8 Reasons to Watch the World Cup 2010
There are a number of reasons to catch the World Cup June 11–July 11. Here are eight.
The FIFA World Cup, is the absolute pinnacle of the sport known worldwide as football (“soccer” in North America), the culmination of more than two years of qualifying matches held on six of the planet’s seven continents. This summer, the quadrennial celebration is again heading south of the equator. But for the first time ever, the World Cup will be held in Africa, in the Republic of South Africa. The tournament began in 1930, and except for World War II (1942 and 1946), has been held every four years since. Brazil, host for the 2014 World Cup, has won five of the 18 titles. Italy, the defending champions, has won four times, and Germany three. Impressive numbers. Want more? Here are eight reasons to watch.
1. It is the biggest stage of the world’s most popular game (with an estimated 3.3 billion to 3.5 billion fans).
The tournament boasts 32 teams from around the world (pared down from 208 national teams during qualifying play) a truly international field converging on a single country. The month-long World Cup features a total of 64 games, with 48 “group” matches followed by 16 knockout games. The finals are July 11 at Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg.
2. Star power.
With a few exceptions, the best players of the game will be present, not wearing club kits but their national colours. Expect to see England’s Wayne Rooney (Manchester United), Brazil’s Kaka (Real Madrid), Spain’s Fernando Torres (Liverpool), Argentina’s Lionel Messi (Barcelona), France’s Franck Ribéry (Bayern Munich), Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (Real Madrid), the Netherlands’ Robin van Persie (Arsenal), Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), the Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba (Chelsea) and Cameroon’s Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan).The World Cup can also be a dazzling rite of passage, as it was for 17-year-old Edson Arantes do Nascimento, better known as Pelé, when he won his first World Cup with Brazil in 1958. This year, watch for Giovani Dos Santos of Mexico, Jozy Altidore of the United States, Eljero Elia of Netherlands and Ángel Di María of Argentina.
3. The power of emotion, driven by national pride.
These stars aren’t only the most skilled in the world; they’re among the wealthiest athletes on the planet. But they’re not interested in a payday. They’re playing for honour, for country and, in many instances, immortality.
4. The chance to see something truly breathtaking.
Moments become legend, such as the logic-defying save by England’s Gordon Banks of a certain goal by the incomparable Pelé during the 1970 World Cup in Mexico City, or Brazil’s Carlos Alberto’s laser strike against Italy in the final that same year, or France’s Zinédine Zidane imposing his iron will on Brazil in 1998 during a 3–0 victory that secured the only World Cup won by Les Bleus.
5. Intriguing match-ups.
The opening contest on June 11 between Mexico and host South Africa may reveal whether either is a contender or pretender. The Group C match between England and the United States marks the 60th anniversary of one of the World Cup’s most memorable upsets (a 1–0 U.S. victory in 1950). Group G, with Brazil, Portugal, the Ivory Coast and North Korea has been dubbed the “Group of Death,” since at least one excellent team won’t advance. Plus, every team from every World Cup final since 1966 is in the field, a harbinger of epic battles between long-time adversaries during the knockout rounds.
6. The potential for an upset.
For proof, consider last year’s Confederations Cup, a dress rehearsal for the World Cup. Spain came in riding a 35-game unbeaten streak, holding the world’s No. 1 ranking. The Spaniards were poised to make it 36 straight against a United States squad that was playing like second-tier competition. The result? A dramatic 2–0 victory for the Americans. In 2002, the Republic of Korea made a gallant-but-improbable run to the semifinals (with wins over Italy, Portugal and Spain) on home soil. Could South Africa’s Bafana Bafana, led by the sublime Steven Pienaar (Everton), make a similar run?
7. Who has home-field advantage?
The World Cup has traditionally gone to countries located close to the host nation, notably Italy in 2006 (Germany), France in 1998 (France), Germany in 1982 (Spain), England in 1966 (England) and Argentina in 1986 (Mexico) and 1978 (Argentina). But there have been exceptions, such as Brazil in 2002 (Japan and South Korea), in 1994 (United States) and in 1958 (Sweden). South Africa is a wild card. The smart money may be on Brazil’s Samba Kings, but don’t dismiss traditional heavyweights Argentina, Italy and Germany, all of which can win ugly; the resurgent squads from Spain, Portugal and the Netherlands; and the elite-yet-enigmatic Elephants of the Ivory Coast.
8. You won’t be alone.
Millions of fans, from the passionate to the casual, are expected to tune in to the games via television. Why? For the same sense of pride, camaraderie and competition that draws and inspires these players.