World Cup 2014

Why Soccer Is the Future of Sports in America

I remember being a kid in the 1980s.  The sports heroes of mine and my friends played in Major League Baseball, the NBA, and, to a lesser extent since I didn’t grow up in a football town, the NFL.  Soccer was a sport I played as a kid because it was fun.  I wasn’t very good at it so I never thought about playing for a competition team.  Little league soccer was the beginning and end of my knowledge of soccer as a kid.  Unless you count Pelé’s Soccer, the game for the Atari 2600 where little blobs would pass a square back and forth to each other.  But it is not the 1980s anymore.  American kids think of soccer on a much, much bigger scale than we did back then.  And here’s your proof:

Copyright 2014 - RealExcitingSoccer.com

Copyright 2014 – RealExcitingSoccer.com

Meet “Timmy.”  Timmy is my neighbor who lives up the street.  Timmy is between the ages of nine and eleven and LOVES soccer.  He regularly gets together with two other kids his age on our street and watches Real Salt Lake matches.  Being the responsible adult that I am, I often have to watch RSL matches on DVR while I take care of parental duties at home.  What this means is that Timmy and the other kids on street often come knocking on my door before I’m done watching with exclamations about how great the match was.  And they don’t even give me spoiler alerts!

Timmy and his friends are the future of sports fans in the United States.  Unlike my generation back in the 80s, they have actual soccer heroes to look up to.  Timmy is wearing a Cristiano Ronaldo jersey, Real Salt Lake shorts, and was just trying out his new Neymar shoes.  His regular, non-cleated wear-around-town shoes are Lionel Messi’s signature shoes.  At his feet is a replica of the Brazuca, the official match ball for the 2014 World Cup.  The official World Cup match ball has had a different name in every World Cup since 1970. But do you think I knew that?  Not as a kid.  Timmy, on the other hand, is fully aware that Brazuca is the special ball for this World Cup.  Don’t even get me started on how excited Timmy and friends have been for the World Cup.

And soccer as the future of American sports goes deeper than just fandom.  Soccer has a lot of advantages over other sports when it comes to kids’ dreams.  If you want to play in the NBA, you better be at least six-foot-five and be able to jump out of the gym.  I can’t find a link for it, but I remember once at a basketball camp as a teenager that a kid raised his hand and asked then future-NBA Hall of Famer Karl Malone what he needed to do to play in the NBA.  Malone was brutally honest: “Kid,” he said, “you’re never going to play in the NBA.”  He went on to explain how this undersized kid from Sandy, Utah did not have the God-given gifts to play in the NBA. And it really is true.  With the way that the game is today, there are really only 400-500 guys in the world with the right combination of skill and physical gifts to be able to play in the NBA.  I remember Scott Skiles putting on a clinic when I was young in which he said that he spent 10 hours a day in the gym just to prove that anyone, even short guys with no inherent athletic gifts, could play in the NBA if they worked hard enough.  But the kid who wants to spend ten hours in a gym everyday is going to be hard to come by.

The inherent barriers that exist in basketball and, to a certain extent, football, do not exist in soccer. The best player in the world is only 5’7″.  Another of the best players in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo, is 6’1″ and was recently described by RSL Captain and USMNT player Kyle Beckerman as “big” and “powerful.”  Soccer is a sport that anyone can play.  Timmy comes from a great family of average-sized people.  But his dreams of being a soccer player someday?  Very much alive because soccer is a sport that anyone can play.  If his sports heroes were in the NBA, his dreams of playing professionally would end sooner rather than later.  If he really wants to play professionally, he, of course, is going to have to spend every waking moment on the practice field (Neymar was famously recruited to play for Brazilian club Santos at the age of six!).  But at the age of nine or ten, Timmy’s dream is very much alive.

Kids like Timmy are just one of the reasons that soccer is here to stay in this country and that it will continue to be the fastest growing sport in America.  Sorry, non-soccer fans. 

Everything Wide Open Going into Final Group Stage Matches and the Odds that Your Team Will Advance

The final group stage matches begin today and everything is wide open.  Only in Group B, where the Netherlands and Chile have qualified for the knock-out round, have the results so far given any clarity as to how the rest of the World Cup might play out.  In the rest of the groups at least three–and sometimes all four teams–could still move on to the knockout round.  Brazilian megasite globoesporte.com gives the odds for each team going through.  The odds are based on the number of points each team has already earned, who each team’s opponent is in the final match, and where they sit in terms of tie-breakers.  If a team has to score a boatload of goals to make up a negative goal differential, the way the Portugal does, then that team’s odds of going through are lower.  The odds are as follows:

Group A

Brazil – 95%
Mexico – 66%
Croatia – 39%
Cameroon – Out

Group B

Netherlands – In
Chile – In
Spain – Out
Australia – Out

Group C

Colombia – In
Côte d’Ivoire – 54%
Greece – 36%
Japan – 10%

Group D

Costa Rica – In
Italy – 57%
Uruguay – 43%
England – Out

Group E

France – 99%
Switzerland – 57%
Ecuador – 39%
Honduras – 5%

Group F

Argentina – In
Nigeria – 77%
Iran – 23%
Bosnia-Herzogovina – Out

Group G

Germany – 99%
USA – 83%
Ghana – 14%
Portugal 4%

Group H

Belgium – In
Algeria – 52%
Russia – 46%
South Korea – 2%

Whether the United States goes through could still be determined by a coin flip.  If Germany beats the USA 3-0 and Portugal beats Ghana 2-0 then the two teams will be tied in goals scored and goals allowed.  Because they tied head-to-head, there would be no alternative to breaking the tie other than a coin flip.

How do you like your team’s odds?  Who do you think will go through?  How have you been enjoying the Cup so far?  Comment below!

I Promise My Play-by-Play Is More Fun than Ian Darke and Taylor Twellman: USA-Portugal in RealExciting Style

What a match!  This, folks, is why soccer is so exciting, why so many people around the world devote themselves so passionately to following the Beautiful Game.  Because things can change so quickly and so suddenly, no lead is safe until the final whistle.  Whether you listen to the RealExciting Play-by-Play or not, leave your reaction to the match in the comments section.

Click Here to Relive USA vs. Portugal in RealExciting Style!

Seriously.  This match is why soccer is such a great sport to follow.

After a Few Days Off, Here’s Argentina-Iran in RealExciting Fashion

So, it’s been a busy week.  RealExcitingSoccer.com has been a bit neglected.  But we’re back in the swing of things now.

Click here for RealExciting Play-by-Play of today’s Argentina-Iran Group F clash!

We’ll be stepping up our coverage of the World Cup over the next few days as the Group stage finishes up.  RealExcitingSoccer.com will feature at least one play-by-play per day.  Here’s a rough schedule:

Sunday, June 22, 2014: United States vs. Portugal in Group G

Monday, June 23, 2014: Cameroon vs. Brazil in Group A

Tuesday, June 24, 2014: Italy vs. Uruguay in Group D

Wednesday, June 25, 2014: Ecuador vs. France in Group E

Thursday, June 26, 2014: United States vs. Germany in Group G

Stick with us!  We’ll change the rhythm at with you experience The Beautiful Game!

Ghana vs. United States – RealExciting Play-by-Play!!

What a match!  I spent part of the day jokingly going back and forth on Facebook with a friend of mine who is not a soccer fan.  In fact, he regularly expresses a certain level of disdain for the sport.  It’s all good.  We were all soccer haters at some point in our past.  But after the match today, I got a text from him saying that the match, which he apparently watched, was “epic” and “entertaining even.”  I’m glad he, and so many others enjoyed it.  It was a fun match to call.  Click the link below to experience the match the RealExciting way!

Click here for Ghana vs. USA RealExciting Play-by-Play

Germany-Portugal RealExciting Play-by-Play

I recognize that EVERYONE in the USA is currently watching Ghana-USA right now.  That said, despite many interruptions from kids during the course of the match, I was able to get through the full play by play for Germany-Portugal.

Brought to in RealExcitingSoccer style!  Synch up your DVR and have a listen to our play-by-play of the match that took place earlier today in Salvador at the Arena Fonte Nova!

Click Here for Germany vs. Portugal RealExcitingSoccer Play-by-Play

Today: Death! With Two Audio Surprises Later Today

Group G is the “Group of Death” in this year’s World Cup.  With an average FIFA World Ranking of 13.5 (Germany 2nd, Portugal 4th, USA 13th, and Ghana 37th), it is the toughest group by that measure alone.  The USA has a tough road ahead if it’s going to get out of the Group stage, where only the top two teams in the group advance to the knockout round.  But stranger things have happened.

In honor of the magnitude of Group G play today, I’ll be doing play-by-play in RealExciting fashion and will post them later today.  If you’re unable to watch the matches live, watch this space and synch up your DVR to watch the match with RealExciting play-by-play.

Alegria Pura: Reactions from Around Brazil to Neymar’s First Goal

The first time I really got into the World Cup, I was living in Brazil in 1998.  The reactions of the people to goals, the fireworks, Brazilian National Team announcer Galvão Bueno‘s play by play and goal calls.  It was all breathtakingly joyous.  Alegria pura.  Pure Joy.  Truthfully, when I got back to the United States, something was missing from my soccer experience.

The piece below at the New York Times shows the reactions of Brazilians around the country to the first goal scored in today’s match by Neymar.

Click here to see the New York Times’ interactive video.

That brought back the joy I first experienced in 1998 while watching the World Cup with Brazilians in Brazil.  Tip o’ the hat to law school collegue Scott Wessman for sharing it.

 

The 2014 World Cup Is Here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1

Today is the first day of the 2014 World Cup!  Later today, Brazil and Croatia kick off the tournament at the Arena Corinthians in São Paulo.  Leave a comment with your predictions!  Who do you think will with the World Cup?  Will a European team finally win in South America?  Will Brazil avenge their 1950 loss on home soil in the final?  Will an African team surprise us all this year?  Will the USMNT get out of the group of death?  So many story lines.  So much to watch.  This is the best time of every four years!  What are you most looking forward to?

This is a new website, so I’m still figuring things out.  But I encourage you to DVR today’s match and then to check this space later this evening.  There will be an audio surprise waiting for you that will change the rhythm at which you experience the Beautiful Game in the English language.

When It Comes to the World Cup, John Oliver Tells It Like It Is

People who know me know that I love Brazil.  They know that I love soccer.  So they’ve asked me, “Are you going to the World Cup?”  And my usual response is, “I did my life wrong.  I’m not going.”  But, at the end of the day, there was a moment about six months ago when I had to decide if I was going to scrape the funds together to go.  I was well aware of the protests that went on in Brazil during the 2013 Confederations Cup, the “rehearsal” event for the World Cup the following year.  I have enough Brazilian friends who have told me that they feel that the average Brazilian gets no benefit from the World Cup coming to the country.  I have seen the embarrassing quotes from legendary Brazilian soccer icon Ronaldo who, in response to protesters’ cries for spending to build better infrastructure instead of better soccer stadiums, said that “you can’t host a World Cup with better hospitals and schools.”  But I love soccer!  So I felt an extreme sense of conflict about whether to go or not.  Despite the spectacle of the World Cup, part of me would also rather go to Brazil when it’s not so full of tourists.  In the end, I decided not to go.  It’s a decision that I partially regret and partially am at peace with.  But HBO’s John Oliver has perfectly captured the conflict that many soccer fans feel as they try to balance their love of the Beautiful Game with the atrocities and corruption rampant in soccer’s governing body, FIFA. Enjoy!

 

EDIT: After watching the Ronaldo link that shows all of his goals, I have to say that it will be a real shame if Germany’s Miroslav Klose breaks Ronaldo’s all-time goal record.  It would be sort of like Karl Malone breaking Kareem’s all-time points record in the NBA (sorry Jazz fans).  Unless Germany wins the World Cup.  Then it would be like John Elway winning his Super Bowls.  But all of that is another topic entirely.