Friday, October 12, 2012

The World's Football World Cup Qualifying Primer Episode I

Today is another glorious day of World Cup 2014 qualifying worldwide. And being I have taken a liking to the World’s football, inadvertently because of how shitty American football has become, as well as Fox putting on English Premier League games in their second slot on weeks when they don’t have the rights to the NFL doubleheader, I figured I’d give this site a touch of the real football. I mean, let’s be honest – most of us are biased against soccer-football because of how shitty America is. In America, soccer fans are kinda dweebs. But really, so are American football fans to be real here for half a second. If you took 30 hardcore world football fans from most other countries and put them in a pit with 30 hardcore American football fans, I would put money on the internationals winning that battle any day of the week. It’s not even close. And honestly, as I’ve watched more football (which is what I am going to call soccer from here forth, so just accept that shit), I’ve come to appreciate how constant that shit is. The flow is so much faster than an American football game, which suffers from constant stoppages of play and complicated bullshit rules which are overly enforced and thus stifle actual play. Really, there is no more American game than American football, because of the over-legislation and stifling of actual loose play, and an overneed to protect one’s self from imminent injury at all times, it’s pure Americana.
Nonetheless, the Super Bowl and NFL playoffs – even if you’re not a world football fan – hardly compare to the excitement and insanity of the World Cup. Part of that is because it only happens every four years, and part of that is because it’s on the national level, so patriotic pride and historical senses are rolled up into the games as well, which you’d never get in a New England/Green Bay game even on the best Sunday. And still, with the World Cup not until 2014, qualifying is hot and heavy, and scheduled on certain days, so that you have a smorgasbord of activity. Today is such a day, and there are still 127 teams vying for the 31 open spots that will join Brazil in Brazil for World Cup 2014. That in itself is notable because it will be the first time that two World Cups in a row have occurred on non-European soil.
So in case you are thinking, “You know what, I’d like to jump into this soccer shit, because it’s Friday, and I don’t really feel like going to work anyways.” Well then friend, find yourself an Irish pub in your locality, head there around lunch time, and hope for multiple feeds of the world’s football. And in that spirit, here are the ten games today you should most hope to pay attention to, in chronological order even.

#1: PORTUGAL at RUSSIA in Moscow at 11:00 AM (all times Eastern time, American time) – European qualifying still dominates the football consciousness, even though the other continents are further along in the process. Europe gets 13 teams into the final field, and is broken up into 9 different groups. Within those groups, each team plays a home-and-away against every other team, and the top team from each group automatically makes the final 32 World Cup field. After that, the top 4 second-place teams will get in as spots 10-13 from Europe. Thus, winning your group is fairly big shit. Russia and Portugal both have legit World Cup hopes, but were both drawn into Group F. Both won their first two games and are sitting at 6 points (3 for a win, 1 for a draw, in case you ain’t know that shit). Portugal is probably the favorite in this group, but Russia is never one to concede athletic events. But for the most part, their two head-to-head games are probably going to decide who wins the automatic spot from this group. That makes this game pretty fucking big. A win by either puts them in the driver seat to actually go to Brazil in 2014, and a loss puts you in that dangerous zone of hoping to be one of the higher-pointed second-place teams. Because of this, both teams should go hard. If it’s knotted up well into the game, you might see sides slow it down for a draw, and put more weight on the follow-up in Portugal come next summer. But it should be a solid game, and a great way to start the day. And if you needed a reason to try and like world football, Portugal’s a pretty good squad to start with. They are European good but with a touch of South American flair.

#2: SPAIN at BELARUS in Minsk at 2:00 PM – Spain got drawn into Europe’s Group I along with France, who famously ripped off Ireland to get into the 2010 World Cup. Fuck France. But they are sneaky when it comes to world football, and Spain is considered the best squad on Earth. They just recently won the European Championships for the second time in a row, and won the last World Cup as well. But each one is its own thing obviously, and a nation’s fortunes can change quickly. France has already played two games and won both for 6 points. Spain has only played Georgia thus far, so with France not playing today, Spain can make up that 3 point deficit. And they should, easily enough, even on a travel game. But that’s the thing – you never know. You put into this the added context of Spain currently on the verge of financial chaos, and it’s gonna put a lot of eyeballs on their Spanish team hoping for athletic victory to help ignore the political realities going on outside their homes in the streets. That is part of what makes the world’s football so much more interesting as well. Conceivably by the time this Spanish team makes it to Brazil for the World Cup, Spain could fall into chaos and anarchy and civil war. And yet all that would stop for two-hour truces for World Cup games most likely.

#3: BELGIUM at SERBIA in Belgrade at 2:30 PM – Group A is a clusterfuck after everybody has played 2 of 10 games, with Croatia, Belgium, and Serbia all tied at the top with a win and a draw apiece. This makes their head-to-heads even more important. Belgium has not made the World Cup finals the past two times (since 2002, in other words), and though Serbia has been there the past two times, they’ve not made it out of the group stage (or first round) either time. So while football fans will be rejoicing in the Portugal/Russia game, these two teams are going to be looking to assert themselves as the dominant motherfuckers in their group to try and take that automatic top spot.

#4: BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA at GREECE in Piraeus at 2:45 PM – By luck of the draw in Group G, these two teams are packed with some of the lesser Baltic teams, so after two games, both these teams are undefeated. By goals for/against, Bosnia & Herzegovina is sitting at the top, having won their two games 8-1 and 4-1. But this is a home game for Greece. And I’m not sure if you follow the world news outside of the bullshit regular TV tells you, but there’s like rioting and shit going on in Greece right now. The country is basically in this position of being perhaps the first domino in the world economy collapsing or just teetering and uprighting itself. A lot of that will come down to how much bullshit the people of Greece will allow to be forced upon themselves by world finance. And it’s not like Bosnia has been a model of stability over the past twenty years. What that makes for is a good international football game. The misguided hopes and tarnished dreams of nations ride on these games.

#5: GERMANY at IRELAND in Dublin at 2:45 PM – Look, the Germans are a fluid machine in football, and should easily crush their way to victory in Group C, which includes the European lololol competitors from the Faroe Islands (who Germany lightly spanked 3-0 already). But Ireland lost the play-off game to get the last European slot in 2010, to a handball-related goal by France, which has pissed off the Irish – or at least added to their natural pissy nature – ever since. They protested with FIFA and wanted replays and all sorts of shit, and there was actually diplomatic discontent between them and the French. So, beyond their normal history, the Irish have a huge chip on their shoulder. Their home game against the Germans will be where their fans dream of glory coming to fruition, and perhaps propelling the Irish team into the World Cup eventually. They’ve only played one game, and won, so they can make themselves think, “We are equal to the Germans, if not better. We can do this. A beautiful Friday in Dublin, against those bastard Krauts… why the hell not?” This is what they are thinking, awaiting the methodical and relentless German attack, and perhaps dreams will be crushed (again) or perhaps it will be one of those insane moments of national glory to help keep the dream alive a little longer.

#6: CHILE at ECUADOR in Quito at 5:00 PM – The South American qualification process (aka CONMEBOL) is a glorious battle royal, even more so with Brazil hosting the World Cup in 2014. What this means is the remaining 9 teams from South America play a home-and-away round robin where the top 4 teams are guaranteed in, and the fifth-place team will get to play in a play-in game. South America is just under halfway through these games, and right now Chile is sitting in that fifth spot for the play-in. Ecuador is sitting in third, having won 4, drawn 1, and lost 2, but only on 8 goals scored. They are doing it ugly in other words. And Chile suffered a home loss last game against Colombia. On top of this, the dominant force in South American football, with Brazil out of the picture, is Argentina, who Chile will be hosting next Tuesday. So there’s a lot of shit going on around this game, and a lot of dust will have settled by this time next Wednesday. With South American teams, what this means is exciting play, insane fans, and all the glorious drunken beauty of humanity on degenerate parade. Ultimately, that is what drew me to the world’s football more than anything else.

#7: THE UNITED STATES at ANTIGUA & BARBUDA in North Sound at 7:00 PM – CONCACAF or North American football qualifying will be wrapping up its third round today and next Tuesday. There are three groups of four, and each group’s top two teams will go to the next round of qualifying. Right now in Group A, Jamaica, Guatemala, and the U.S. are all sitting tied with 7 points. Antigua & Barbuda is the weakest link, thus this is their literal elimination game. If they do not beat the Americans, they are out of World Cup contention – a draw will not suffice. Now of course, to you or me, it makes sense that a tiny pair of Caribbean islands forming a nation would not make the World Cup. But to those people, they are like, “Why the fuck not?” Or at least they can disrupt the Americans plans. You see, obviously if the other three teams are tied, all three need to beat the Antiguans & Barbudans somewhat automatically.  Jamaica has them next Tuesday to close out third round group play, so that makes this game even more important to the U.S. They need to win, and perhaps they need to pour on the goals as well as goal differential is the tiebreaker, and they are a +2 right now along with Guatemala, while Jamaica is a +1. The U.S. plays Guatemala in Kansas City next Tuesday, but shit man, you never know what could happen. If they can pummel some little islanders in this game, and hope for a Jamaica/Guatemala draw, that puts them in great shape to go into their at home next Tuesday knowing that if they play for a draw, they’ll advance to the next round. On top of all this, the American team will be missing a handful of prominent players due to injury, so it is all very sketchy and strange and lighted through the crooked prism that is international football, building towards an event that is still nearly two years away.

#8: URUGUAY at ARGENTINA in Mendoza at 8:00 PM – Both of these teams should be in the final World Cup field, but even so, with it being on South American soil, they will want to make sure of that. Argentina has been crushing motherfuckers, and sits in first place in CONMEBOL qualifying by 3 points right now. Argentinian people love few things as much as they love football. Uruguay feels the same way, but lacks the power of Argentina. That will not stop them from trying, and honestly, I remember Uruguay being one of my favorite teams to watch in the 2010 World Cup. Outside of the actual qualifying implications of the American game, for sheer enjoyment, this would be the game I’d most want to see today.

#9: MEXICO vs. GUYANA in Houston at 9:00 PM – So there’s no drama to this game at all, because Mexico has already waxed their Group B competition rather effectively, and is the only North American team already qualified for the fourth and final round of CONCACAF qualifying. The odd thing about this game is that the Guyana team sold the rights to their home game to a promoter who has booked the match in Houston, where Mexico enjoys a large following (due to all the Mexicans). In fact, the U.S. avoided scheduling games against Mexico (or other Central American countries) in Houston’s new soccer stadium because of a game against Mexico a while back which ended up basically being a home game for the Mexicans. So this game is not so much because it will be a nicely competitive game but because it will be a glorious romp for La Raza to celebrate itself publicly on American soil, as a home away from home display of greatness, tuning up for the fourth round next spring.

#10: JAMAICA at GUATEMALA in Guatemala City at 10:00 PM – Because of the aforementioned tomfoolery of the Group A dynamics, where America should (I repeat “should”) crush some Antiguan & Barbudan ass, these two teams will essentially be playing a play-in game. Jamaica has the small Antigua & Barbuda team next Tuesday, but they are also the only team to have drawn A&B, so nothing is guaranteed. Guatemala has a harder road to hoe, with a game in America after this, so they will be playing hard for the win, especially if the U.S. does beat the shit out of A&B in the earlier game. Shit should be hype.
And if all goes well, about thirteen hours after we kicked off this day, we’ll be done – for the day. Then they’ll come back with a whole new slew of qualifying games next Tuesday. After that, you won’t hear about the World Cup again until next spring. It’s a long slow boil of geopolitical intrigue. Some nations might not even exist come Brazil 2014. Shit man, we might be a world at war, or a world in financial chaos, or who the fuck knows? And yet a lot of common ass people would still demand we settle all these football issues. Sometimes it is the small and senseless dreams like that which keep humanity moving along. We are not much more than a simple assed animal, albeit one that has learned to make games of his time.

1 comment:

Raven Mack said...

Huge 1-0 win for Russia in the rain motherfuckers.