Friday, June 11, 2010

Kicking off day one

The World Cup kicked off today with two draws in Group A, South Africa vs. Mexico (1-1) and Uruguay vs. France (0-0).

Fans in South Africa were fired up for the first game, screaming and blowing vuvuzelas for all 90 minutes. The game started at 6am, but I watched it time-shifted a bit later at a more normal hour. They don't break for commercials in soccer, but skipping the pregame and halftime means watching a game in 90 minutes instead of two hours, and those half hours saved add up over time. It was nice to see ESPN using international broadcasters instead of American novices for this Cup, and even nicer that they mixed the commentary high enough above all the vuvuzela humming.

The USA and Mexico have an intense CONCACAF rivalry, so American fans are required to cheer against Mexico, which made it easier for me to pick a side in this match -- South Africa all the way! They held their own for most of the game, and even took a lead early in the 50th minute before conceding a Mexican equalizer from Rafa Marquez in the 70th minute.

Even though I cheer against Mexico, Rafa is a (now former) Barcelona player, and I was glad to see one of my guys get a goal. Made me wish I was watching live so I could switch to Univision to hear the 30 second "Gooooool!" call whenever Mexico scores.

The South Africans were the underdogs, so holding Mexico to a tie was a great result for them and a setback for the Mexicans. The second game between France and Uruguay was also a matchup between a favorite and a determined underdog. When we were studying South America in sixth grade, I was assigned Uruguay (or "you're a gay" as my classmates pronounced it) as my country. This is my only connection to Uruguay, but 34 years later, I still know that its population is three million, its chief exports are soccer (two World Cup wins) and grain, and its capital is Montevideo, which is namechecked in this song by the Monochrome Set.

Because of my sixth grade assignment, I was pulling for Uruguay against France. They held the French pretty well, but didn't move the ball at all, especially when they were down to ten men. It was a pretty dull game until the last ten minutes, and it ended in a scoreless draw. There might be football purists who like the tactics of a defensive struggle, but there is nothing more boring than a 0-0 soccer game. It's a shame that these always happen in the World Cup final when the world is watching.

Three games tomorrow: South Korea vs. Greece, Argentina vs. Nigeria, and the USA vs. England. The last one should be the most watched soccer game in US history, surpassing the 20 million who watched the 2006 Cup Final. Hopefully this will shut up idiots like Glenn Beck who say "Americans don't like soccer".

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