W O R L D   C U P

(Week of 7/8/18; Updated 7/14/18)

The World Cup is upon us! Why do we care? We didn’t know, but we WANTED to (!) and so we enlisted our good friend Aaron Timms at The Guardian to explain the tournament, and give us a few nuggets to drop with football aficionados to assure them we’re watching for more than the study in stellar calves.

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A Little History

Since the first World Cup in 1930, the tournament has become the most widely-viewed sporting event in the world, with an estimated 30 billion people tuning in. Check out this timeline of the World Cup’s rise to global phenomenon, these highlights from throughout the years and, if you’re still confused (we’re not judging), this video explaining the rules of the game.

 

 

what makes this year's final interesting

Although 200 nations compete in the World Cup, only eight have ever won it, with Brazil and Germany claiming almost half of the victories between them.  But both those teams were knocked out early this year, leaving France (one victory, in 1998) and Croatia (five tournament appearances, since gaining independence in 1991). Suffice to say, there’s a lot more than a trophy at stake for both teams on Sunday. Watch this documentary and video for a little more on what football means to France, and read this article to understand why support for Croatia is complicated.

 

That Thing About The Lost Trophy

The original World Cup trophy, named after Jules Rimet, the football administrator responsible for creating the tournament, was permanently given to Brazil in 1970 as a reward for its then-hat-trick of World Cup victories. The trophy was stolen shortly afterward and has not been seen since. Read this story about what might have happened.

 

on the Sidelines

This year’s tournament represents a reset of sorts for FIFA, the governing body of world soccer, after a string of recent corruption scandals and leadership changes. It's also the first year a video assistant referee has been utilized to help with contentious on-field calls. Read this synopsis of the FIFA scandal from Wired, and why fans have mixed feelings about VAR.

 

To Cheer Up Our Friends in England

England invented the sport we now know as football, and so this year's team's charge to the semi-finals electrified the nation with all the gusto of a return to 18th-century global reign. Alas, Croatia knocked them out. But to our English friends, we remind that things could be worse, as in 1950, when the English team was humiliated by the US (see this FIFA video), or 1994, when the team failed to qualify for the tournament (watch the documentary AN IMPOSSIBLE JOB). And we offer these two music videos, because if there were a trophy for the catchiest, kitchiest, mildly-creepiest football anthems, you’d definitely have our vote.

 

The American Abyss

There are a lot of theories about why professional football has never taken off in the US like it has everywhere else in the world. We’re not sure which is right, but we’re pretty sure Fox isn’t helping. Watch this VOX video proposing why we aren’t any good at soccer, then read Aaron’s analysis of Fox’s coverage of this year’s tournament in the US.