So the FIFA World Cup has hardly gone as expected during the first round. The vaunted soccer nations from Europe, including defending champions, Italy as well as England and Germany have struggled badly.
Spain, reigning European champions, suffered a stunning opening loss to tiny Switzerland, although they looked better in their second game. Portugal also struggled in their opener but then blasted an unbelievable seven goals into the North Korean net in a lopsided win in their second game.
France, a finalist in the last World Cup in 2006, embarrassed itself with team in-fighting, players being sent home, administrators quitting, and they were eliminated with a 2-1 loss to the South Africans, who are hardly a world power, and are only in the tournament because they are hosting.
Of the European sides, only the Netherlands has looked good, and sailed through to the second round without a problem. If the millionaires from the European teams are struggling, by contrast, the seemingly hungrier South American countries have been dazzlingly impressive. While exotic rental cars may line the taverns in Europe, it seems to be droves of enthusiastic pedestrians in South American.
Argentina won all three of its opening-round games, with legendary player-turned coach, Diego Maradona, dancing on the sidelines, and the world’s current best player, Lionel Messi, looking like a magician on the field.
Brazil, always a contender for the title, and five-time winners of the coveted World Cup, has also looked strong.
Paraguay, Chile, and Uruguay round out the South American nations who are making their people proud.
Mexico is also through to the round of 16, but will face a tough test against Argentina on Sunday.
This tournament only comes around once every four years, and when it does, it captivates people around the world. In some places, offices are closed, business is put on hold, bars and cafes are full when key matches are on, and even in the United States, ex-pats from many countries pull on their jerseys and unabashedly sing and cheer for the country of their birth or their ancestry.
It’s a magical time, and it remains the world’s biggest single sporting event, rivaling the Olympics in magnitude and global interest, but it has been puzzling thus far. Can the Euro stars find their form? Or will we see an all-South American final this time! Stay tuned! It continues until the final on July 11th, with all games on ESPN
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