A Primer on Soccer: Why/How to watch the World Cup

Michael Steele

Hello there! So the World Cup started this week. I wasn’t really that pumped for it, even though I’m brazilian. Then I started reading the news, watching the games and learning a bit too. Now that’s almost all I did these couple of days since the opening. I want to share this joy with my fellow BFTB’ers and SBnation.

So now I’m here with my first fan post to try and get you excited for it too. But I know what you’re saying: "(You) Hobo, I like sports, but I don’t really care about soccer."

Well, let me try to warm you up to it. Set 30 min aside to watch a bunch of videos and read a bit and let’s get into this sport so different from what you’re used to. It’s worth it I guarantee.

From MrBtongue youtube channel: A Patronizing Explanation on Soccer

If you skiped it a few notes about what’s discussed

  • Why soccer is not boring and you’re wrong (his words)
  • Why people think soccer is boring and why they’re watching it wrong
  • Possession is what set’s soccer apart from the other american sports, it’s an active struggle. Keeping possession of the ball and keep at the offense is not a given like in baseball or American football to a minor degree.
  • On the other hand scoring can happen much faster than in other sports and carries a lot more weight.
  • Different types of play

Another boring part of soccer no one's mention is that it has garbage time, like any other sport. You can't judge the game based on it. But sunce possession is fluid, the time required to score can be much shorter than American Football for example. In fact, when your team is trying to burn the clock, your team could become vulnerable to a counterattack tactic.

That's all good and well, but we need more. We are still seeing people running around aimlessly. Here an article on How to watch soccer as a sports nerd from Grantland. Always a great sports source. A very comprehensive guide.

TL;DR now what? Well, you shoud read, because it covers:

  • More analogies from american sports used to explain soccer. i.e. side backs as tight ends.
  • Formations which the tv will talk about without end during games
  • Player roles, which are what really matters
  • You’ll learn how to watch defense and offense and what they’re trying to do during the game.
  • There’s a lot of short videos of plays to ilustrate it and then you’ll already know a few good players to watch in the World Cup
  • Floping, the biggest complaint about soccer, explained. Short version: you would do it too. They do it in the NBA and the reward for doing it in soccer is much better than in the NBA. It’s admirable the US national team despises the practice, keep at it.
  • Don't miss the comparison between what's worth a red card and what not. The non foul is one of the best sport moments ever. It's Fluker body slam good (except it hurts a lot more).

Near the end of the article there’s a video of Didier Drogba. But it doesn’t do a very good job of showing the good side of Drogba, here’s a shorter and more entertaining video showing a typical prevent defense attacker.

The man is Zlatan Ibrahimovic. This awesome soccer player with an even better name has won 11 championships, with 7 different clubs in 5 different countries. He’s also a black belt in tae kwon do. It doesn’t get much better than this guy. The guardian ranked in as the 3rd best player in the world after Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in 2013. That means hes the #1 true Foward right now. And it’s not too hard to see why.

US National team

Now that i defended the game and I showed a little bit of the awesome, is time to get excited about the US national team! This Grantland video from Men in Blazers is a great start, funny, informative and they’re very pumped for this World Cup run:

It’s a good team but a new one.

They have a follow up video with a small discussion of the US group in the world cup. Short version: it’s a tough group. It will say a lot about this group if they can get past this group stage.

Now, if you already know a lot about it, or want a really good reading, there’s a NYtimes article about the Jurgen Klinsmann, coach for the US national team, the culture change process for this team and an outsider’s view on american sports. Even if you are not interested in soccer, but is interested in management, it’s a great read.

A few pointers/notes from the article:

  • Not winning the World Cup is not a failure in the coaches eyes, he has long term goals too. He’s candid about the team lagging behind international competition.
  • Compared to soccer american sports contract really are weird. It really would be better to pay more for future performance than past performance by frequently re-negociating contracts or holding out for better ones.
  • Bear in mind international soccer doesn’t have salary caps and clubs from different countries and leagues compete with each other for talent. It would be like if after Lebron left the Cavaliers the LA Galaxy, the NY Yankees and the Washington Redskins were all serious contenders in a bidding war for him when he was considering joining the Heat.
  • The US has a real problem with raising new talent. A lot of players go to baseball and NCAA is also hurting them. A lot of players internationally see playing time in the best professional clubs at 16-18 and are on training camp for years before that. To go to NCAA and not be on clubs until their 20’s is bad for the development of the player. Specially since they’re dedicating their time to another sport most of the time.
  • They discuss leaving Donovan out of the roster. I didn’t follow the fallout, but this seem good enough reason using the way other coaches in the world decide the roster. It really puts in evidence the weird excessive commercialization of things in american culture.
  • It seems almost as missing the point when it’s pointed out the importance of Donovan for the marketing of the team, but considering they still have to sell the sport to american audiences it’s arguable. (Hey, I guess I’m helping too!)
  • They’re putting a lot of effort in bringing foreigners who are also eligible to play for the US national team. (dual citizenship players can only be part of the first national team play for). It’s weird how outspoken some people inside the MLS is against that. Those players are much more familiar with the competition you face in the World Cup.

Anyway, that being said, the World Cup has been pretty good so far. I had lowered my expectations before it started, but so far it's good. There’s been only one game with few than 3 goals total, half the teams that scored first lost and there were a couple of games with dominant performances. And then this happened


Netherlands, Brazil and Italy. Spain is still dangerous and the US and Germany are good contenders on paper but they still have yet to play a game. But a favorite of mine is the great nation of Chilomboguay! They are almost 3 times more likely to win then other teams.

I hope you will try to watch a couple of games this month. I have to say, that with trying to keep these things in mind you enjoy it more, I certanly did.

My brother had another interesting point. You should play FIFA 2014 if you can or are into sports games (there’s a sale in the Origin online store, it’s cheaper because there’s microtransactions for online competitive play).

Another good one is Football Manager games, where you simulate the coach and is more of a single player fantasy soccer (with a lot of spreadsheets if I’m not mistaken, I haven’t played one in a long time).

Videogames are great to understand the game, get to know the clubs and players, see the tatics play it out, rinse and repeat. It helps forming a rapport.

If you are still here and want to know more about the world cup, I’m thinking about talking a bit about Brazil, the world cup controversies and riots and Manaus, the place with the stadium in the middle of the jungle where the US will play. Let me know in the poll.

This FanPost was written by a member of the Bolts From The Blue community and does not necessarily reflect the views of the Bolts From The Blue editors or SB Nation.

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