Sunday, July 06, 2014

"a betting man"

My supervisor loves soccer. He used to coach it, and he's long appreciated it for the technical skills and the sportsmanlike virtues that it cultivates. I don't normally follow sports; when I do, I generally prefer individual sports to team sports because team sports introduce too much randomness for my taste. Give me boxing, taekwondo, MMA, or some other combat sport; give me the speed and precision of singles tennis. And if I absolutely have to watch a team sport, then let it be American football, whose bone-crushing, brain-jarring brutality I can appreciate on a visceral level. So, no: I don't normally follow soccer.

But my supervisor has been talking frequently about the World Cup; my buddy Charles has, in spite of himself, written at least twice about the World Cup over at Liminality (here and here); and my brother David is married to a lovely brasileira who is excited that her home country is hosting the 2014 World Cup, and whose team will most likely play in the final match—this after having won the Cup a stunning five times previously.

So my interest is slightly piqued. I haven't tried to follow any matches live, but I have, more often than I care to admit, visited Google's World Cup reports by Googling the phrase "World Cup 2014." This leads right to a score chart that also provides timelines and links to sports-news commentary about the games (most of which I ignore). I'm not personally invested in this World Cup, but something my supervisor said has stuck with me. I one day randomly speculated about what it might be like for this World Cup to be a "Latin-free final," e.g., if the finalists turned out to be, for example, the Netherlands and Germany. My supervisor countered, "If I were a betting man, I'd bet on an all-Latin final."

He's pretty close to being right. The four remaining teams are Brazil versus Germany and the Netherlands versus Argentina. In theory, this could go either way: we could very well end up Latin-free, with Germany versus the Netherlands in the final, but realistically speaking, I'd have to give the game to the Latin countries. Why? As my supervisor says: "They feel the game is theirs." In other words, the Latin countries are way more passionate about soccer, way more culturally invested in it. That has to mean something at the expert level, and I think it does. So my prediction, which doesn't involve much risk, is that Brazil is going to end up duking it out with Argentina. If the game goes as so many have gone in this World Cup, the score will be a tie at the end, and it'll come down to overtime penalty kicks. If I were to make a further prediction, I'd say that Brazil will be buoyed by its home-team advantage, drinking in the energy of the crowds, and it will win the Cup a sixth time.

There's just no stopping the juggernaut.


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