The U.S. team may be long gone, but World Cup 2014 still has two more exciting matches to serve up this weekend. Even without Tim Howard and our national heroes, there are still plenty of reasons to tune in. Or if the past month has been a tedious hell of soccer talk for you…there’s plenty of reason to be excited that by Sunday evening, it will all be over.
Don’t be a fair weather fan. On Sunday afternoon, the eyes of the world will be turned to the events happening in Rio de Janeiro. Don’t you want to see what they’re watching? A great deal of the conversation about the World Cup here in the U.S. centered around whether Americans would continue to watch after Howard & Co. were eliminated. The U.S. did better than expected and its surprising success was a big win for ESPN, FIFA and American Soccer fans. The dropoff in ratings since the U.S. exit has not been as precipitous as many feared. Baseball is going into the All-Star break, the NFL is weeks away, the NBA is long over and no one watches hockey. So why not spend your Sunday afternoon with the World Cup?
The third-place game isn’t just for losers. There have always been complaints that the third-place match is just a waste of everyone’s time. No one cares who comes in third or fourth. The players are already thinking about their summer vacations and starting their seasons with their full-time jobs. This year, no one has been more vocal about canceling the third-place match, set for Saturday at 4 p.m. EDT, than Brazilian Coach Luis Felipe Scolari…and with good reason. The Brazilians were utterly humiliated last time they took the field and, still without Neymar, they could be in for another thorough spanking. It’s a no-win scenario for “Big Phil.” But if the Dutch team is already half on the plane, Brazil could gain a measure of redemption. If, on the other hand, the Dutch come for blood, it could be a dark, dark weekend for the host nation…and that’s not even counting what will happen if Argentina wins the final.
The final showdown: Europe vs. South America. As late as Wednesday evening, it was still possible that we’d see a World Cup final between two countries that were geographically adjacent to one another. As exciting as a grudge match between Brazil and Argentina or even Germany and Holland could have been, it is far more appropriate for a final that is billed as a global event to be between nations on the opposite side of the world. On Sunday we will be seeing the best of Europe against the best of South America. The contest is richer for it.
Superstars. Cristiano Ronaldo, Wayne Rooney and the Spanish and Italian teams may be long gone. Neymar left on a stretcher. Robin Van Persie and Arjen Robben are relegated to the third-place match. But never fear, sports fans, the final will not hurt for star power. Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezekial Lavezzi, Sergio Romero, Javier Mascherano, Thomas Müller, Miroslav Klose, Mesut Ozil, and Mario Goetze will all be strutting their stuff in the final. Regardless of the outcome, there will certainly be no shortage of star power at the World Cup final. Oh, and there’s that one other name I haven’t mentioned…
Man vs. machine. The best player in the world and Argentinian messiah Lionel Messi is still at the Cup and set to prove that he is the real deal, even if he has to drag the rest of his team with him. The final against Germany will feature one of the classic dichotomies, as the superstar will take on the super team. Germany has many star names, but they are far more threatening as a collective…which is pretty much the opposite of what we can say about Argentina. So will the best player in the world be able to conquer the most cohesive unit in the Cup? We shall see Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT.
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