Wednesday May 25th, 2016 8:37PM

Opinion: World Cup kickoff to banish soccer's worries -- for now

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Related Articles
  Contact Editor
Accusations of corruption and bribery, infrastructure worries, mass protests...<br /> <br /> Welcome to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where the build-up has included more acrimony and concern than a bad reality TV series.<br /> <br /> Yet in a couple of days, many of those issues will -- however temporarily -- evaporate into the balmy Sao Paulo air. That's the strength of this once-every-four-years tournament.<br /> <br /> Make no mistake, the questions that have dogged world soccer's governing body (FIFA) over the past few months and years will not disappear (including accusations of strong-arming the current host-nation into bending many of its own laws and safety regulations). They will simply be overwhelmed by the play on the field. And when you consider just how outrageous some of FIFA's decision-making seems, that's quite a feat.<br /> <br /> Millions, perhaps even billions, of people will tune in to the tournament and -- outside of those fans in Brazil witnessing some of the issues firsthand -- most will forget all about the acrimony currently encircling the body that is putting on the very event they are watching.<br /> <br /> That's what happens when you have a sport that is almost religious in the feelings it engenders in its fans. And that's not wholly set aside for world soccer -- ask SEC football fans how they feel about their own conference leadership at times and the proposed changes in store for its own league in the coming years (loss of rivalry games, increased ticket prices, more and more home games against patsy opponents)... And then ask them if they would dare turn down their season tickets or the channel on fall Saturdays. The answer would likely be eerily similar to those of world soccer supporters.<br /> <br /> Plenty of those kind of fanatics are right here in our backyard. Indeed, the passion for soccer and national pride will be on display in homes and sports bars throughout northeast Georgia and on many a television and in a few select stores.<br /> <br /> No, soccer's popularity has not reached the fever pitch here in the US as in most of the rest of the world -- I just returned from two weeks in England during which you could not escape the World Cup marketing build-up -- but with each passing cup we take another step toward the grand party.<br /> <br /> (<b>NOTE:</b> for those of you that know little about soccer but will be taking a gander at the tournament, be sure to <a href="">check out Sports Illustrated's "World Cup Guide for People Who Don't Watch Soccer"</a>.) <br /> <br /> And what a party this particular tournament promises to be.<br /> <br /> Unlike plenty of tournaments past there is no clear favorite, rather a number of a capable teams with capacity to dominate and awe -- including hosts Brazil, next-door neighbor and arch-rival Argentina and defending champion Spain. There are also teams such as Germany and France with the ability to clinch the title -- and surprise no one in the process.<br /> <br /> Perhaps the biggest reason for anticipation for this tournament, however, is that the global game has reached a level of parity never before seen. In fact there could be upsets galore this time around. <br /> <br /> That's not to say that Brazil will toil to reach the final, but teams such as Croatia -- the hosts first opponent to kick off the tournament on Thursday -- have learned how to make things tougher on skilled opponents and keep themselves in contention. Is Brazil more talented than Croatia? Without a doubt. But skill alone does not win matches, and opponents will do their best to make sure that superior teams keep their focus for all 90 minutes.<br /> <br /> There are very few secrets in the game anymore, as many of the world's best players already know each other from various club competitions and while tactics can vary widely from team to team, there won't likely be any major surprises in how teams play this tournament. <br /> <br /> That familiarity could breed a topsy-turvy tournament, one that could see any number of teams make deep runs.<br /> <br /> In fact at this point it could all simply come down to who gets hot at the right time.<br /> <br /> That includes our own squad. Yes, the US is generally thought to be an also-ran this time around -- due to a relatively inexperienced team and a three-game group slate that includes Germany, as well as a strong Portugal and bogey team Ghana (which has knocked the US out of the last two World Cups). But count out Uncle Sam's Army at your own peril. <br /> <br /> There is plenty of athleticism within the team, and while the unit is not brimming with world class players, there are a couple on hand in midfielder Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard -- and (when he's in the mood) striker Clint Dempsey -- surrounded by capable and willing role-players. Are they world beaters? Doubtful, But are they capable of putting something special together? Certainly.<br /> <br /> And that's what a number of the peripheral fans in this country yearn for: a game, result or player that they can get behind and root for. And should the US discover some magic on the field then, just maybe, the World Cup fever already ravaging other nations will take full root here.<br /> <br /> With the way this tournament is shaping up, this may just be the time for it to happen.<br /> <br /> FIFA will be pulling for it to happen with every nation, and maybe help everyone forget about the organization running the Cup for a while.
© Copyright 2016
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 1 year ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 1 year ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 1 year ago )
Pits will be tight as Chili Bowl entry count hits 316
TULSA, OK - The 29th annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Midget Nationals presented by General Tire is on track to be a record smashing event, with the entry count climbing over the 300 mark for the first time to 316 entries confirming 303 drivers for the indoor spectacular happening Tuesday, January 13 through Saturday, January 17 at the Tulsa Expo Center in Tulsa, OK.
9:59AM ( 1 year ago )
Falcons fire Mike Smith after 2nd straight losing season
Mike Smith's status as the winningest coach in Falcons history wasn't enough to save his job. Owner Arthur Blank said he fired Smith on Monday because in his "heart of hearts" he didn't believe Smith could take the Falcons to the Super Bowl.
7:58PM ( 1 year ago )
New promoters in place for 2015 at Senoia Raceway
SENOIA, GA - Lease papers have been signed and a team of new promoters is in place for the upcoming stock car racing season at Senoia Raceway in Senoia, GA.
6:00AM ( 1 year ago )
Professional Sports
Dawsonville's Raymond Parks named to NASCAR Hall of Fame for 2017
Georgia’s Raymond Parks played a strong role in formation of NASCAR. On Wednesday, it was announced that he will be recognized for that role.
6:00PM ( 2 hours ago )
Baseball: 2016 a disappointment? No way
It was a lot to expect coming into the 2016 season for area baseball teams coming off the heels of arguably the best season ever for area teams in 2015...
5:05PM ( 3 hours ago )
Falcons announce 2016 mini-camp dates
The Atlanta Falcons announced on Wednesday that their 2016 minicamp will take place at the club’s Flowery Branch training facility beginning on Tuesday, June 14 and will conclude on Thursday, June 16. All three practices will be open to the public.
By AccessWDUN Staff
5:02PM ( 3 hours ago )
Turner takes Toccoa Raceway Limited Late Model victory
Clayton Turner powered to the front of the Limited Late Model field Saturday night at Toccoa Raceway, and went on to score the feature victory at the Toccoa, Ga. speedway.
12:00PM ( 8 hours ago )
Racers double up in Summit ET races at Atlanta Dragway
Saturday was a day of doubles at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, as drivers and fans came out for double Summit ET racing action.
By Jerry Towns
8:00AM ( 12 hours ago )