Hundreds of millions of humans will soon gather in bars, barns, parks, taverns, caverns, caravans, caves and bunkers, some crossing vast deserts just to find a radio so they can listen to a sporting extravaganza that'll be bigger than the Super Bowl, Stanley Cup, NBA Finals and "World" Series all rolled into one. It's humanity's biggest pilgrimage: the World Cup. The pot's been simmering for four years, and it's finally coming to a boil. 204 teams played 848 matches and scored 2,337 goals, battling hammer and tong, tooth and nail for the right to become one of the chosen 32 nations who gets a chance to bring home both the bacon and the glory. June 11, 2010, strap it on and strap him yourself in, as the mother of all sporting events crashlands for the first time in history on the mother of all continents. Ladies and gentlemen, put your hands together for, live from a Jo'berg, it's World Cup 2010 South Africaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!
The World Cup is a month-long marathon disguised as a series of furious sprints. Lemme break it down fa ya. Group Stage: 8 groups of 4 teams. Everybody plays 3 games. Top 2 teams go through. Elimination Stage: win and live to fight another day; lose & it's instant extermination.
GROUP A: YES: France & South Africa NO: Mexico & Uruguay
Call me a cockeyed optimist, but I'm picking South Africa to make it through to the round of 16. Bafana Bafana, Zulu for "the Boys", has a world-class forward in double-somersaulting Stephen Pienaar, and a hulking, humongous, yet surpisingly skillful shaved-bald defender in Matthew Booth, who looks shockingly like a huge Q-tip. Plus they will have the maniacal sound of 1 billion vuvuzelas, their ear-bleedingly loud local noisemakers, trumpeting their every triumph. Plus this is a nation that overcame hatred and pain in part through the beautiful game. Call me a bitter cynic, but I'm also picking France to advance. After the galling display of Gallic dishonor in the infamous Hand of Henry cheating scandal, they've come to represent the way the world is now. Turns out cheating is, after all, the best way to win. If you don't believe me, go ask Goldman Sachs. Mexico? Having watched the fiery Mexicans go cold in the hot spotlight so many times over the decades, I believe our neighbors to the south are a taco short of a Combo Platter. Uruguay? Too much bad karma. Their legacy of World Cup brutality is well documented, most famously in the person of José Batista, ejected 53 seconds into a 1986 game for chopping a Scotsman in half.
The Glorious World Cup: A Fanatics Guide was written by David Henry Sterry and Alan Black, American soccer fanatics. With contributions from American soccer fanatic and best-selling author Po Bronson, English soccer fanatic and the best soccer writer in the world, Simon Kuper, and Scottish soccer junkie Irvine Welsh.