The FIFA World Cup for Dummies
WORDS BY ALEXI BARNSTONE
On June 14th the largest sporting event in the world will kick off in Russia. The World Cup.
3.2 Billion people around the world watched the last one. You will inevitably end up watching a game from this one. Here are some key things you should know so that you understand what is going on:
THE WORLD CUP IS A COMPETITION OF NATIONAL TEAMS
If you are not a soccer goon it is important that you know that the World Cup is a competition between national teams. This means the teams competing are comprised of players chosen to represent their home country all coming from different club teams spread out around the world. This means two things.
Firstly, the teams you are watching compete are not actually teams in the traditional sense but rather an amalgamation of what the nation has deemed the best 20 or so players from that nationality. This means that they are not accustom to playing together. They often play in different countries with completely different styles of football and they sometimes even play for rival clubs and hold personal grudges against each other. This means that on the field the team chemistry is far lower, resulting in more mistakes, miscommunications and excitingly controversial moments.
Secondly, large footballing nations such as France, Germany and England have a distinct advantage seeing that they have thousands of top professional athletes to pick from to build their respective squads. Footballing nations that host some of the most competitive leagues at the club level foster considerably more talent, and subsequently tend to field far more quality sides. This makes for some serious underdog stories.
THE WORLD CUP IS ACTUALLY THE WORLD CUP FINALS
The world cup that is on in June is actually the world cup finals. Every nation in the world competes in qualifying competitions for two years leading up to the world cup. The qualifying competitions are held by region. The teams that place first or second in their respective regions qualify for the world cup finals. So, when you are watching the world cup and think: ‘oh that team is bad they have lost every game so far’, just remember, 170 other countries didn’t even make it this far.
THE WORLD CUP FORMAT
The world cup is both a group and knock out stage. The 32 teams in the cup are placed into groups of 4. Each team plays each other team in their group once. This means every team is guaranteed at least three games. A nation gets 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss. The top two teams with the most points go to the knockout stages, where they then play one game, winner goes on and loser is out. If the teams are tied after ninety minutes of football in a knockout game then they play for another thirty. If nothing separates them after that they go to penalty shootouts.
And there you have it, all the basics for what the world cup is and how it works. Be free, go and pretend to like soccer.