I have never been a huge fan of futbol, ever in my entire life. But back in March, I purchased FIFA 14 with the hope of finding something new and fun in life. And it didn’t take long for me to start enjoying the game. Of course, when you start something nearly brand new, you can’t be very successful until you gain familiarity with it. Like a new job, every first encounter with a more-tenured employee in the hall will be a little uncomfortable until you get used to it. It’s been three months and I’m still not that good at FIFA 14, but that doesn’t mean I’m not enjoying it because I actually find it amazing.
In the United States, we don’t really care about futbol, we care about FOOTBALL. The hard-hitting, heart-stopping, pain-filled blood-sport. It’s clearly the most popular sport of the four major sports we have in the United States. No one can argue it. No one can deny it. It’s the most entertaining. Even fantasy football might be more popular than hockey. People lose their mind when a star running back or wide receiver goes down with a serious injury. Fantasy owners end up “hating” that player. They even tweet at them, “You ruined my fantasy team’s season!”
But since the World Cup started, I think the sport of futbol has started to gain some steam in America, especially if the United Stats Mens National Team (why can’t they be called the United States? Argentina doesn’t call their team the Argentinian Mens National Team do they? I thought they called them “Messi”?) keeps playing at a high level. I have watched both United States’ games, and came away pretty impressed with what coach Jurgen Klinsmann has been able to do, given that the United States has far less talent than world powers like Brazil, Germany, France, and Argentina. We don’t breed soccer players in America. We breed killing machines, high-flying acrobats, and import guys from Latin America to throw 105 mph fastballs.
Not only have I watched the United States, I have also watched other teams because they have players who can captivate the globe. Neymar will be the best soccer player in the world when the season starts this fall, and he is only 21. Lionel Messi turns 27 in a couple of days, and is already going to go down as one of, if not, the greatest goal scorers in soccer’s history. I think he is the Kevin Durant of soccer. Cristiano Ronaldo is the LeBron James of soccer. He has received hate from hundreds of thousands of fans, especially when Portugal played the United States because he falls down and begs for calls. That’s part of the game in soccer. I don’t think it should be done nine out of 10 times, but I can’t say I hate him for it. He is the best player in the world, makes more money than any of our American athletes do, and probably can speak better English than a lot of Americans (Yes, SHOTS fired!). Oh, and did you see that pass he made at the end of the game? Unbelievable.
I got so into the World Cup this year, that I filled out a bracket on ESPN. Clearly I know as much about soccer as I do about college basketball because my bracket is a joke! I still have Brazil and Argentina in the World Cup final, so I’m OK for now. But who would have thought that Spain, England, and Italy, and possibly Portugal, would get the boot from pool play? That’s crazy, considering Spain won it just four years ago, but they are an “older” team, and Italy is an all-around solid squad. But teams like Costa Rica, Belgium, and Chile have risen to the challenge to take these teams out. And my hat is off to them.
If I had known a little more about soccer, I would not have slept on the Netherlands. What a fun team to watch, huh? Scoring goals in fine fashion and Robin Van Persie, one of the world’s best strikers, is leading the charge.
And how can you forget the drama? The United State’s John Brooks, a 20-year-old, heading a goal in from a corner in the late stages against Ghana. The excellent game played between Mexico and Brazil, that ended in a draw. Clint Dempsey’s goal against Portugal in the late stages to give the United States a 2-1 advantage. Then, moments later, Ronaldo flies a beautiful right in front of the net for a teammate, and Portugal scores. The game ends, literally as the ball is put into play, in a 2-2 tie. On Monday, Mexico scores three goals in a matter of minutes, and everyone around the world gets to watch Mexico’s manager, Herrera, act like Rex Ryan in the celebration. Just jubilant, proud, ecstatic. How awesome, huh? Mexico was on the brink of not qualifying for the World Cup just months ago.
And now, Thursday will provide the stage for the last scenes of Act I. Klinsmann, a German, and the United States will take on Germany with both teams needing only a draw to advance. So what will happen? Will the Germans, who are loaded with strikers and absolute marksmen, come out swinging, looking to knock the United States in the mouth? Or will the United States try to win one for Klinnsman, and show the world that they might be ready for The Big Stage? Or will the two teams play patty-cake until 90 minutes is up?
I’m excited for whatever happens.
I’ll be even more excited if the United States is able to advance.
I want to see if this team is ready for The Big Stage.
I want to root for the underdog.