So today kicks off the most watched and anticipated sporting event worldwide: The 2014 World Cup in Brazil! If you're a regular on this blog you will know that this topic is not in the main stream of what usually gets posted. If you're interested in some of my regular content click here. With that disclaimer in place, let's move on to the World Cup!
196 Countries, 32 Teams
The World Cup is the largest international soccer tournament. It takes place once every four years and is hosted in one country (or two: 2002 World Cup in S. Korea & Japan). The tournament consists of 32 teams from different regions of the world: Europe, Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Oceania. During the years building up to the World Cup all 196 countries in the world participate in World Cup Qualifiers; except for the host nation (Brazil), they qualify automatically. These qualifiers are done regionally (see above) and widdle the competing nations down to 32. Once the 32 teams are finalized they are put into the World Cup Draw.
32 Teams, 8 Groups
The World Cup Draw consists in distributing the 32 teams from different regions of the world into 8 different groups of four. The draw works by insuring that teams from the same region don't end up in the same World Cup group (think: USA, Canada, Mexico, and Jamaica in a group together). There is also a parity aspect to the draw that attempts to keep top ranked teams from being placed in the same group. The way this is done by taking teams that finished higher in qualifying and placing them with teams that finished lower in qualifying. This does not always work out smoothly because often some of the best teams in the world preform poorly in qualifying and are matched in the same group as another top team. Groups where three of the four teams are highly competitive are usually dubbed a "group of death". This year there are two "groups of death" in the world cup: Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy & Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA.
2014 World Cup Groups:
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Group B: Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Hondoras
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Iran, Nigeria
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea
Getting Out of Your Group
Like any tournament teams must be eliminated until one champion is left standing! This happens a little differently in the World Cup than it does in other sports' tournaments. Each team plays every other team in their respected group. That means that each team plays three games. If a team wins a game they are awarded three "points". If a team wins all three of their group stage games they would have nine "points". If a team ties a game they receive one "point". If a team ties all their group stage games they would have three "points". If a team looses a game they get zero points. After each team has played all three games all the teams in each group are ranked from first to fourth depending on how many points they have. The two teams with the most points in each group get to move onto the next phase of the world cup: The Knockout Phase.
The Knockout Phase
The Knockout Phase of the tournament is just what it sounds like. At this point there are no more ties, if you win you move on and if you loose you go home. Obviously, if there were 32 teams in the Group Stage and only half of those teams make it to the Knockout Stage then there are only 16 teams remaining. In the round of 16 the teams who finished first in their group are matched with teams who finished second in their group. Here is a picture of the Knockout Stage "bracket". You will see that "1A" will be matched up against "2B" and so forth:
From this point it is pretty straight forward. If you win in the round of 16 you move on to the quarter-finals, if you win in the quarter-finals you move on to the semi-finals. There is a third place game for the two teams who loose in the semi-finals to compete in and obviously the winners of the semi-finals will compete in the World Cup Final (The most watched single sporting event world wide: over 700,000,000 viewer of the 2010 World Cup Final. Compare with 122,000,000 viewer of this years Super Bowl).
Also, during the knockout phase, if a game is tied after the 90 minutes of regulation time the game proceeds to two 15 minute periods of overtime. During overtime the whole 30 minutes will be played out no matter what happens. If one team scores three goals in the first overtime period the second period will still happen. If the score is tied after the first overtime period then the game will be determined by a penalty kick shootout.
A "PK shootout" takes place by having each team select five players to take a penalty kick (a free kick taken from 12 yards away from the goal line). The teams rotate taking PKs until a winner is determined. All five kickers will go unless one team is mathematically eliminated (i.e. - if one team makes their first three PKs and the other team misses their first three then it is mathematically impossible for the team that missed their first three to tie even if they made their last two and the other team missed their last two). Another point about PKs, if the teams are tied after all five of their selected players have taken their PKs then sudden death PKs will take place. This means that each team will continue to send a player to take PKs until a winner is determined (i.e.- one player makes theirs while another player misses). Lastly, only players who were on the field at the end of the game can participate in the PK shootout.
The following bracket has my predictions for the tournament. On the outside you will see all 8 groups. The two emboldened teams from each group are designated with a "1" & "2" next to them to designate what place they finished in their group. You can then follow the bracket by referencing which group each team came from and what place they were in that group.I think that Argentina is going to win it all this year and defeat the mighty Spaniards in final. I think France is going to surprise a lot of people as I think they will finish third defeating Italy in the third place game. My big upset prediction is having the USA get out of Group G ahead of Germany and making it to the quarter-finals before being eliminated by Argentina (very optimistic I know!). I also have Uruguay being eliminated from their group of death and England making it through before losing to Spain.
The World Cup is such a fun time! Nothing ever seems to go according to predictions so I've tried to make some upsets in their! Who knows what will happen!
Enjoy the tournament and feel free to critique my predictions or ask any questions in the comments below!