Thursday, May 01, 2014

Starting XI: Getting Ready to Meet the Teams

It's a great big world, and a great big World Cup. Sure if you've made it to this tiny dot in the soccer writing starscape, you probably care more about Croatian goalkeeping than is reasonably good for a sane person.

However, on the oft chance that the all-powerful google kicked you out on this curb and you're just getting to know what soccer is and who is playing, allow us to welcome you in. Over the next month I'll introduce you to each and every team with information both valuable and moronic. Here's what you'll see this next month

I. Nickname: Every national team has their own little nickname to complement the country name. Some are fearsome "Les Diables Rouge"/The Red Devils for Belgium, and some are just based on colors "La Azzuri"/The Blue for Italy. We'll break it down so you feel like you're one of the core fans and can understand when futbol writers toss out references in recaps.

II. Star: While you need a full 11 players meshing together to succeed, soccer at this level is very much a game of stars (particularly when you watch it on television). This will be a nice spot to introduce you to the best player on each side--some of whom anyone with ears/eyes can recognize, and others you will get to know more and more over the next few months

III. Hip-Star: If you want to go beyond knowing who the rest of the world is talking about, this is where I can give you any hipster's favorite player on each team. These guys may fly under the radar, but that's what makes them inherently better than anyone else.

IV. X-Factor: More often than not matches are determined not by anything a team does on the pitch, but by what their rivals do to prepare (or not prepare for them). This spot will give me a shot to set up what else in the competition can boost and bomb a team's chances.

V. Coach: It never hurts to get to know the man in charge. Masterminds, tacticians and the plumb lucky will end up getting their due as well.

VI. History: The legacy of each team in the World Cup should be considered, not because the great-grand-daddy's of by gone legends will actually take to the pitch, but just because you can be certain that some one, somewhere has sepia toned memories of what was great (even if it wasn't)

VII. Food: Getting ready for the cup requires a couple of things--first and foremost is figuring out what to eat and drink while cheering your team on to greatness. I'll take a look at what's on the menu in each location and plot out my own Road to Rio...Bravo Weight Loss Clinic

VIII. Fool: Unfortunately, any time a national team does well they offer solace to the only public official who engenders more hatred than the team manager: the political leader. I'll give a quick rundown of the insufferable, moronic and generally loathe-able figureheads who will be in the luxury boxes rather than on the turf.

IX. Best Case: Returning to the old chestnut "In It But Win It" series from last fall, I'll run down what the best case for each team is...

X. Worst Case: as well as the worst case...

XI. My prediction:...before concluding with my own prediction for how things will really go

ADDED BONUS! I'll send you off from each post with a little slice of musical culture...specifically the closest thing to hip-hop I can find from each country.

See you soon with facts, figures, and fun-making for every team in this year's World Cup.

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