Every 4 years I get really excited about football*. I’m one of those people who only cares about following games when the World Cup is in full effect. It only started last Thursday and there is already so much to discuss about what’s been going on. Let’s get started!
The World Cup 2014 Brazil officially started Thursday with an opening show, followed by the match Brazil – Croatia. As far as the opening ceremony goes, there are many ways to describe the spectacle. “Spooky salad dance” is one. “Lord of the Rings on very tight budget” is another one. Or how about “why on Earth is Pitbull wearing those pants?”. The entire affair deserves its own spot on the “WTF is going on here?” But where the opening ceremony failed, the matches so far have won spectacularly in the entertainment factor. Here are a couple of reasons…
It’s full of World Cup “fun facts” already
Let’s first start with the obvious: the first goal of the tournament was an own goal. That on its own is pretty sad and embarrasing. But to add insult to injury, the embarrassment triples by the fact it was an own goal scored by one of the players from the host country. Maybe this was Marcelo’s way of welcoming Croatia, the team they played against, to Brazil. “Hey guys, this one’s for free, the next you are on your own!”. The next game that brought us another fun fact is the Netherlands vs. Spain. This was the first time in the history of the World Cup the finalists from the last tournament met in the first round of the next. And what an awesome game it was (more on it below). The rest of the fun facts are mention in the next sections…. Keep reading!
Goal-line technology. Seriously?
Look, you may not understand the rules of football, but even in the most ignorant of scenarios you know: if the ball goes over the line and into the net, it’s a goal. Score. In comes “goal-line technology” a revolutionary approach to verify that, indeed, there was a goal. The problem with this technology is, so far, it’s been used in the most pointless of goal scenarios. Worst than that, goal-line technology makes an appearance about 10 minutes after the fact. “I wasn’t sure that penalty shot resulted in a goal, even though the goalkeeper clearly missed the ball, the net bounced violently, and the players reveled in the accomplishment. Now I do. Thank you goal-line technology!
Important Update: goal-line technology finally proved its worth during the France vs. Honduras game where it showed us the actual result of a dubious goal (which turned out to be an unfortunate own goal)
Players can no longer imagine a straight line and stand behind it
And speaking of World Cup innovations, how about this vanishing spray referees now use? It’s been used during free kicks to indicate where players should stand (when creating a barrier) or to delimit the ball. The whole thing is absolutely hilarious for many reasons. First of all, the thing looks like shaving cream all over the field. Second, it is often the case the ref sprays it all over the shoes of the players, like the Mexican players (during Mexico vs Cameroon game) in the picture above (Ch**** tu madre güey, mis zapatos!). Finally, you can now see in the latest games how players do everything they possibly can to ignore the freaking line. In the Switzerland vs. Ecuador, the Ecuadorian midfielder Ayovi kept putting the ball outside of the line, much to the chagrin of the Swiss players.
It’s a hairy situation
Ahh, footballer hair. Nothing more glorious that to see these men running around the field with their luscious locks up in the air with such careless abandon. Even those who are not playing look fabulous, look no further than my fellow countrymen and star of the Colombian team, Falcao. His super sleek straight hair rocked the tributes (he is injured and can’t play), glasses in tow, like a boss. The Uruguayans, like Forlan and Cavani, bring the traditional wavy-pulled back hair. Then there’s the “why on earth would they do that” category. Neymar from Brazil (picture above) brings what is best described as an “experimental mohauk”. Pogba from France decided to add some vanishing spray to his look. I most look forward to what one may consider a “hall of fame” afro in footballer hair.
Either the men are getting buffer or the shirts are getting tighter
From the first game there was something odd with one of the players from Brazil known as Hulk. Sure, the man is ripped, but either he is really, really ripped or his teammates are skinny little fellas. His pecs on the field were incredibly distracting (which only emphasizes how much great football was played during that game) and the guy had the perkiest butt I’ve ever seen on a man. Once you see it, you really can’t unsee it. As more games happened, the trend of these super fit players appeared more an more. Football players are always pretty fit, but now they seem to be hitting the gym more often. That or some nice guy at the World Cup laundry room left the t-shirts a little bit too long in the dryer. I’m clearly not the only one noticing this trend. During one of the games, my 3 year old shouted “look mama, boobies”. I rest my case!
And the rest of the outfits are well, interesting
Football is definitely not about fashion, but other than skin-tight t-shirts, there is a clear trend this World Cup: Neon. Eye-popping, bright neon. It is mainly displayed on the feet of the players, usually bright yellow or bright orange. We can thank Adidas, Nike, and Puma for that selection. The latter is also responsible for the “Tricks” boots, a pair of mismatched pink and blue shoes the likes of Mario Balotelli, Cesc Fabregas, among others. Puma explains this approach as a representation of “the unshakable confidence of players who wear them, and evoke their potential to do the unbelievable”. Next time I wear a mismatched outfit, I will give that explanation. But neon is not only on shoes. As you can see from the picture above, some goalkeepers, like Fernando Muslera from Uruguay, have chosen to go as bright as they possibly can. Maybe this a strategy to blind the opponent and prevent goals, I don’t know (although in Uruguay vs. Costa Rica it did not prevent the later beating the former 3 – 1)
There’s a lot of action on the sidelines, too
We not only get to see the players in the field during games, but the coaching staff and benched players on the sidelines. The former are the real show here. Some coaches are notorious for their “passion” during games. Brazilian head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari is not shy to convey his emotion when his team is playing (or not playing depending on how you percieved that game). Italian head coach Cesare Prandelli has a calmer demeanor, yet still engaged during games. But the winner of the over-the-top reactions is Mexican head coach Miguel Herrera (pictured), who already had a reputation for it. But these are not the only ways the head coaches express their feelings, in fact some of the most impactful reactions are with just one face. Look no further than Spain’s Vicente Del Bosque. I do not want that impassive look staring back at me in the locker room after I lost he game (I rather imagine this). Croatia’s head coach Niko Kovac is a handsome guy who looks like he could put a bullet through your head if he is “dissappointed” in you. And Cameroon’s Volker Finke is usually not impressed (and also, this).
But nothing beats the goal celebrations!
It’s only been less than a week and we already have a enough goal celebrations to begin out little ranking of the best, most entertaining ones.
The Colombian goal celebration (in the game against Greece) was incredibly awesome. I could be biased because that’s my team, but come on. Look at it. It’s amazing! Colombia’s was not the only little dance. England’s Sturridge did his customary little number when scoring against Italy. Then Italy went ahead and scored a goal and they celebrated like thay had actually won the World Cup. When Mexico scored, the team celebrated in the way only Mexico (and their instigating head coach) could. And Joe Campbell from Costa Rica was, I guess, “pregnant” with excitement over his goal against Uruguay? But in the commitment and intensity scale of celebration, the honor has to go to England. Thanks to this celebration, we will rank all goal celebrations as “on a scale from zero to Gary Lewin, how epic was your celebration?”
And the Oscar goes to…
Arts in sport? Yes, people. Football has some of the best acting in the world; should games be eligible for the Academy Awards, they would sweep every acting category. Maybe even directing if you count the head coaches. The first game of this World Cup had the best dramatic performance so far, courtesy of Fred from Brazil. The Croatian player barely touched him, yet Fred crumbled as if his spined was severed and he couldn’t control his legs no more. On the next game, Spain vs. Netherlands, Diego Costa appears to take a dive which awards Spain a penalty and Spain’s only goal. Maybe the referee has an eyesight problem, maybe he was moved by Costa’s riveting performance because to me, that was NOT a real fault by De Vrij. But that’s football for ya right there.
Some if it may be acting, but some of is downright drama!
Some football games look more like rugby. It can get so bad it feels likone of the players may come through the T.V and elbow you in the face. Just because he didn’t like the way you looked at him. One of the best examples of poor impulse control comes from the Costa Rica vs Uruguay game where Maxi Pereira from Uruguay deliberately kicks Joe Campbell from Costa Rica in the shin. He was clearly not reaching for the ball, hence Pereira earned the first red card of the tournament. The most aggressive game so far, without a doubt, the France vs. Honduras game. Geez, I feared for my safety and I wasn’t even there. The aggression came from both sides, so you can’t blame just one team over the other. Emotions run high and the adrenaline never stops pumping; it does make sense these environments are breeding ground for these behaviors, but sometime you have to wonder if their drinks got spiked or something. And just when you thought, well, at least there hasn’t been any “Zidanes“, the Pepe headbutt (pictured above) happened during the Portugal vs Germany game!
In the end it’s all worth it, especially when moments like this happen. I don’t know how the Netherland will really fare in the World Cup, but with this goal the won the world over. Period. Will there be another magical goal like Robin Van Persie’s pictured above? I don’t know. But what I do know is there will sure be some that will come close and that will be enough for the millions watching the tournament. The World Cup has such a power over people that even if your favorite team doesn’t go through, you’d still watch and support another all the way to the end. I only wish people would be like that about other worthy issues as they are about their football team (you know who you are! **wink, wink**)
Finally, if you don’t like football, stay indoors and off the Internet till July 13
Yeah, because this is what will happen:
No worries, though. Everything will go back to normal soon!
Original Photo: Source