Sunday, June 22, 2014

What I Learned Today - The World Cup

So today I was just kind of surfing the internet at random because I was bored. After spending some time looking at how to replace a refrigerator door gasket, I suddenly realized that I was curious about the FIFA World Cup tournament that is being played right now. I’ve never had any interest in soccer at all so this surprised me a little, and I feel no urge to watch a game, but I decided that I wanted to find out how the tournament was played out.

The first thing I learned is that the World Cup Finals are only held every four years, like the Olympics. There are more than 200 soccer teams around the world, one for almost every country in the world, and they spend three years qualifying to play for the coveted World Cup. Out of those 200+ teams, only 32 get to play for the cup. In a highly publicized event, sort of like the NFL draft I take it, the announcements are made as to which teams will be included in the tournament and how the teams will be grouped. The announcements for this summer’s tournament were made last December.

The 32 best teams from around the world are put together into 8 groups of 4 teams. The groups are not random but are actually selected in order to put teams together that will be similarly matched in order to make for more exciting groupings. Of course it’s never possible to get everyone matched up equally and there always ends up being one group that they call the “group of death”, a group where a weaker team gets matched up with very good teams.

So the tournament goes like this: it began on June 12 and for two weeks the four teams in each group play each other in round-robin style, that is each team plays each of the other teams one time. Goals don’t matter, only wins. A win earns a team three points, a tie earns one point, and a loss earns no points. At the end of this period, the two teams from each group that earned the most points advance to the final tournament. If there’s a tie then goals are counted as a tie-breaker. The sixteen teams in the final tournament play in a standard single-elimination bracket until the last two teams standing play for the world championship.

The USA team is playing for the cup this year, which is apparently not uncommon although they have never won a final, and wouldn’t you know it they ended up in the “group of death” being matched up with Germany, Portugal, and Ghana, all of which are supposed to be quite good. However, so far they have beaten Ghana by a score of 2-1 and a match between Germany and Portugal ended in a tie, which plays to USA’s advantage since those teams will only earn 1 point each for the tie. I am writing this on Sunday evening at not quite 6pm and right now the USA is playing Portugal. At halftime the score is 1-0 in favor of Portugal. If USA can somehow pull off a win in this match they will be in a good position to advance to the final tournament. Pretty exciting stuff huh? USA’s final match will be on Thursday the 26th against heavily favored Germany. Pretty exciting stuff huh?

So that’s what I learned today. Hope you learned something interesting as well!

P.S. It took me a long time to get this posted because our internet connection is really bad right now. I just saw that USA and Portugal ended in a tie 2-2, which leaves USA tied with Germany for the lead in their group.

2014 World Cup Matchups
A 101 on Brazil '14: How does the World Cup work?
How the World Cup Works, for the Soccer Newbie
World Cup Draw: What You Need to Know

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