world cup 2010Ladies and Gentlemen, the world’s most popular sport on the world’s largest stage is finally upon us. Today marks the start of the 2010 South African World Cup.

I like stereotyping so I’m going to assume that most you live in your parents’ basement and do nothing but smoke weed and listen to metal all day. Since a lot of the World Cup games take place in the afternoon you all have ample time, and no reason, not to sit on your ass and watch. You haven’t seen things like this done to a ball since that time in fifth grade when you and your best friend were sexually curious and thought it would be cool to see how it felt. However, if I were to make a bet I would wager that most of you a) have never played soccer b) think soccer is the actual name of the sport (only America would name a sport [ahem football] after an appendage it rarely uses) or are c) still thinking about that time in fifth grade with your best friend.

To help you all through this month long journey I have put together a little dossier on some of the teams competing in the World Cup. In order for you to better comprehend the nuances of the teams I have compared them each to one aspect of metaldom. After all, this is a metal site.

Key: Team (Nickname) – Notable Players (Forward, Midfield, Defense, Goalie)

United States: F – Jozy Altidore, M – Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey, G – Tim Howard

I kinda feel bad for Americans who aren’t into soccer. Every four years (especially over the past decade) these people start to hear the buzz around the World Cup and most react the same way, “so what?”  But then they start to hear that the U.S. actually has a chance to do something in what Americans consider a second rate sport. Since it is only natural for Americans to be #1 in everything (check the Guinness Book of World records — we own some ridiculous ones) these people jump on the bandwagon believing that the U.S. actually has a shot only to be disappointed a couple weeks later when the U.S. fails to match its hype. This World Cup is somewhat different. After beating the best team in the world, Spain, in a preliminary tournament and drawing what is considered to be an easy group (England, Algeria, Slovenia, Yanks) the team is poised to go decently far this year.

The U.S. reminds me of the metal noob. Metal noobs are easy to pick out of a crowd: full of energy and spunk; eager to tell you about this awesome new band they love which either sucks or you found out about at least five years ago. While the U.S. isn’t new to the soccer scene it is still in its infancy. Since they aren’t as technically skilled or as fast as some of the other teams in this tournament the U.S. relies on its physicality and athleticness to get the job done. While a noob might be as smart as a third grader when it comes to metal they make up for it in effort. Four years from now the metal noob should be better versed in the art of metal through the guidance of ye old metalheads. The U.S. soccer team will also be in a different place four years in the future, but where that place is depends on your ability to guide them to victory (I’m aware that sounds real cheesy, but its true). So I emplore you to cheer your country on to victory. Remember, we were all metal noobs at some point in our lives. That includes backup goalie Marcus Hahnemann, a self-professed Tool and Slipknot fan.

Spain (La Furia Roja): F-David Villa and Fernando Torres, M-Xavi, D-Carles Puyol, G-Iker Casillas

After winning the 2008 European Championships the Spaniards are the clear favorites to win this World Cup especially after their unbeaten streak of 35 games. The national playing style of tiki-taka, quick one touch passing, enables Spain to hold on to the ball allowing forwards and midfielders time and space to do what they do best, finish with style.  While they are the favorites La Furia Roja have been known to choke on the big stage. Take for example the 2009 Confederations Cup when the U.S., I repeat, the United States of America beat Spain in the semi-finals to bring an end to their unbeaten streak. With their great beginnings and horrible finishes, Spain is very reminiscent of the hair metal era. A genre that started out promising with stylish guitar playing but then finished on a huge low after its surge in popularity. Just as hair metal bands got tons of ass because of their good looks, the Spanish players get tons of ass because of their good play. If any team other than the U.S. is to win this cup, which is extremely likely, then I would want it to be Spain. With almost half of the world’s twenty best soccer players Spain should make it to the final match, but who knows what the soccer gods will do from there.

Netherlands (Oranje): F-Arjen Robben and Robin Van Persie, M-Wesley Sneijder and Rafael Van Der Vaart

This is the most technical team in the whole cup. What these men can do with the ball at their feet is truly amazing. Winger Arjen Robben has emerged as one of the best players in the world because of his ability to do this and this a lot. But he isn’t the only one with gifted feet on the team. I could start naming players but you would get bored and stop reading (if you haven’t already) due to the length of the list. Their technical ability allows them to change the speed, flow, and style of play to their liking. In essence the Netherlands are a progressive metal band with more members than Slipknot. Like seeing Petrucci, Portnoy, and the rest of the technically gifted masters of prog live, the Dutch dictate to the ball and the opponent what is going to happen over the next 90 minutes. Spain may be the best overall team, but if the Oranje can actually put everything together they could claim the trophy easily.

Germany (Die Mannschaft): F-Miroslav Klose, M-Bastian Schweinsteiger, D-Philipp Lahm

When I asked my brother to help dissect Germany’s style of play, the first thing he said was akin to the metal version of “absolutely overpowering.” The first thing that came to mind was death metal. But death metal didn’t really fit. While it is intense and some of the hardest metal around it didn’t seem to have the discipline and organization that you see in Germany’s play. Die Mannschaft (could make for a very good band name) define what it means to play mistake free, team ball. The team then uses their athletic ability  to outwork and overpower their opponent. This is when it hit me, Germany is soccer’s Lamb of God. LoG isn’t the most technical band around, nor the fastest, but that hasn’t stopped them from reaching the top echelons of Metal. How did they do it? The band has said numerous times that night in and night out their goal was to outwork every other band on the bill in every city on the tour. LoG plays with such intensity that you might as well get right on your knees and beg for mercy. Germany hopes they will be able to make their opponents do the same in South Africa.

England (The Three Lions): F-Wayne Rooney, M – Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard, D-John Terry

England is the birth place of both metal and soccer so it is only fitting that the national team plays like Iron Maiden play a show. The Three Lions boast some of the best talents in the world. Uber striker Wayne Rooney channels his inner Dickinson as he runs rampant all over the field scoring spectacular goals. The midfield play of Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Gareth Barry rivals the guitar skills of Gers, Murray, Smith. Barry would replace Gers as the rhythm in the group as his sole job is to  ensure no one disrupts their attacking style of play. With their ability to hold on to the ball, as well as flash their offensive prowess, Gerrard and Lampard are clearly Murray and Smith. Staunch center back John Terry reminds me of Harris all too much. While Harris is one of the few bassists that gets a lot of attention he is still a bassist. Center back is the bassist of a team; no one notices them till they make a great play and that is exactly what Terry does. The Lions are poised for a run at the title this year but only time will tell if they can get past their history of choking on penalty kicks.

Italy (The Azzurri): F-Alberto Gilardino and Antonio Di Natale, D-Fabio Cannavaro, G-Gigi Buffon

I’m going to take a stab and say that most of you have been to a show where the headlining band has a large following among the older crowd. Then I’m also going to wager that you have seen first and second generation metalheads hanging out at the back of the show, in an almost statuesque position,These men also act like those round things in pinball that shove the ball away as hard as they can. The Italians are soccer’s version of the old school metalheads. First, the Italians field the oldest squad in the tournament. Second, like metal, soccer has gotten faster and flashier. And, like the alpha metalheads, the Italians are stubborn and refuse to change with the times. The Azzurri are content to hang back for 89 minutes while their opponents wear down trying to penetrate their defense, a hard task in itself. The Italians then use that last minute to sprint up the field, past their exhausted opponent, and score the only goal they need to win the match. I don’t know about any of you but I have seen old men not move a muscle through both a BTBAM set and an Opeth set only to bang their head through a whole Dream Theater set. While their defensive-minded play helped win them the 2006 World Cup this time around, coupled with age factor, it might be their downfall.

Obviously this list does not have all the teams, including some of the better ones, but it should give you some shouting material while watching with your friends. Also, since the games are during the day while those of us are at work some offices will leave them on so people can take breaks. But if you’re not going to do work while at work you’re going to need to pretend that you actually are interested in the sport. So if you haven’t found anything I’ve said interesting at least I can take solace in the fact that you can use it to procrastinate.

– MH and Scott Wolitzer

Group Stage Games Worthy of Your Viewing Pleasure
Any game involving Spain, Argentina, and Brazil should make for good entertainment
June 11 @ 10:00 AM –  South Africa vs. Mexico (ESPN) *Opening Ceremonies and First Game
June 11 @ 2:30 PM – Uruguay vs. France (ESPN)
June 12 @ 2:30 PM – England vs. USA (ABC)
June 15 @ 10:00 AM – Ivory Coast vs. Portugal (ESPN)
June 18 @ 7:30 AM – Germany vs. Serbia (ESPN)
June 20 @ 2:30 PM – Brazil vs. Ivory Coast (ABC)
June 23 @ 2:30 PM – Ghana vs. Germany
June 24 @ 2:30 PM – Cameroon vs. Netherlands (ESPN2)
June 25 @ 10:00 AM – Portugal vs. Brazil (ESPN)
*All games are being broadcast on ESPN, ABC, ESPN3.com and affiliates at EST)
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