Monday, July 12, 2010

Olé Espana!

Ick. What an ugly game. A Dutch team, frustrated no doubt, played largely defense against Spain while offending everyone. A referee who obviously thought he was the most important man on the field did his very best to constantly interrupt the flow of the contest, making it feel strangely like a video game version of the match.  The tumbles, rolls and falls taken by members of both teams were worthy of Cirque du Soleil acrobats while the players’ expressions of pain, disbelief and outrage over real and imagined transgressions could easily have graced the stage of a Noh performance.

Spain won 1-0. The best of the finals, though, was the Germany-Uruguay match which featured five goals and unparalleled levels of play with the Germans clinching third place in the cup.

International matches always have some level of oddity. This one featured a British-born octopus capable of foretelling the winner of games.

Paul the psychic octopus maintained his flawless performance in the World Cup by correctly predicting Spain's victory over Holland in the final. His rival, Singapore Mani The Psychic Parakeet incorrectly predicted a win for Holland.

According to London bookmaker William Hill, gamblers wagering on the mystic mollusk’s predictions have won up to half a million pounds during the month-long tournament. This is as close as the Brits got to success in this World Cup.

The octopus, born in Weymouth in 2006 and now residing in Germany’s Oberhausen Sea Life aquarium, correctly predicted the outcome of all six matches involving his adopted homeland by choosing to eat a mussel from boxes emblazoned with the flags of the German team and its rivals. Paul narrowly avoided becoming calamari after his prediction that Germany would be defeated by Spain came to pass.

Enough silliness. The US team did as well as could be expected and better than ever before in a Cup. There’s a good chance that the 2014 matches will see the American team continue its climb to success, but it’s important to remember that soccer is still a young sport here, despite the fact that it is played by more  kids than any other sport. It takes time to develop a team, and even longer to develop a following. Hopefully in four years, some excellent young US players will become pros…

Here are some interesting stats on this year’s competition:
  • The championship has been awarded every four years since the inaugural tournament in 1930, except in 1942 and 1946 when it was not held because of the Second World War.
  • The 19 tournaments that have been contested have been won by eight different national teams. Brazil have won the World Cup a record five times, and they are the only team to have played in every tournament. The other teams which have won the World Cup are: Italy, with four titles; Germany, with three titles; Uruguay, winners of the inaugural tournament, and Argentina, with two titles each; and England, France, and Spain, with one title each.
  • The World Cup is the world's most widely viewed sporting event; in fact, it may turn out that yesterday’s match may become the largest viewed event in world history. An estimated 715.1 million people watched the final match of the 2006. FIFA World Cup held in Germany and FIFA now estimates the Spain/Holland match viewership at close to 800 million. .
  • The next tournament, the 2014 FIFA World Cup, will be held in Brazil.
Now go out and kick a soccer ball around.

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