It's here, finally, the day of the World Cup, when the world turns its attention to Brazil for the biggest sporting event there is.
Here are seven fun predictions about what we'll see over the next month or so. Weigh in below with yours!
The Country of the Future finally becomes the Country of Today, gracefully.
Sure there are serious issues to debate. It's never a unanimously agreed upon, dumping a couple billion dollars into stadiums with a serious shelf life in an emerging country that has big issues at hand- like education and healthcare. But a nation pursues the World Cup to showcase itself. It's a once in 40 years proposition at most. So even though we can expect protests right up to and probably through the tournament - and we'd never advocate sweeping the serious socioeconomic issues under the rug, even for a month of best-face-on-putting - here's saying Brazil will play one colorful, stylish, aspirational and safe host to the worldly bunch flying in as we speak. (real time update: it's a work in progress hours before the first kick).
Flopping will not be a story.
A year before South Africa 2010, I was worried it would be. Such an easy critique for the very casual fan tuning in once every four years- the amount of pandering for the whistle and time stalling tactics that can take place. But is it my inner optimist, or is this problem gradually taking care of itself? (Maybe not.) In a week where Dwayne Wade was fined (again) $5k for an Oscar-caliber overreaction in the NBA Finals, this isn't soccer's problem alone- nor is it going to make big headlines at the copa.
Brands will have a field day. So will emerging media.
ESPN and Univision aren't the only ones bringing the World Cup to you. Nike and adidas, Coke, Beats, Degree, Twitter and Bud Light and so many other brands are delivering notable content, too. (Favorite so far- this by ESPN and the American Outlaws.) And for deeper coverage and analysis, you can stick with mainstays like ESPNFC and the Sports Illustrated team...but you can compliment your coverage with a slew of other great outlets. But...
ESPN will be missed, dearly, and they'll remind us why.
Best wishes to Fox, and kudos for cozying up to ESPN to learn the ropes this time through. And kudos to Grant Wahl & Co. at Sports Illustrated for doubling down in a big way this time through. But from the moment Bob Ley signs off in Sao Paulo, the mothership will be missed. Big time. They've committed to football over the years- never more than the last few months. The supplemental content is incredible. The dual nod (stateside) to the TWO most followed teams here (including Mexico) is impressive. And their reach- inserting plugs for World Cup content in all their digital touchpoints- can't be matched. So sayonara and thank you, for now.
Eastern Europe and (Northern) CONMEBOL Represent Well
Equador. Colombia. Croatia. Bosnia & Herzegovina in its first World Cup. Here's saying one of these nations will rise eyebrows with a deep run, on the collective efforts of their rosters, mishmashes of players in South American and top flight Euro leagues alike.
Tim Howard will reassert himself as the world's best GK, and then articulately be humble about it.
Forcefully vocal, directing the young back line of the USMNT defense, Tim Howard is all class. Coming off his best of 12 years in Europe and backed by another of the world's top netminders in Brad Guzan, Tim Howard is a cut above. The better he plays, the more realistic the opportunity for the USMNT to escape the Group of Death. In 14 days, he'll leave the world scratching their heads, saying, "Damn. He is the greatest GK on the planet, right now."
Billions will tune in. Others will stay outside and play.
FIFA projects 3.2 BILLION people watched a minute or more of the 2010 World Cup. Others point out that this is fewer than half the people on the third rock from the sun- and there are at least a few hundred million more football fans out there. Maybe they're stuck in a cubicle or on a farm field or don't have a TV. Maybe they'd rather play 3-a-side in an alley or on a beach.
Regardless, the world is watching and playing right now. So take a day off, or several. Its only once every four years.