WORLD CUP 2014 -- JOGO BONITO
On fire in Brazil by John Little
The FIFA World Cup of football (not soccer, please) has taken place every four years since 1930, except for 1942 and 1946 due to WWII. The finals are the most watched single event of any sport. In 2010 the final game pitted Spain against The Netherlands and was watched by about 700 million people. In 2006, an estimated 30 billion watched the World Cup in Germany. To put this number into perspective, the Super Bowl game in 2012 was watched by only 111.3 million people.
There are up to 3.5 billion fans of football in the world, making it the most popular sport in the world. Its nickname is Jogo Bonito or The Beautiful Game as Pele once called it. In contrast, the most popular sport in the US, baseball, is the seventh most popular sport in the world at 500 million fans. Here in the US, football is almost nonexistent. Even though the MSL and AYSO leagues exist, they have a very limited fan base. Only 8.2% of Americans claim football as their favorite sport.
I never understood how football was the most favorite sport until I moved to Switzerland. I quickly found out that virtually everyone not only followed the sport, they were fanatics about it. Every day at work my colleagues would discuss the Swiss football league along with British, French, German, and Spanish leagues among others, UEFA, upcoming tournaments and a whole host of other aspects of Jogo Bonito. I was in Venezuela for the 2010 World Cup and even though their team wasn't in the tournament, they had placed a gigantic TV screen in all the malls so that people wouldn't miss any part of the Cup while shopping.
Here in the US, it feels like the World Cup doesn't even exist. I was at a sports bar during the first game between Brazil and Croatia and only one monitor was showing the game. Most patrons actually seemed more interested in NASCAR than in the team that personifies jogo bonito, Brazil.
The World Cup has consistently brought together the best teams on the planet and this year is no different. In fact, the teams this year are exceptionally talented. Barely two games have been complete blowouts and both of them have been between the best teams in the world. In the rematch of the 2010 finals, last Friday, The Netherlands (ranked 15th in the world) destroyed the current world champions, Spain (ranked 1st), 5 to 1. On Monday, June 16, Germany (ranked 2nd) defeated Portugal (ranked 4th), 4 to 0.
There have not been any other teams that played poorly so far. In fact, Australia (ranked 62nd) lost to Chile (ranked 14th) by the relatively decent score of 3 to 1. They also led for much of the game against The Netherlands before finally losing 3 to 2. Mexico (ranked 20th) played Brazil, the host country (ranked 3rd), to a scoreless tie. Costa Rica, (ranked 28th) actually beat Uruguay (ranked 7th), 3 to 1.
This has been by far the best tournament I've seen since I first started following the sport in 1976. Every game has been contested to the finish. Teams from countries considered weak by world standards are giving the best teams a big run for their money. There hasn't been any game where the weaker team simply folded before one of the premier squads. There has been excitement at every turn with several surprises along the way.
And most Americans still don't get jogo bonito.