World Cup Digest: Introduction

We’re one week from the beginning of World Cup 2010, and I’m trying a little something new on the blog. I’ll try to keep a pretty regular digest in this space, but I’m enlisting a little help. I’ve asked a few contributors who are pretty deep into the game and the event to weigh in from time to time, and I’ll welcome contributions from readers, too.

I know, we’re a basketball town. And a college sports town. But the World Cup presents a pretty interesting chance to shift gears, and there are some fascinating stories around this year’s event, as there are each time the 32 nations come together to contest the championship of the world’s most popular sport.

On the U.S. team alone you have Clint Dempsey. How does a big kid from Nacogdoches, Texas, wind up one of the most gifted soccer players in the nation, and not only that, but playing for Fulham in the English Premier League?

Or what about Tim Howard, the New Jersey native who may be the most-respected U.S. player abroad from his performance as a goalkeeper for Everton in the Premier League. He has overcome Tourette Syndrome to become a star.

And that’s just the U.S. team. Over the next week or so, we’ll take a look at some of the more compelling storylines, and even if you’ve had no interest in the sport to this point, some of the stories are interesting, independent of sport.

The countdown is on. Mexico upset defending champion Italy in an exhibition today. Brazil, long known for its beautiful style, is bringing a more physical, defensive-minded workmanlike game to South Africa. The U.S. team, beset by injuries, gets England in a blockbuster of an opener a week from Saturday. And Spain, seen by many as the tournament favorite, took 85 minutes to score the goal that beat South Korea, ranked 47th in the world, in a ragged 1-0 victory. (Of course, we certainly can’t handicap the tournament based on the final exhibitions.)

Then there’s the host nation itself. It will be the first World Cup played on African soil.

Over the next week, I’ll try to provide links to the best preview material I run across, and even a look at some of the more notable of the piles of books that have been written about the event.

So here we go. Let’s see where this endeavor takes us. Your ideas are welcome . . .

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