WORLD CUPDATE: What to watch during the first week of the FIFA World Cup

World Cup time sports bros!
Mexico’s fans rally during the first match of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. — photo by Celso Flores

The 2014 FIFA World Cup starts today, but what to watch? Where to watch? In this primer, you’ll find a rundown of this week’s must-see matches as well as a crash course on the World Cup itself. Behold the spectacle!

So, what’s the World Cup and how does it work?

Every four years, 32 teams from around the world get together and have a soccer tournament that lasts a month, this year from June 12 through July 13. The tournament is broken into rounds and the first round, four teams are grouped together for a total of eight groups. Then, every team in each group plays each other and the top two teams in each group advance to the Round of 16, then the Quarter-finals, Semi-finals and Finals. Imagine March Madness crossed with the Olympics, but only for soccer.

I’ve heard some Brazillians aren’t happy about hosting the World Cup. What’s the deal?

Well, mainly it has a lot to do with their government spending millions of dollars on things like stadiums and not things like basic health care and a better education system. But it also has a lot to do with the fact that FIFA, soccer’s world governing body and purportedly a non-profit organization, is going to make a ton of money off of this and Brazil, not so much.

What about FIFA? I’ve heard they’re taking bribes.

I’m going to let former Daily Show Correspondent and current host of HBO’s Last Week Tonight John Oliver take this one: his explanation is a little lengthy but hits all the high points. From what these sources are suggesting, it’s looking more and more like Qatar purchased the 2022 World Cup from FIFA and is using slave labor to build stadiums that are going to look like this. (No, I’m not kidding.)

That sounds awful. So why should I watch?

Well, the soccer. Imagine if the Super Bowl lasted a whole month: You’re looking at the best teams in the world playing each other in what’s the greatest showcase of a single sport you will ever see on your television screen, commercial free. Games air on ESPN, and if you don’t have access to that channel at home, bars like 2 Dogs Pub, Buffalo Wild Wings, Donnelly’s and Mickey’s will all be showing the matches.

OK, fine, fine — I’ll watch. But which games?

Here’s a rundown of the games to catch over the first week of the World Cup.

June 12:

Brazil vs. Croatia — 3 p.m. CST ESPN

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Things get underway with the home team taking on the scrappy Croatians. Bet on Brazil winning, but watch to find out what superstars like Neymar and Hulk (yes, that’s his real name) can do.

June 13:

Spain vs. Netherlands — 2 p.m. CST ESPN

A rematch of the teams in the 2010 World Cup Finals, this game should tell you a lot about how old Spain actually is and if the Dutch are going to show up at all.

June 15:

Argentina vs. Bosnia — 5 p.m. CST ESPN

Keep your eyes on Argentinian star Lionel Messi, who many people say is the best in the world.

June 16:

Ghana vs. United States — 5 p.m. CST ESPN

Ghana knocked the United States out in the second round in 2010—this is the rematch and is a must-win for both teams.

June 17:

Belgium vs. Algeria 11 a.m. — CST ESPN

Belgium is the sexy dark horse of the tournament. Watch this match and find out just how sexy they are.

June 19:

Uruguay vs. England 2 p.m. — CST ESPN

The last time the World Cup was in Brazil, in 1950, Uruguay won. England, in a strangely sensible move has stocked themselves up with young talent that can run and may be an asset that will put them ahead. Don’t miss this game.


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