The FIFA World Cup starts tomorrow, and I may write a few blog entries on it over the course of the next month. Skip 'em if you actively dislike the game--some Americans, especially, have a psychological complex where they go out of their way to put down the sport. Some scattered thoughts:
Reason Why I'm Finally Rooting for Brazil: Ronaldinho. I've always loved what I've known and encountered about Brazilian culture, but I've never gotten behind their national soccer team because (a) they had a bad habit of eliminating teams I really liked in recent World Cups, and (b) I was rubbed the wrong way by some of their recent stars--Rivaldo, Romario, Ronaldo. But Ronaldinho? That goofy, infectious smile, and especially the superhuman skill ... what's not to like? He is the primary reason for my turnaround. (On the flipside, I would usually pull for the Clockwork Orange to do well, but I'm less enthusiastic this time around because of bad vibes from ... Ruud van Nistelrooy. Don't ever mistake me for a rational soccer fan.)
Teams I Will Root For, Always: USA (World Cup brings out my nationalism), Germany (I learned to play soccer when I lived there as a kid). I'm preparing to have my heart broken in the group stages by the US, and in the quarterfinals by Germany. But I'll be cheering them on--and hoping against hope--the whole time.
Surprises: Switzerland and Australia. I'm going to predict them both to make it to the Round of 16 at least. Switzerland may even surprise France and top their group.
Dream Final: England v Brazil, with healthy players all around. My real dream final would involve Germany playing a surprisingly great tournament all the way through to the trophy, but that's even less likely than the United States managing to emerge from the same group as Italy, Ghana, and the Czech Republic.
Prediction for Tomorrow's Opener: Germany 1 : 0 Costa Rica. The Germans will control the pitch but play cautiously, until Miroslav Klose's lanky ass finds its way in front of the right cross. We'll maybe have to wait until Ballack is fit to play to see the Germans try anything creative ...