It may be true that more Americans know that J. Lo is performing at the World Cup than how many know where it is, who is playing and little details like the rules, but all you <em>really</em> need to know is this – the World Cup starts <em>today</em>. (That’s June 12th, 2014 @ 1pm PST, if you didn’t catch this article early.)
<strong>FIFA World Cup History</strong>
FIFA, an acronym for <em>Fédération Internationale de Football Association</em>, is <a title="Soccer" href="http://www.atgstores.com/soccer_2375.html?linkloc=tn" target="_blank">soccer’s</a> (or football, as it is more widely known) global governing organization and holds tournaments that pit the world’s countries together in a three-year grudge match culminating in a World Cup that takes place every four years to determine the ultimate winner.
FIFA has been organizing these games since 1930 and in that time only eight countries have been World Cup winners: Brazil (5 wins), Italy (4 wins), Germany (3 wins), Uruguay (2 wins), Argentina (2 wins) and England, France and Spain, which all have one win apiece.
Prior to this time, football was an Olympic event that FIFA organizers wanted to remove to its own unique global tournament because they viewed the Olympic football matches as residing at the amateur level. Salty!
<strong>World Cup Qualification & Format</strong>
Qualifying tournaments are held in the years preceding every four-year World Cup and are organized among eight confederations – geographical areas with teams that play against one another to determine who will go on to compete at the international level (although host nation countries receive automatic qualification).
Currently, the final World Cup tournament is played by 32 teams that have basically been battling in the shadows for the last three years while Americans watch other sports.
The first round of the World Cup is meted out in a round-robin tournament between eight groups of four teams each. The top two teams from each group will then advance to the knockout stage – a single-elimination tournament between the best of the best. Advancing teams are decided by a point system that awards three points for a win, one point for a draw and zero points for a loss during the round robin.
<strong>World Cup Favorites</strong>
The World Cup is the most-watched sporting event in the world, so of course it generates a lot of debate and gossip (not to mention billions in betting) over who will win it all – global champions of Earth’s most popular sport. Heavy stuff.
Unsurprisingly, veteran champions are favored. The top of <em><a title="Sports Illustrated" href="http://soccer.si.com/soccer/planet-futbol/2014/06/11/world-cup-power-rankings" target="_blank">Sports Illustrated’s Power Rankings</a></em> is a who’s who of legacy winners with Brazil, Argentina, Germany and Spain filling out the top four slots. And, since this year’s games are being hosted by Brazil, even more weight is given to the team with the “home field” advantage.
A note on the United States: The U.S. (19) faces tough competition in <a title="FIFA Groups and Standings" href="http://www.fifa.com/worldcup/groups/" target="_blank">Group G</a> from Germany (3), Portugal (8) and Ghana (20). We will play Ghana first, which is good, but to advance we will have to also outscore either Germany or Portugal, both higher-ranked teams with very impressive records.
But, anything can happen! That's one of the things that makes the World Cup so great. Maybe the gamblers and the gossipers are wrong and you’re the one with the inside track. We’ve listed every team in this year’s World Cup below, just for fun, so you can vote and see how your guess squares with the rest. Good luck, and good luck to our World Cup finalists!