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Where is My World Cup?

October 31st, 2013 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, soccer, UAE, World Cup

I have noted this during every World Cup since 1990, at least. The first I covered … so of course I would have noticed it.

But now, even watching via television, I discover the same emotions.

I am oddly bereft when the group stage of a World Cup ends, producing a day or two of no games — and a bit of a void in my life.

I’m going to call it the Group Phase Effect. And it always applies.

Even when the World Cup is of the Under 17 variety.

The 2013 Fifa U17 World Cup is being played in the UAE, and the whole of it is being televised by Al Jazeera. I am watching Argentina and Ivory Coast right at this minute.

The 24-team tournament began group play on October 17, and for nine days, we had four games every day. At 5 p.m. and at 8. Your choice of games; if the one was a blowout, you could skip to the other. “Spoilt for choice”, the Brits call it.

A person can get used to that. It’s a sort of global-interest reality TV, but far more interesting than most reality TV.

(And the U.S. didn’t make this U17 World Cup — the first time that has happened in the history of the tournament. I would assume Richie Williams, coach of the U.S. U17s who went out in the quarterfinals of Concacaf qualifying, has some ‘splainin’ to do.)

Anyway, every day for nine days … kids from 24 countries playing a fairly high standard of soccer pretty much from 5 p.m. till 10 p.m.

Even at that level, even with your home nation not involved, you can find yourself getting interested. Whether by comparing and contrasting the team here in the UAE with the senior team of that same country … or finding yourself curious to see how teens from Japan or Slovakia or Ivory Coast or New Zealand react.

What sort of silly haircuts are current? (And U17s seem to reach the zenith of silly haircuts; the weird coifs you see among professionals? Was crazier, in their youth. These guys seem to prefer closely cut sidewalls, and tops of 4-5 inches, often with scads of product.) Are they a big team, or quick, or physical?

And, a big one at an age-group tournament … do any of their guys look like they are, say, 21 years old? Quite a few countries, mostly in Africa, have a history of bringing oldsters to age-group tournaments.

The Group Phase Effect is more pronounced at a senior World Cup. Because it lasts longer, and a person becomes even more conditioned to all sorts of exotic teams and players in a tournament setting. You come to like this team, and be annoyed by another.

The 2014 Brazil World Cup will produce 15 consecutive days of group-stage play. Starting on June 12 and running through June 26. By the latter date, it will seem like some sort of natural law to have national teams playing every day.

Then comes (no!) a day off, followed by four days of round-of-16 games, then two more days off, and by then the mood is kinda killed.

The Group Stage Effect.

Always gets me.


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