Why Love the World Cup? A Guide for Soccer Newbies


LtoR: Karim Benzema (France); Neymar (Brazil); Robin Van Persie (Holland); Lionel Messi (Argentina); Wayne Rooney (England); Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal); Fernando Torres (Spain); Lukas Podolski (Germany); Mario Balotelli (Italy)

Every four years a little thing I like to call “FIFA Fever” takes the main stage in sports news for an entire month. This event is better known as the World Cup and this year all the fancy foot work is happening in San Paulo, Brazil.

32 teams have traveled from all over the world, have been broken up into eight groups and will battle it out on the field to determine one World Champion. Here in the U.S. we like to refer to this game as “Soccer” but amongst the rest of the world international football is THE main jam.

Brasil-2014-Brazil-2014-Logo-Oficial-1aziomhIn America soccer tends to be over shadowed by other mainstream sports (NFL, NHL, MLB, NBA, NCAA etc), but the World Cup is a time for non-traditional soccer fans to jump on the bandwagon because these games are cut throat. And if nothing else, it’s a damn good reason to head out to the bar and get your patriotism flowing.

Soccer is one sport where I don’t mind watching lean and generally super handsome men run around a field for hours, but it’s always better to have a tiny idea of what’s happening. So, I thought I’d assist and put together a little rundown of what’s about to go down over the next month.

Bleacher Report put together a colorful chart showing the Groups for this year’s showdown:


Things are looking bleaker than usual for our USA boys as their group name has been deemed “The Group of Death” due to it’s difficulty. Germany is by far one of the tournament favorites to take the cake, Portugal has Cristiano Ronaldo who is not only smokin’ hot, but also one of the best players in the world, and Ghana has been a threat for the last two world cups and are only getting better. It is possible the U.S. could face a quick exit in this year’s tournament, but we can’t think like that.

Ok, so we have these eight groups, now what?

During the first round or “knockout stage” each team in a group plays it’s opponents once (so three games), then the top two teams from each group will advance to round two – the Sweet 16 of the World Cup. The stakes then become much steeper as each game becomes a single-elimination round. For instance, USA is in group G who is paired to face the top two teams of group H for the second round. The number one team from group G will play the number two seed from group H and the number one team from group H will play the number two seed from group G. From there the bracket becomes traditional and which ever team wins advances and play whomever is also in their bracket (think March Madness style).


World Cup Basics: 

  • Each team is awarded points – a win equals three points and a tie or “draw” equals one point, a loss is zero points.
  • Teams can tie in the first round, but in the elimination rounds two 15 minute (as necessary) extra times will be added if the game is tied. After the extra time if the game is still tied the teams will face off in a penalty shoot-out (my favorite part of soccer). Each manager gets to select five players from his squad to go mano-a-mano against the opposing goalie.
  • If you get two yellow cards in two separate games you will be suspended for the next game. If you receive a red card you are also suspended a game. These rules apply in the group stage and quarter finals, so watch your soccer manners.
  • The 2014 World Cup Final will be held on July 13 in Rio de Janeiro’s legendary Maracana stadium.
  • Spain are the defending World Champions – also Shakira’s main squeeze, Gerard Pique, is on this team. Brush up on your Spanish ladies.

Soccer Basics:

  • 11 men on the field at one time for a team – 10 outfield players and one goal keeper per team. Click here for a breakdown of each position.
  • Regulation is 90 minutes, two halves of 45 minutes, but don’t forget about stoppage time. “Time outs” do not exist, the clock keeps running in soccer, so in case there’s an injury on the field during regulation, the teams can make up for the lost time during “stoppage time.”
  • You can use anything but your arms.
  • Offside is the result of passing without 2 players between you and the goal.
  • Yellow card is basically a slap on wrist.
  • If you get a second “foul” you get a Red card and the player must leave game.
  • If the ball is out of bounds you throw it back in.
  • If you get a foul the other team gets a free kick. If you get a foul in the box the team gets a penalty shot.
  • 3 substitutions the whole game
  • It’s not “Over time” it’s “Extra time” – soccer dudes are very specific about this terminology
  • Flopping is not a monetary fine in soccer, it’s a way of life.

The main event starts on Thursday with Croatia facing the hometown team of Brazil. USA’s first game is Monday against Ghana. Click here to find more information on matches and their dates and times. With different countries come different time zones. Brazil falls into the UTC time zone – which is two hours ahead of central time.

Let the USA chanting begin, let’s get some points gents. #USAUSA