Happy Gol

Not surprisingly, where the world’s largest sporting event is concerned, you’ve got major corporate sponsors looking to cash in on the hundreds of millions (billions?) of eyeballs and ears who will be tuning in, online or on the air, to some or all of the month-long tournament.

So creative advertising minds have been hard at work for months, coming up with the campaigns that will seek to embed their customers’ brands into the consciousness of consumers from Algeria to Zimbabwe, and all points in between.

In fact, there’s already plenty of pretty entertaining material circulating on the ‘Net.

Fox News Australia (go figure) has put together a good compilation of what’s out there.

Here’s one that’s pretty fascinating, regardless of how you feel about soccer (or a certain fast food chain…)


Group stage

Team USA and the Group of Death

Of the eight groupings in the World Cup finals in Brazil, one is considered to be the “Group of Death” given the caliber of the teams lumped together. By all accounts, this would be Group G. And by all accounts, the team that is considered least likely to make it out of the group stage of competition (a round-robin competition where each team plays every other team in the group and the team with most points advances) is  the United States. Other Group G group mates are Germany, Ghana and Portugal, all of whom have serious talent, speed and experience.

U.S. Men

This will be Team USA’s first World Cup under the leadership of German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, and hopes are high (even if expectations are low). After being signed as national coach in 2011, Klinsmann garnered criticism for an inauspicious start that included losing four of his first six games. Since then, though, he’s netted some impressive victories over Italy and archrival Mexico and its fifth CONCACAF Gold Cup last year over Panama.

Klinsmann, who signed a contract with US Soccer last year that will keep him at the helm through the 2018 tournament in Russia, made waves recently when he left the Americans’ top all-time goal scorer, veteran midfielder Landon Donovan, off his 23-man roster heading to Brazil. Meantime, however, Klinsmann will be leaning on other veterans to fight the good fight in Brazil.

That would include goalkeeper Tim Howard, who has played for Premier League club Everton since 2007, and has been on the national roster since 2002 and has made two previous World Cups appearances.

In this clip here, Howard is talking about the USA’s 2-1 victory over Turkey in a recent warm-up match.

(photo courtesy U.S. Soccer Federation)

World Cup Bugs

Heading to Brazil later this month for the world’s largest (arguably) sporting event?

Got sunscreen?
Got facepaint?
Got national team kit?
Got vuvuzela?
Got vaccines?Brazil WCup Daily Life

The main US public health agency is warning travelers heading to the World Cup, which kicks off on June 12, to make sure to consult a doctor beforehand. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in an advisory published Monday that “travelers to Brazil for mass gathering events face unique health risks associated with their travel.” Among the preventable diseases travelers may encounter are hepatitis A and B, typhoid, yellow fever, meningococcal, rabies, malaria, dengue fever and other nasty bugs (not all of which do require vaccines, mind you).

In its announcement, the agency cited several other past outbreaks of mass illness at international events: an influenza outbreak at 2008 World  Youth Day in Sydney, and meningococcal outbreaks at the 2000 hajj in Saudi Arabia and a Belgian soccer tournament in 1997. It also noted that more than 1,000 people sought health care for heat-related illness at the 1996 Atlanta Summer Olympics.

Brazil-bound fans should make sure to talk to a doctor to talk about precautions at least four to six weeks ahead of time, the agency said.  (Which means that if you’re just becoming aware of this issue now, it may be too late to do anything about it).

Something else to consider, Joanna Gaines, in the CDC’s Geographic Medicine branch, tells VOA, is driving.

“Most of the roads in Brazil are actually not paved, and we do recommend that travelers be particularly vigilant, so really being careful when they are driving,” Gaines says. “Making sure that you’re trying to find a vehicle that does have the safety features that you want – I mean, at a minimum seat belts for sure.”

No word on recommendations for other common World Cup related  maladies such as laryngitis, heartbreak or hangovers…

Viva Espana… and NYC FC?

All eyes (or many, anyway) will be on Team Espana in Brazil later this month as they try to extend their string of top-tier international victories going back to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, plus two European Championships in 2008 and 2012. Vicente del Bosque’s La Roja is among top contenders of the 16 teams competing, kicking off its pursuit for repeat glory on June 16 against the team that they vanquished in South Africa during the last tournament: Het Nederlands Elftal (The Dutch Eleven) under Louis van Gaal. Chile and Australia are the underdogs in Group B.

Where La Roja is concerned, though, all eyes will be on their leading man, striker David Villa, who holds the Spanish record for international goals and who, along with veteran internationals Andres Iniesta, Fernando Torres, and Xabi Alonso, will be expected to lead the team to top-dog bragging rights.

Even before Spain kicks off its quest in earnest, Villa was grabbing attention for a stunning off-pitch move. On Monday, the newest franchise of Major League Soccer– New York City FC– announced that Villa had agreed to join the club, as its first hire.

For NYC FC– a joint venture between the New York Yankees and Premier League 2014 champions Manchester City–the move is brilliant. With Villa, the club gets a marquee player of dazzling skill and international stature, who will generate serious buzz for a sport franchise operating in the largest media market in the US, not to mention the most sports-saturated market in the country. If it works out, NYC FC’s leveraging of Villa could dwarf anything that David Beckham did for the LA Galaxy during the five years he played for them. (though some would argue that “playing” is a far too charitable description for what Beckham did for the Galaxy)

Villa, who has never played outside of Spain, helped his club, Atletico Madrid, win their first Spanish league in 18 years last season and also reach the UEFA Champions League final earlier this spring, where they lost to Real Madrid. Before joining Atletico in 2013, he spent three unbelievable seasons in Spanish heavyweight FC Barcelona.

Even if Villa and La Roja don’t end up with a glorious victory in Brazil this year, you can bet it’ll still be a victory for NYCFC– and Major League Soccer overall– when they begin play next year.

Es verdad, no?



Step Into the Penalty Box

On the latest episode of VOA’s Penalty BOX, host Petter Clottey and his guests discuss Group G – considered by many to be the World Cup’s “Group of Death.” Group G is made up of second-ranked Germany, third-ranked Portugal, Ghana and the United States.

One of Peter’s guests, Sonny Young, points out on his blog that Ghana is coached by the first indigenous coach to take the team to the World Cup: Kwesi Appiah.  Appiah will no doubt look to continue Ghana’s success against the U.S. at World Cup.  Ghana eliminated the U.S. team in 2006 and 2010.