Thursday, June 10, 2010

Pith's Guide to to the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Posted By on Thu, Jun 10, 2010 at 11:41 AM

Check out Jozy's "Stanky Leg"! Don't know what we're talking about? Read on, my friend....

With the 2010 FIFA World Cup starting in South Africa in just 21 hours, 18 minutes and 45 seconds — Thanks iPhone app! — we wanted to show off our formidable soccer knowledge and give you a little World Cup primer. (OK, we wanted to show off the formidable soccer knowledge of our editorial intern Sara Krimm, a student and former soccer team member at Arkansas State University. But she's on our masthead for the summer, so she's one of us, OK?)

We also thought we'd let you know where you can watch World Cup games in Nashville. A brief Internet searched revealed Corner Pub Midtown (2000 Broadway, 327-9250), Sportsman's Grille (1601 21st Ave. S., 320-1633) and Sam's Sports Bar & Grill (1803 21st Ave. S., 383-3601) — and then there's our personal favorite, Savarino's Cucina (2121 Belcourt Ave., 460-9878), which may not have as many big flat-screens as the other places, but has some amazing Italian sandwiches and the best espresso and Italian pastries you'll find in these parts. (Needless to say, the crowd at Savarino's will be rooting for the Red-White-and-Green, not the Red-White-and-Blue.) If you know of any other locations to watch the World Cup, please let us know in the comments section.

Here, in Sara's words, is a brief commentary on why the World Cup is so bloody awesome, and a guide to the players to watch:

To most people in the United States, the World Cup is just another sporting event: one more reason to fire up the grill, crack open a beer and invite some friends over. And that's if you're young or interested enough even to understand the game, let alone appreciate it — or maybe a really dedicated soccer mom.

"Football" as the rest of the world knows it is far more than a game, and the World Cup through international lenses is far more than a sporting event. It's a monthlong peace treaty for nations to come together and play the world's most beloved game. With everyone on an equal playing field, it's about hope, opportunity and patriotism.

For 90 minutes, people who differ in race, religion or gender leave all of those issues — issues they may even fight wars over — outside the stadium walls. They come together as fans, chanting and singing as 11 men wearing their nation's colors unite to earn the right to call themselves the best in the world. That's what I love the most about the World Cup: It's amazing how soccer can bring the world together.

Of course I root for the home team and hope the United States does well, but I think I have more loyalty to certain players than to any nation outside of the U.S. I don't feel any particular loyalty to Portugal, but I love to watch Cristiano Ronaldo, who plays club ball for Real Madrid when he's not playing with the Portuguese national team.

Confusing? If you're not sure who to watch but want to see some good soccer during the next month, here are five non-U.S. players worth watching:
1. Lionel Messi, Argentina. (World Player of the Year in 2009; arguably the best player in the world since Diego Maradona)
2. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal. (Scoring goals is an art form for this guy. He's explosive, crafty, and without a doubt one of the best players in the world.)
3. Wayne Rooney, England. (Solid finisher, likes to play off of the long ball. Rooney plays very direct, fast soccer.)
4. Kaká, Brazil. (His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite — now you know why he goes by just his nickname, the only name the world of soccer knows him by. With Kaká in the midfield, Brazil is dangerous in the counter attack.)
5. Iker Casillas, Spain. (Goalkeeper; he has a tendency to make forwards look foolish. Seriously, he does things only superheroes are supposed to be able to do.)

And here in the land of the free, we've got one of the strongest teams the United States has ever had. Five players that may help lead the U.S. to success:
1. Tim Howard. (The veteran's goalkeeping experience will keep the Yanks in close games.)
2. Carlos Bocanegra. (Plain and simple, this guy plays solid defense.)
3. Landon Donovan. (Over the years Donovan has become America's golden boy. The outside midfielder makes things happen in the attack for the U.S.)
4. Clint Dempsey. (Donovan's outside midfield counterpart; scored against Spain to win a huge upset for the U.S. in the Confederations Cup this year.)
5. Jozy Altidore. (A young, energetic forward. I'm not sure which I enjoy more — watching him score goals or watching his very American post-goal celebration: the “stanky leg.”)

After upsetting top-ranked Spain this year in the Confederations Cup, the Red-White-and-Blue has momentum and a chance to do very well in South Africa. So have some pride in your country, and if Jozy Altidore scores, I hope you've practiced your stanky leg.

One game you absolutely don't want to miss: United States vs. England,1:30 p.m. Central Time on ABC.

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