I’m not the soccer fan I once was. That’s not because I like soccer any less, but rather because I just have a harder time squeezing it into my schedule. Which is kind of a shame because this is the glory age for American soccer fans.
When I first began following European soccer after the 1994 World Cup, viewing options were extremely limited. ESPN would show a few Champions League games each year, sometimes just the final. Each week I checked my local listings and set the VCR to record the Italian Serie A highlights show that the Prime Sports Network usually broadcast at 3:00 AM.1 Roberto Baggio, Alessandro Del Piero, Fabrizio Ravanelli, and Gianluca Vialli! Good times.
A few weeks back, NBC turned every one of its TV outlets over to the English Premier League, showing each match of the final day of the season live in the States. ESPN devotes significant time to the Champions League, shows the UEFA European Championships, and carries many US and Mexican national team matches. In addition to NBC and Fox’s coverage of the Premier League, shooting a few extra bucks to your cable provider opens up a whole tier of channels that carry pretty much every European domestic league.
If you want to see soccer, you can. We’ve come a long way.
All that is a long-winded2 introduction to my World Cup predictions. I’m excited about the World Cup, but reservedly so. I don’t think the US is getting out of its group. My Italians are in the midst of a changing of the guard, and not likely to advance deep into the tournament. And then there’s the fact we’re in the midst of our cable-less stretch, so I can’t watch the ESPN games from the comfort of my couch after the girls go to bed. And we’re generally out-of-town on the weekends, meaning I’ll miss the weekend games on ABC.
Oh well. Sometimes it’s more fun to read about the World Cup after the fact. I’ve been reading a lot of retrospective articles about past Cups this week. I suppose that will be my way of experiencing this year’s event, too.
Anyway, on to my half-assed picks!
- Brazil over Italy. Sigh. No magic for Andrea Pirlo and Gli Azzurri this time.
- France over Germany. My first upset. The tournament sets up nicely for Les Bleus and I think the Germans are vulnerable.
- Uruguay over Spain. My other big upset. Cup holders Spain go out valiantly, but fall to the hungrier South Americans who hope to match their big brother neighbors with a deep tournament run.
- Argentina over Portugal. Christiano Ronaldo has, for now, surpassed Lionel Messi as the world’s best player.3 But Ronaldo does not make Portugal better than Messi’s Argentine team.
- Brazil over France. I think Brazil plays under a tremendous amount of pressure in this tournament. I don’t think it gets to them here, though. Or at least France isn’t strong enough to take advantage of a nervous effort by the hosts.
- Argentina over Uruguay. The game of the tournament. Free flowing. Fast paced. Beautiful soccer. Luis Suárez scores two early, but Messi matches him. And Sergio Aguero gets a late winner to set up the Dream Final.
No surprise that FIFA, the most corrupt sports body in the world, gave Brazil and Argentina fairly easy groups on opposite sides of the draw. So kudos to them, I guess.
Here’s where the pressure hits the hosts. They clamp down on Messi and take him out of the game, but the rest of the Argentines pick up their game, and then some.
After, Brazilians complain about how their team has shifted to playing a more European-style, forgoing the classic jogo bonito that Brazil made famous. Which is ironic. In all the retrospectives of past cups, the 1982 Brazil team is often listed as the best to ever play in the Cup Finals. That team, however, lost to Italy in the semifinals, ushering in an era where Brazil dialed back the fun in interest of not letting teams back in the game. It’s time to put the bonito back in Brazil!
Argentina 3, Brazil 1
- There’s a whole generation of sports fans that don’t understand the concept of the highlight show, whether it is the Serie A review show, “This Week In Baseball,” or something similar. We get our highlights in real time now. No more reading about a game and then finally seeing grainy highlights a week later. ↩
- From moi??? ↩
- Uruguay’s Luis Suárez might have something to say about that. ↩