It's the World Cup of Football, y'all, when the best national players come home to play for their home countries. Englishmen playing in Spain, Americans in Holland, Germans in the USA all return to do their patriotic duty. The best of the best, kind of like almost the entire National Hockey League returning home to Canada to win the gold medal in Olympic Ice Hockey.
Four years ago, most Americans I knew were giving it all the big skip (or maybe they were appalled by the vuvuzela, that loud horn the crowd seemed to adore). This year, Americans are congregating anywhere it's offered, and in my town they're broadcasting games on a Jumbotron in an downtown park. Thousands of people showed up to watch the USA beat Ghana. (Actually, they showed up to watch a soccer game and got the bonus of the win.) People in my office are speaking about the games with great excitement and knowledge. (Please note: These people didn't work in my office four years ago.)
Professional soccer players are tough customers. They make players in the NFL seem like little fat kids with bad attitudes and not a lot of athletic prowess. I love that comparison but I am sure most players in the NFL would take exception to it. Yeah, I wanna see those muscle-bound oafs running hundreds of yards for 45 minutes straight. They would be coughing up lung in short order.
Here is how FIFA (Fédération Internationale de Football Association, based in Zurich, Switzerland) scoring goes in the words of my friend and blog subscriber, Suzy Forcella:
The World Cup consists of two stages: the group stage and the knockout stage. Initially the 32 teams competing in the WC are divided into 8 groups and during the group stage of the competition a team will play all the other members of their group (3 games total). Points are awarded to the team based on the result of the match: 3 points for a win, 1 for a draw, and 0 for a loss. After the 3 games are played the two teams with the most points in each group move on to the knockout stage.
Italy are in group D with England, Uruguay and Costa Rica. The current point standings are: Costa Rica with 6 points (they won against Uruguay and Italy), Italy with 3 points (they won against England and lost to Costa Rica), Uruguay with 3 points (they lost against Costa Rica and won against Italy), and bringing up the rear is England with 0 points. Italy and Uruguay are tied for 2nd place on points, so in order to break that tie they look at goal differential (goals for minus goals against). Italy has a goal differential of 0 and Uruguay has -1, so Italy is in 2nd place. In their final game against Uruguay, Italy only needs a draw to remain in 2nd place (they would retain the goal differential advantage over Uruguay).
England are done for, however. With 0 points even if they won against Costa Rica (very unlikely at this point) they would still only have 3 points and one of Italy or Uruguay will have either 4 or 6.
Thanks, Suzy! You're a good, clear writer.
And now y'all know what I know.
I think you know my preferred team. USA! U S A ! !