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World Cup Prediction: The Same Old Thing, Like Always

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Here’s my World Cup prediction: every game will be 1-1, 1-0, or 2-1. (There was once a game between, I think it was, Cameroon and New Zealand where the final score was 3-1, but that’s only because the Cameroon’s team was involved in a bus accident before the game and could only field two players.)

I predict the Cup will be won by Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Italy or France – the only countries to have won it over the last 40 years.

Actually, if you throw in England’s victory in 1966, only six countries have won in the last 56 years. Heck, if you include Uruguay in 1930 and 1950, only seven teams have ever won the World Cup.

The big question — which continent, Europe or South America, will walk away with the World Cup – is harder to figure since countries from both have won nine. Why, I wonder, don’t they save time and just make it an all-European vs. South American tournament?

We are told every four years that “Soccer is the most popular sport in the world,” and it is in the sense that more people watch World Cup soccer than any other sporting event. But then, rice is the most popular food in the world, at least in terms of how many people eat it. World Cup soccer is watched by so many because it’s the only sport in the world that any country can compete in.

In the world’s three most populous countries – China, India, and the U.S. — soccer is not the most popular sport (though its fans in the U.S. and China number in the tens of millions). It is probably the most popular sport in Russia (though interest in sports there seems to be regional, with hockey dominating the north and bandy, I’m told in Ural).

Soccer isn’t the most popular sport in Canada, Cuba, Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Pakistan, Taiwan, or Saudi Arabia. It is, though, the one sport that all these countries can compete in – and the one they can compete in with anyone else.

How important is it for the U.S. to beat England in tomorrow’s World Cup match? That depends entirely on how much stock you put in soccer. And if your interest in soccer is based on how you see it as a test of a nation’s athletic prowess, consider this: the U.S. brought home 110 medals in the 2008 Summer Olympics to Great Britain’s 47. Perhaps look at it another way: the U.S. won 27 more medals in Beijing than Italy, Brazil, and France – winners of the last four World Cups – combined.

If we lost to England, at least look on the bright side: we can start getting ready for revenge in the 2012 Olympics in London.