Sarah Braunstein

The Five-Minute Guide to the World Cup

  • Goalazo
  • Sarah Braunstein
  • June 10, 2010, 12:48 PM

If you’re like me, you love soccer. You already have your Donovan jersey laid out for tomorrow. You know the nicknames of all the top teams. You cannot wait for the World Cup to start tomorrow.

If you’re not like me you are two things.

1) Nuts. Because the World Cup is the single greatest international sports tournament in the world.

2) In luck. Because this five-minute guide will turn you from a know-nothing to a know-it-all in time to savor the Beautiful Game, impress your friends and watch the best of the best compete for the ultimate glory.

The World Cup features 32 teams divided into eight groups, A – H. Each group has four teams. In the first stage, group play, each team plays three games. The top two finishers move on to the round of 16. The winning teams move on, the losers go home, until one team is crowned champion. The group to pay attention to is Group D (Group of Death), the toughest group in this year’s World Cup, featuring Brazil, Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. Any match in this group is worth watching.

My pick? The Netherlands. But there are plenty of other contenders. Spain is the top ranked team in the world, Brazil is bursting with talent, England has a real shot this year, Serbia is a dark horse, Argentina has the best player in the world, and France and Italy, the top two teams from the last World Cup are still really, really good. Portugal, South Korea and even USA also could pull off upsets.

If you live in the US and aren’t rooting for team USA and captain Landon Donovan, you’re out of your mind. Even still, here’s a list of the players you should say are your favorites if you want to become a fair-weather fan of another team.

Spain – David Villa
Brazil – Kaka
Netherlands – Wesley Sneijder
England – Wayne Rooney
Germany – Michael Ballack is injured, if you know your stuff you’ll root for his replacement Mesut Ozil
Argentina – Messi
Serbia – Milos Krasic
Italy – Gianluigi Buffon
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo
France – Franck Ribery
South Korea – Park Chu-Young

At the very least make sure you have an opinion on the best players at every position. The top strikers are Messi and Rooney. The best midfielders are Xavi (Spain) and Cristiano Ronaldo. The best defenders are Nemanja Vidic (Serbia) and Maicon (Brazil). And the best goalies are Buffon and Iker Casillas (Spain).

Start off on day one as host country South Africa takes on Mexico if for no other reason then to see the opening ceremonies. June 12th is all about England vs. USA followed by Serbia vs. Germany the next day. On June 15th I like Ivory Coast vs. Portugal. On June 24th Cameroon takes on my pick to win it all, The Netherlands. Chile vs. Spain on June 25th should be great but not as good as Portugal vs. Brazil on the same day. And my pick for the number one match of the first round? Brazil vs. Ivory coast on June 20th.

The biggest pre-tournament injury belongs to Didier Drogba of Ivory Coast. If he doesn’t recover from his broken arm Africa loses its biggest star. Michael Ballack of Germany has an ankle injury, Nani of Portugal is out with a bruised collarbone and Fernando Torres of Spain is questionable because of his knee issues. Wayne Rooney, Kaka, Robin van Persie (NED) and Jozy Altidore (USA) are also recovering from injuries that could impact how their teams finish.

South Africa, as the host team, needs to do well, and all the African teams are under pressure to get someone out of the round of 16. Team USA didn’t make it out of group play in 2006 and as a top 15 team they’re under real pressure to contend. Argentina has the world’s best player in Messi and the world’s craziest coach in Diego Maradona. If Argentina busts, heads will roll. As usual the defending champ (Italy) has pressure to win again.

1) “Italy is good but they’re too old to win back-to-back World Cups.”
2) “Maradona (head coach) has turned Argentina into a mess and should be blamed if the team doesn’t do well.”
3) “Can you believe that only seven different teams have won the 18 World Cups? Wouldn’t it be cool if Italy, Germany and Brazil faded and a new team won?”
4) “Germany’s defense is great but they don’t have a goal-scorer to match the offense of the other top teams.”
5) “Whichever team has the most aggressive fullbacks, who can attack and score, will win.”

(Recall these recent World Cup moment to make it seem like you’ve been watching soccer all your life)

2006 – Zidane’s infamous head-butt of Materazzi in the final. Italy wins it all.
2002 – USA stuns the world by making it to the quarterfinals after beating Mexico 2-0.
1994 – Everyone said the US would fail as host. Instead, attendance records were set and respect for the US team was gained.
1986 – Maradona’s Hand of God goal wins it for Argentina over England.

Well folks, there you have it! The whole world loves Soccer (or Football) and you should too. The World Cup only happens every four years. Don’t miss your chance to enjoy it. And feel free to leave me questions in the comments sections if I left anything out.

Your rating: None Average: 3.6 (33 votes)

More »


Well, continuing on the soccer discussion, goalies are the most important player on the team, as Dodgeballstar said. The reason why there are not many scores in soccer is because the goalies block so many shots, or force the opposing forward to bend his kick so that the ball misses the goal. I played goalie for 5-6 seasons(I've played just about every position on the soccer field so I can relate to them all)and the number 1 thing is CUTTING DOWN THE ANGLE. This starts with the defender. With an exception of one-on-ones defenders are always blocking off the angle for the shot. Then the goalie has a place where he knows the ball will be coming. Goalies have some of the best reaction times in sports. So therefore, the goalie will most likely block the ball. Turning to the World Cup, sketchy referee decisions have left people stunned, including me. My pick to win the World Cup all along is Brazil.

Things I would chang about soccer
1 make the goals bigger or something to make more goals scorde im sick of a 90 minute game resulting in a 2-1 final one goal every 30 minutes is boring which is why i dont love the world cup to death
2 no more ties if it ends in a tie do what you would do if it was in the knockout round and award 2 points for an OT or shootout win and 1 for an OT or shootout loss
3 no more flopping in you should get a redcard for flopping that is ridiculous I touch your face and you act like i punched you and refs you can tell if someone flops so no red cards given if you barely touch someone and they act like a baby so they can get penalty kick
4 i know this sounds dumb but can we get more aggressive here thats why (American) football is cool cause people are hit so show me some umps here and there
5 i kind of want less players on the field 11 is too much maybe 7 will be good maybe 2 forwards 2 midfielders 2 defenders and 1 goalie
And i know i sound like i hate soccer but i dont i just want changes to make it more exciting and make it to where i watch it more tell me what you think

GGGGGGGGGGGGoooooooooooooooooooooooooo USA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

WE Rock!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Landon Donavan is certainly our best player, but we really need a great defence.

Go Landon Donavan and USA

athletic champion is right. soccer is a game where an ordinary american will turn it on, see a ball being passed to one guy then another, and another, so on. the reason why is they are waiting for an easy play to develop within the territory to possibly cross it or find an open slot and kick the ball. goaltenders don't get as much respect as they should. the entire game seriously depends on them. they are the main focus point. a lot of people think that mid fielders and forwards are more important mainly because the hold the dribble the ball. goal tenders are the ones that keep you in the game. they have to jump and dive every which way to save a ball. and the world cup is so fun to watch because the thrill of knowing you've been waiting four years to win this thing and you do. there is also a time where you come close, but a loss eliminates you.

sarah 'the brain ' brunestein [or whatever it is ] got the whole thing wrong.the group with brazil,ivory coast ,portugual and north korea is group g,not group d


I <3 Park Chu-Young! Go South Korea!

I like Messi and think that Argentina will go far. I think team U.S. is going to do well with Landon Donavan and Jozy Altidore together but overall I think Spain, Brazil, Argentina, U.S., or Portugal will hoist the cup.

The reason that soccer is such a low-scoring sport is because there are rarely one-on-ones with the goalkeeper. 99% of the time, a defender is right on you, or is on your hip. I agree that soccer can be a bit boring to watch, but when you play it, the game comes alive. I play soccer in at the highest district level, which is just below all the premier teams. I used to play goalie, and so I played forward for one season. I thought it would be easy to score. Boy, was I wrong. I was the second-highest scorer on my team, but goals were hard to get. Once I shot the ball, and while it was going into the net, I was absolutely smashed into the ground. Also, the reason why the World Cup is the greatest international sporting event is because Soccer in Europe is like the NFL here. The World Cup is the Super Bowl, only the World Cup lasts for a month. Like I said, you have to play the game to respect the game.

i did, for 3 years plus some at recess. sometimes (make that most of the times) it can be fun to play, but it is only fun to watch when its kids (or little kids) that are playing. that's just my opinion.

And as good as these athletes are, you'd think there would be more scoring when you have one little human as the goalie and the net is as big as a Cadilac Escalade.

How can the Netherlands win? They don't have anybody

they came out strong!!! thats how they can win

yah,the only good teams are brazil argentina spain

yah da only teams dat could win r;brazil,argentina ,italy or spain.

I guess I'm nuts, because like Duane From New Jersey, according to the most recent SI Kids Radio, I respect soccer only for the amazing athletes who play it. Soccer as a whole just doesn't appeal to me. And not only that, but there is NO way the World Cup can match up with the Olympic games as the greatest international sporting event in the world; even the World Baseball Classic could make a run to beat the World Cup if it got half the attention in America as it gets in other countries. Everyone has a right to their own opinion, but I just don't see what is so great about soccer.

they fake fall to get fouls

its hard for me to watch soccer with my dad because every time someone does something good he says "you should do that more" and whenever someone scores he yells gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooal

i hate when they fake fall whenever i see it it makes me not want to see it again.I dont really get why they do that.

i agree. sometimes it can be SOOOOOOOOO boring to watch.
punt, kick, shoot, goalie misses, whoopie. repeat, after 20 minutes of passing, missing, and fake-injuries.

By Sport Blogs

By Date

BLOGS See all »