What's all the fussbol about?
It's that time again, sports fans. Every four years, the best national soccer teams in the world convene to compete for the right to be called the best - that's right, the FIFA World Cup.
Now, typically, most Americans don't care for soccer. We hosted the damn thing once, and even then the domestic ratings were beaten by the Super Bowl. But Clark College is a bastion of civility in the dark depths of the jungles of madness. Clark, after all, is home to one of the premier soccer teams in the northwest - two time conference champions in ten years.
The game of soccer, at its heart, is pure exertion. Two, 45 minute halves of competition. No breaks. And the World Cup is the ultimate display of soccer and possibly the ultimate spectacle of sports. It's soccer at its highest level, played by the best athletes from every continent, mixed with genuine cultural exchange and patriotic competition between nations.
What makes this year's Cup special is that it will be taking place in South Africa, the first time it will be held on African soil. The tournament consists of 32 teams, who compete in two phases. First they compete in round-robin style brackets in randomly selected groups of four for the right to move on to the second phase. Then the best from the group stages move on to a single elimination tournament. The World Cup lasts a month in total, beginning this Friday and continuing through to July 11.
Unfortunately, the World Cup always seems to be a less-than-victorious experience for American fans. The U.S. has made it out of the group stage just once in the modern history of the game. That moment was overshadowed publicly, however, after Colombian defender Andrés Escobar was shot and killed in Columbia weeks afterward scoring an own-goal in a 2-1 loss against the U.S in the 1994 group stage. That might actually be overstating it though, since most of the time the U.S. struggles to make it out of group play, let alone compete in the Round of 16 and beyond.
But this year, there is a reason to be excited about a potential run into the Round of 16. This year's squad is strong, with a dynamite defensive mid-field led by veteran defenders Carlos Bocanegra and Oguchi Onyewu.
Bocanegra led much of the current team to upset victories against European dynamos like Turkey and Spain. Onyewu on the other hand, is looking for redemption in this year's World Cup after commiting a costly penalty in the '06 Cup that led to a goal by Ghana, resulting in the U.S. being eliminated in the Group Stage.
The U.S. is also going to field a potentially dominating mid-field. The hopefuls of four years ago, like Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, are now in the prime of their careers. The U.S. emerged from obscurity in the last 20 years to trade regional championships with rivals Mexico and become the dominant soccer force in North America. There's no better time or place for them to break out onto the world stage than right now in South Africa.
The World Cup has an air of the unexpected about it. For the first time, flowering soccer programs outside Europe and Latin America are in place to challenge the traditional soccer superpowers. Algeria, Japan, Ghana and the United States are all in excellent positions to advance out of the group stage. I hope you'll join me in watching the first can't-miss game of the tournament this Friday at 11:30 a.m.
You can see a full list of match times and group brackets at www.fifa.com.
Contact Randall Thiel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. World Cup Schedule
June 12- 11:30 a.m. PDT vs. England (on ABC)
June 18- 7:00 a.m. PDT vs. Slovenia (on ESPN)
June 23 - 7:00 a.m. PDT vs. Algeria (on ESPN)
2010 World Cup Key Dates
June 11- 7:00 a.m. PDT -First Match begins
June 26- 7:00 a.m. PDT -Round of 16 begins
July 11- 11:30 a.m. PDT -Championship game (on ABC)
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