Sports Columns

Column: A Way Too Early Pitch for This Year’s World Cup

Courtesy of Joaquin AlsoAssistant sports editor Fernando Molina Bier's roommate and fellow soccer fan, Joaquin, traveled to the 2014 World Cup in Brazil to cheer on Ecuador. Fernando, on the other hand, is a Honduras fan.

The FIFA World Cup has been my favorite sports event for as long as I can remember. After three years of regional competition, the 211 national associations in FIFA compete for a spot in the World Cup. Out of those 211, only 32 countries make it to the most anticipated and competitive event in the history of soccer. 

Not interested yet? Don’t worry. Below is every reason why I love the World Cup and how any true sports fan can quickly become quickly obsessed with it. Keep in mind this event only takes place every four years, so you won’t want to miss it.

Despite the World Cup not starting until Nov. 2022 — though it’s usually played in the summer but was delayed due to the summer heat in Qatar — the tension and excitement has already started. The groups were unveiled April 1, and with them, the unavoidable conflict over which country to support. There’s a team to root for in every group before you get to the tournament stage, but it can be tough to decide, especially when family ties come in the mix.

There are eight groups in the World Cup with four teams in each. Every team plays three matches against their group opponents, and the top two teams in the group advance to the first round of 16 in the tournament stage. Three points are awarded for every win, one point for a tie, and no points for a loss, with goal difference serving as the tie-breaker.

Lu Calzada, Loyola Phoenix sports editor, shared her struggles with choosing a team in Group C. With her father being Mexican and her mother being of Polish descent, she said she finds herself in a dilemma, not knowing who to root for, or which side of the family to take.

My personal World Cup conflict anecdote comes from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. I was born in Honduras and lived in Quito, Ecuador for five years. A year after I moved to Ecuador, both Honduras and Ecuador made it to the World Cup. To my unbelievable luck, they were both selected to the same group. My conflict didn’t come from within, rather with my friends, even teachers, and the country I was living in.

I remember going to school in my Honduras jersey the day Honduras played Ecuador in the World Cup. I felt tiny being the only blue spot in a deep sea of yellow. However, though soccer can be considered a religion in Latin America, the competition is friendly at the end of the day  — except for a couple of meaningless threats I got at school — and makes everything more exciting. 

I had seemingly never-ending discussions with my friends over who was going to win, and we all watched the game together after school. Unfortunately for me, Honduras lost, but it was a lively experience I’ll never forget.

We fans can get competitive over the tournament, but it’s nothing compared to the intensity, level of focus and heart with which every single player competes. There is no higher honor in soccer than representing your country in a world cup.

Whether you’re a young player trying to make a name out of yourself, or a veteran accomplished player trying to cement your legacy with the most prized trophy of them all, a competition that only happens once every four years can be the first or last any participating athlete makes.

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo for example, winners of 12 out of the last 13 Ballon D’Ors, are yet to win a World Cup at 34 and 37 years of age, respectively. With their age, this might be the last World Cup for both of them, and their last opportunity to separate themselves from the other in the greatest of all time debate.

This is also the perfect platform for overlooked nations and players to showcase their undiscovered talent — a perfect example being Costa Rica in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. They went undefeated in a group against three historical soccer giants — Uruguay, Italy and England — to stun the world by reaching the Round of 16, ultimately falling to the Netherlands in penalty kicks. 

Costa Rica gained fame and respect for its performance, and one of its players got the offer of a lifetime. Costa Rica’s goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, was signed by Real Madrid —the club with most Champions League titles in history — and went on to win three Champions Leagues as one of the team’s starters.

The United States’ team is one to look out for this year as well, placing 15th in the current FIFA Men’s Ranking and 14th in the qualifying World Cup countries, following No. 6 Italy’s unexpected failure to qualify after falling to North Macedonia 1-0. USA is the second-highest ranked team in its group, following No. 5 England and trailed by No. 21 Iran, and the winner of the intercontinental playoff games between Wales, Ukraine and Scotland.

The 2022 World Cup will take place in Qatar and span from Nov. 29 to Dec. 18. Nothing feels better than supporting one’s nation by wearing its colors in one of the largest, most culturally diverse competitions in the world. Every four years you get to join your country in a twenty day competition full of intensity, upsets, joy and sorrow. Don’t be left out, “the beautiful game” awaits.

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