Sunday, December 2, 2001

The World Cup

The World Cup (of football; soccer to us Americans) starts next year in May, but the excitement for me begins today. The countries have been selected into groups. The United States will be playing in Group D with Portugal, Poland, and Korea (the host, along with Japan).

There is no true world championship like FIFA's World Cup. 192 countries entered the World Cup qualifying tournaments, which span two years. Of these counties, 32 "won" a place in the World Cup final tournament. Truly a world event.

In 1994, when the United States hosted this tournament, Jenn and I went to the semi-final match played between Spain and Italy in Foxboro Stadium. I spent the most money I ever spent on a live sporting event, but it was worth every dollar. Even on the way to the stadium, cars raced past us, honking, lights blinking, displaying Italian or Spanish flags. The crowd was the most electric, eclectic, energetic bunch of non-English speaking sports fans. My wife swooned over Roberto Baggio's thrilling goal (after which he blew a kiss to our side of the stadium). I was thrilled to be in such a frenzied crowd. (Italy went on to win the match, but lose to Brazil in the final.)

We're counting down the days to the World Cup in Japan/Korea. First match: May 31, 2002!

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