What does the World Cup mean to you? Excitement, Drama, Competition, History? Boredom, Disinterest, Noise, Confusion? I was engulfed in soccer culture four years ago when I entered college. I never had much of a taste for it, other then watching the 2006 World Cup Final. But all that really did was give me a favorite player, Thierry Henry (who is actually joining the MLS next season). I didn’t understand the power, the far-reaching hand of soccer until 1) I started playing Fifa and 2) I moved in with absolute soccer heads. I wrote a column on the two last October, but to be fair, I never addressed the benefits that I experienced through them, and nothing reminds me of that more then this years World Cup. As I sit here watching France-South Africa, it is with more knowledge and fervor of the game. The implications are tremendous – both squads have a shot at advancing to the knockout stage, but more importantly, France has a chance to reassert themselves as a legitimate soccer power, and not just the stooges of the World Cup. Later today Argentina takes on Greece, and I’ll be watching more to see what Lionel Messi (who, by all means, is the best player in the world) does then what the outcome is. The point is this: as we near closer to the knockout stage, the story lines grow thicker, the stage grows larger, and the competition grows in intensity. Powerhouses Italy, Spain, Argentina, Germany, England, Brazil, Portugal captivate more than their country’s citizens with their expert play (although you can say that more about Portugal and less about England), they grab the attention of sports fans everywhere. This is world class talent on a worldwide stage. And that’s without mentioning the nationalist aspect of it all. I watched the Brazil-North Korea game with a girl of Brazilian heritage, she knew little about her squad other then the fact that a victory for them was a victory for her. I shared some wisdom with her about the Brazilians: Kaka, Robinho, knowing full-well that four years ago I would have no insight at all. As for me, and you, and our nationalism, well, the U.S. team has found themselves in the thick of controversy and contention. A win against Algeria advances us to knockout play, and fuels the ever-struggling flame of soccer relevance in our country. I implore everyone to watch the match (ESPN – 9:30 a.m.) tomorrow, or at least keep an eye on it, because the World Cup is a beautiful competition full of intrigue, passion, and triumph. You can involve yourself at any moment, but it’s all dependent on what the World Cup means to you.

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