It's what we've all been gearing up for. Tomorrow, Friday, June 11th, football takes center stage as millions gather to watch Mexico take on hosts South Africa. While so much buzz in the United States has been around the USA v England game on Saturday, it's easy to forget that, for soccer fans, the next month is a little glimpse of heaven. Our sport will be available nearly every day. We can watch it, read about it, analyze it, listen to others talk about it, check our brackets, fill in our sticker books, and refuse to communicate with those who don't wish to talk about our beloved footy. Obviously our favored squads take precedence, but one of the greatest joys of the World Cup is finding ourselves sucked into matches in which we have no declared favorites, yet suddenly, spontaneously, screaming and exchanging hugs as Ghana slides a goal past Serbia or Japan wins a penalty from Cameroon.
As is often the case with the World Cup, tomorrow is, for many, about who we don't want to win rather than who we do. Most fans of the USMNT despise Mexico, their closest rival, and so will be cheering on Bafana Bafana. The South Africans are definitely an underdog in the tournament, and this just might be the first time that a host nation didn't progress beyond the first round. But those South African supporters certainly have passion, as they demonstrated Wednesday, blowing their vuvuzelas while throwing a parade for their men. No matter what the result, the spectacle alone will make the match a fantastic kick-off to the month.
The later game sees Uruguay take on France, who will from now on be termed The Cheating Frogs, or TCF for short. The team that stole Ireland's place in the World Cup is now producing a near-daily stream of giggles, from Nicholas Anelka falling off his mountain bike and William Gallas sustaining an injury during a dune buggy race to their final friendly in which TCF were defeated by China. TCF's head cheat, or shall we say hand cheat, their captain Thierry Henry, stays on the bench much of the time. Is Uruguay supposed to feel threatened by a bunch of men who seem to have forgotten that defense is part of the game? After all, La Celeste triumphed over Switzerland and Israel in their warmups, and although they worried over an injury to their star striker, Diego Forlan has been declared fully fit. I, for one, hope that he scores a hat-trick against TCF.
Don't mess with Richard Dunne, yo, or you earn my everlasting hatred.
Who will you be cheering against on June 11?
(For a much more in-depth look at the match-ups in Group A, see Richard Farley's piece on the SBN Soccer page. He's much less bitter than I. Also--SBN has an entire section devoted to World Cup coverage. Check it out).