JLo’s beginner’s guide to the World Cup: Messi vs. The Machine and where to go from here
Sunday are the finals of the World Cup, with Germany taking on Argentina. It’s tempting to look at the semi-final results and predict an easy German victory based on the 7-1 beat down they laid on host Brazil Tuesday. If there’s a lesson that this World Cup has taught us (other than stay away from Luis Suarez’s immaculate teeth when he’s feeling peckish) it’s this: don’t overreact to what just happened. At various times this tournament Brazil, France, England (just kidding), Uruguay, Columbia, and The Netherlands have all looked like possible champions. Perhaps none looked as absolutely devastating as the Germans have at times in ruthlessly crushing Portugal and in their felony molestation and assault of the entire nation of Brazil, but remember this is the same squad that looked hopelessly plodding and slow on defense against Algeria as recently as a week ago.
From the beginning I’ve backed Lionel Messi and Argentina as my winner, and they just have a bit of that team of destiny look about them. They are calling it Lionel Messi vs. the Machine, and in this case I’ll stick with my original selection and predict an Argentine win. Messi has consistently delivered this World Cup, and I think he’ll cement his place as one of the greatest of all time with a game winner on Sunday.
Now, a few random thoughts about the semi-finals:
- How thankful am I that a busy few days at work kept me from writing a post in the days before the semi-finals, especially when I was trying to justify Brazil rallying around Neymar’s injury and pulling off a stunning victory over Germany? Actually, forget you read that. I had the German in a massive blowout the whole time.
- How much of an outlier was Germany’s seven goal total? Here’s every other score in the knockout rounds (not including penalties): 1-1, 2-0, 2-1, 1-1, 2-0, 2-1, 1-0, 2-1 (damn you, Belgium!), 1-0, 2-1, 1-0, 0-0, and 0-0.
- I wonder what Tim Krul was thinking watching the penalties unfold against Argentina? Let’s be honest, Argentina scored on all four of their attempts but they didn’t exactly hit four immaculate penalty kicks. At least two of them were far too close to the keeper and would have been easy saves had the keeper guessed the right direction. And one probably SHOULD have been saved but wasn’t. Only Messi and Sergio Aguero hit what you would consider good to excellent penalties from a placement standpoint.
- Have you seen this? The Netherland’s Ron Vlaar’s penalty was saved and then almost went in when nobody was looking. Would it have counted? It’s hard to say since it is difficult to tell if the ball hit Vlaar on the rebound, which would have nullified the goal. Amazing stuff, regardless.
So, once this Sunday passes us by, I’m sure some of you new fans to the game will be asking, where do we go from here? (And welcome, by the way, there’s no bandwagon judgment here. It took me 35 years to properly embrace the game, so I’m not going to mock anybody for being a newbie. Unless you tell me that you’re now a Manchester United fan, then all bets are off.)
Well, I’m happy to report that you’ve got many options available to you, especially if you are in the Central Florida area.
First and foremost, get yourself down to Disney and catch Orlando City’s last season in the third tier USL Pro division before they step up to MLS next year. They Lions are having an unbelievable season, having not lost in any of their 16 league matches this season, winning 13 and drawing 3. Pretty good, no? Add to that the signing of former Ballon d’Or (world player of the year) Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, who you may know as Kaka, the rumored interest in his former Brazilian and AC Milan teammate Robinho (as a Manchester City fan, I have mixed feelings about this), and the unveiling of their spectacular new stadium being readied for 2016, and now is an exciting time to be a soccer fan here in Orlando.
Outside of Orlando you probably do (or soon will if you live near Atlanta or Miami) have an MLS franchise near you. Go check one out and look for some of the names you saw in the World Cup like Kyle Beckerman of the U.S. or Tim Cahill (he of this wonder strike below) of Australia.
Just around the corner is the English Premier League coming up in August, and thanks to NBC Sports phenomenal coverage you can literally watch every single game of every team in the league. For those of you interested in latching on to a team, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you consider Manchester City unless you are willing to subject yourself to LOTS of bandwagon taunts at this point, but U.S. keeper Tim Howard and Everton would definitely be a club to consider. As great as it is to simply watch many of these game as a neutral, developing a rooting interest most definitely adds an additional level of excitement in the league. (Just remember my warning about United though.)
Look around you this summer. Lots of big European clubs come to the U.S. to play matches and tournaments (the International Champions Cup is an especially good one, featuring Real Madrid, Liverpool, AC Milan, and my beloved Manchester City amongst others.)
Want to root for the US of A again? There will be USMNT (the men) games this fall (exhibition matches, known in the soccer world as “friendlies.”), but the big draw will be the USWNT (the women) in the Women’s World Cup next year. One thing to get used to though – we’re a plucky, mid-level underdog on the rise in the men’s game, but an absolute powerhouse in the women’s game.
Anyway, enjoy the World Cup final then go out and find a team to support until we do it all again next year with the ladies.
Cheers and happy viewing.