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Work Life Balance: Getting Psyched for the World Cup

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OK, Chicago Sports Fans!  Even if we’ve had our Stanley Cup hopes dashed …  its almost time to turn our attention to the World Cup .  The world’s most popular sport – soccer (to us stubborn Americans), or Associated Football to the rest of the world – has 3.5 billion fans and its not too late for you to become one of them for the next month as the best players in the world match up with each other at the World Cup games in Brazil.

Lety, the most avid fan (and player) in our office, will be keeping everyone up to date with the big wins, behind the scenes drama and fun facts.  Here’s what you need to know in order to get psyched up for the games to begin!

What you call it When …

Associated Football:  national loyalty aside, we have to be logical about this naming convention.  You’ll never confuse anyone by referring to the game as Soccer but there are literally teams of Associated Football players who have been playing the “Beautiful Game” consistently since before the invention of American football in 1869 so for the duration of this post we’ll be using “football” to refer to the round ball rather than than the oblong one.  Get on board!

Club: the team and the management that owns it.  For the World Cup, each country has selected 23 players and a match consists of 22 players.

Draw: a tie.  These are allowed in the pre-final group matches but in the World Cup final a tied match will go into an extra 15 minute period (twice) before being broken with a penalty shoot-out if necessary.

Match: a single game between two teams, divided into two halfs with a 15 minute break in between

Pitch: playing field, usually grass.  The international standard size is (believe it or not) a range: 100-110 meters by 64-75 meters.

Red Card: penalty to a player ejecting them from the rest of the game.  The team isn’t allowed to replace them on the field in that case.

Wall: the line of opposing players who line up between a player and goal during a penalty kick attempting to block that player from making the goal.

Yellow Card: marker for a first offense.  Two yellow card offenses add up to a Red Card.  A player getting a yellow card has been “booked,” or “cautioned.”

How the World Cup Works

Much like the Olympics, the World Cup happens every four years.  Although professional clubs can be made of players from many countries, the World Cup teams are national groupings.  Check out mashable’s very helpful newbie guide for more info.

More than 200 countries compete for 32 pre-Cup slots over three years before the big event.  The teams then finalize their rosters on June 2nd and get ready to move forward.  The US roster this year is considered a little controversial because it excludes popular player (and 5 World Cup goal scoring) Landon Donovan from the team.  However, the lineup of the US team may not be all that important going forward.  Just getting into the top 32 doesn’t guarantee we’ll be going to the finals!

The 32 selected are then divided in to groups by a draw that organizes them into sets of four.  This year that draw landed the US in this year’s “Group of Death” as the most difficult matchup of four initial matched up teams is known.  Each team plays the three other teams in their group once and gets three points for a win, one for a draw.  Only the top two teams out of four move on.  If we can’t finish in the top two … we don’t go to the cup and our opponents are Ghana, Portugal and Germany … all strong contenders.  Keep your fingers crossed … you know, if you’re rooting for us.

Sportsinteraction.com (screenshot of the US upcoming matches below) has a very clear graphic breakdown of the group matches and then the knockout bracket.  Follow any team or check for matches on a particular day.

world cup breakdown

The final 16 are then matched up in a single elimination bracket – one loss and you’re out. Draws are not allowed (see the terms above).  Unlike in the Olympics where one city plays host to most or all of the events, the matches of the World Cup are spread among twelve stadiums all across Brazil (thousands of miles distant).  This won’t make a difference for us watching at home but it may add an unusual element of adventure travel to the in person fan experience.

How to Watch It

Assuming you AREN’T planning to view the games from Brazil, how can you watch them?  Cable TV sports channels will be giving the Cup  some serious attention but you can also be sure to see the games on network TV if you tune into a Spanish Language channel!  Our in house expert, Lety, recommends trying to watch the games with an announcer from any other county than America – apparently we just can’t match the understanding and excitement of intentional sports reporters.

ChicagoTribune.com has a full breakdown HERE of what games will be broadcast on which channels in Chicagoland.

You may prefer to watch the game in a room full of other fans.  In that case your best bet is to hit a sports bar, preferably one with an English, Irish or Spanish theme.  If you have a favorite, recommend it in the comments below!  A number of websites have suggestions for good watching locations.

There will also be free viewing parties in Grant Park for each of the three US group matches with a high def screen measuring 19 by 33 feet and a crowd of local fans to celebrate or commiserate with!

U.S. vs. Ghana: Monday, June 16 at 5 pm CT  
Avery Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Roosevelt Rd.)

U.S. vs. Portugal: Sunday, June 22 at 5 pm CT 
Avery Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Roosevelt Rd.)

U.S. vs. Germany: Thursday, June 26 at 11 am CT 
Petrillo Music Shell at Butler Field (near intersection of Columbus Dr. and Jackson St.)

Point of Interest:  AKA something you can say to other people in the bar

A European team has never won a World Cup in South America.  This could be their year …

Or not.

At least, according to this AMAZING infographic by football fan and number cruncher Andrew Yuan has a pretty dramatic prediction that Brazil is going to keep the Cup at home when the games end.  They do already have the record for most wins (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, and 2002) so its not hard to believe at all.

world cup prediciton