World Cup 2014 kicks off today, much to the delight of millions worldwide.
One need not be a diehard soccer aficionado to appreciate the World Cup. College football fans seeking a thrilling athletic competition to whet their appetites in the two-plus months remaining before the 2014 season can take comfort in the World Cup. Even for those who are not soccer-inclined, there are similarities to the college gridiron that might keep you interested.
Who knows? There may be a talk-radio host somewhere in Spain where fans less in touch with reality call in to shout at a host named “PAAAAAAWWWWBBBLLLOOO.”
Brazil is the Alabama Crimson Tide
Heavy favorite to win the 2014 World Cup Brazil is a juggernaut, featuring a defense absolutely stacked with some of the most talented players in the world. Brazil is also known for its zealous fan base–sometimes overly so.
England is the Georgia Bulldogs
Both the English soccer team and Georgia football are synonymous with their respective sports. Each has a roster loaded with individual talent. And yet, it’s been astoundingly long since either won it all.
Georgia’s last champion came in 1980. England hasn’t won the World Cup since 1966.
Every World Cup, there are plenty of reasons to think that this is the year England wins it all, but ultimately it falls short. Georgia would have played for the BCS title in 2012, but came literally yards away from beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs’ heartbreaking defeat seems like the kind loss the English might suffer late in the World Cup.
USMNT is the Louisville Cardinals
America’s soccer team shares one noteworthy quality with the Texas Longhorns: Both have hard-nosed head coaches who were criticized this spring for speaking the truth about their teams’ championship chances. However, Texas head coach Charlie Strong’s old program is more parallel to the USMNT.
The good old U-S-of-A has all the ingredients to be a major player on the world soccer stage. The athletic talent is here, the passion for the sport is growing and the USMNT is making the necessary investments to reach its full potential.
Louisville is one of the fastest rising programs in college football. This year, the Cardinals make the jump to the ACC, a necessary step in the athletic department’s ultimate goal of competing for national championships.
Ghana is the UCF Knights
Louisville had its potential dream season ruined by UCF. Seems fitting, given the context. Ghana is a surprisingly player on the international season and dark horse contender. Likewise, UCF has routinely been a dangerous opponent for more prominent programs in the college football landscape, most recently demolishing Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl.
Argentina is the Oregon Ducks
Argentina features the most exciting player in the world, Lionel Messi. Captaining the Oregon Ducks is arguably the most electrifying quarterback in college football, Marcus Mariota.
Both are universally praised, yet somehow not fully given the credit they deserve. Messi has his detractors within the Argentine fan base, while Mariota has inexplicably finished out of the running for the Heisman Trophy each of the last two years. Both also lead teams with realistic championship aspirations, but have to overcome past failures to see those dreams realized.
Cristiano Ronaldo is Johnny Manziel
Spain is the Florida State Seminoles
The defending champions of each sport, Spain and Florida State are well-balanced teams with polarizing stars at the helm. Fernando Torres is the star of an altogether loaded Spanish team. Jameis Winston guides the 2013 national champion Seminoles.
However, there is so much more to both teams, which is why both are champions. Spain features such notable names as David Silva and Sergio Ramos, with Florida State returning Karlos Williams and Rashad Greene. Each team also heads into 2014 competition with a young defender to watch: Jordi Alba on the Spanish side, and Jalen Ramsey at Florida State.
Italy is the USC Trojans
Two traditional powers that dominated in the 2000s. Italy claimed the 2006 World Cup, right when USC was smack-dab in its run of seven straight conference titles. However, the Italian team bottomed out in the 2008 Euro Cup behind its Lane Kiffin, Roberto Donadoni. Cesare Prandelli was hired to return the Azzurri to its past glory, much in the same fashion USC turns to Steve Sarkisian to reclaim its championship form of not long ago.
Germany is the UCLA Bruins
If either the German national team or UCLA can navigate through a difficult road, each has the look of a viable championship contender in 2014.
Multifaceted German superstar Bastian Schweinsteiger does just about everything for his squad. That would make Myles Jack the Schweinsteiger of UCLA–or does that make Schweinsteiger the Myles Jack of Germany?
Either way, both Schweinsteiger and Jack are central to their team’s championship goals, and will have the collective attention of both sports’ fan bases throughout competition.