot of puck moving, but no scoring.

The advantage to a low-scoring game, though, is that it can always be won in the last 5 minutes. Much more fun than watching the last three minutes of a NBA game where one team is up by 7 and they spend about 20 minutes shooting free throws.

The "soccer is low-scoring" argument is tired. There are 90 minutes of non-stop playing time. If the game ends 2-1, which is a fairly typical score, that means one goal scored for every 30 minutes you, the spectator, spends watching field action. I have watched many, many NFL games—with their constant stops and frequent commercials—that did not have scoring at that rate. And never mind that in football, a team can essentially score after failing—i.e., kick a field goal if they weren't quite good enough to score a touchdown.

Of course, there are bound to be some 0-0 snoozers this time around, just like there always are, and just like 80 percent of NBA and MLB games are dull.

I'd say it's not so much that the "soccer is low scoring" argument is somehow inaccurate, but rather that it simply misses the point. The fact that soccer is low scoring does not mean that it is boring, because with soccer the score of a game doesn't necessarily reflect its quality. Some 0-0 games are unquestionably dull, while others can be total nail-biters with end-to-end play, near-misses, and incredible saves.

ABC, ESPN & ESPN2 are showing matches and ESPN360.com will be streaming on the 'net.


From group A it will be the Germans. They have the home team advantage.

And the big side story of this World Cup will be the Polish hooligans. They make the English look like kittens.

Jak sie masz?

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