Where can I get a crash course in soccer/football before the 2010 World Cup?
April 29, 2010 11:55 PM   Subscribe

Where can I get a crash course in soccer/football before the 2010 World Cup? I'll be in South Africa during the festivities and I want to sound like I know what I'm talking about!

I'm going to South Africa during the World Cup! While I won't be attending any of the matches, I will be in country at the time helping out with an academic program. To be completely honest, I know very little about the game beyond what I learned as a kid. Before I get there I want to be able to hold a conversation with people on the subject.

Where can I find a crash course on:

1. The rules (explained in a way that a novice will understand).
2. The teams (who's projected to win which matches, why).
3. USA Soccer (I'm an American, I should know my team).
4. SAfrica Soccer (I'll be in country, I should know their team).
5. The athletes (the athletes people really love/love to hate).

Thank you!!
posted by Political Funny Man to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
The Guardian has their 'interactive' guide to the World Cup, giving very brief profiles for each team and who'll be playing who.

The BBC has laws of the game.
posted by selton at 12:36 AM on April 30, 2010

It would be worth dipping into Zonal Marking to get a feel for the various formations that the teams use.
posted by oh pollo! at 1:39 AM on April 30, 2010

Search for Euro 2008 on here because all these questions were asked then too :)
posted by fire&wings at 2:16 AM on April 30, 2010

Best answer: OK, here goes.

It's football, not soccer.

We know certain things should happen:

- An African side will make it through to the semi finals; they are the wild cards, capable of great things but thus far not consistency

- England will lose on penalties*, or to some highly contentious refereeing decision; this will lead to a collective gnashing and wailing in the national media and an outbreak of highly targeted xenophobia

- Brazil will either dazzle or disappoint, but they will get through the pool stages

- Germany will progress beyond expectations due to their superior composure

- The US will delight with some engaging play, but fall short

- An Asian team will play energetically and knock out a favorite but not progress to the final

- Spain is highly favored to win. This means they probably won't.

But this is all beside the point. There is only one rule you need to know to bluff convincingly. To know it is power.:

This is the offside rule. Read it. Absorb it. Don't be afraid to call the linesman, the referee and their mothers all manner of insults if you disagree with their interpretation of it.

* Where the game is tied and additional time has been played, a penalty shootout format is used to determine which side goes through
posted by MuffinMan at 3:23 AM on April 30, 2010 [7 favorites]

The nauseating background sound you'll hear constantly, during all the matches, is made by the vuvuzela.
posted by ijsbrand at 3:39 AM on April 30, 2010

Maybe you can have a go at one of the football manager games?
posted by Harald74 at 3:57 AM on April 30, 2010

Zonal Marking's probably advanced-level stuff. What you probably want to do in SA is get past the standard World Cup clichés about African football -- "precocious players, tactically naive" -- which had some weight twenty years ago, when Africa's best players seemed to show up out of nowhere, but make less sense now that most play their club football in Europe. Given that you're in SA, one hopes you won't get exposed to too much drivel about African teams, or the role of the climate.

As an American, you need to know that the first group match is against England, and while it's not a winner-takes-all affair, it's going to be an important test of both sides.

The group stage is where teams find their feet (or, to be specific, where Italy has its traditional slow start, flirts with elimination, but usually pulls through) and the real competition begins in the knockout stages. You will find lots of online discussions of the teams that are favoured to advance, dating from when the draw took place. However, every World Cup has a "Group of Death", where the draw places three top-ranking sides in a four-team group where only two can qualify. This year's is Group G: Brazil, Portugal, Côte d'Ivoire and North Korea.

Another good conversation line, sort of related to point 5: "So, Lionel Messi's the best player in the world right now, and Argentina should have a shot at winning, but Maradona's crazy, right?"
posted by holgate at 5:58 AM on April 30, 2010

South Africa have a really tough group (France, Uruguay and Mexico). No host country has ever failed to advance out of the group stages.

SI had an interesting article on Matthew Booth, the only white player in the current S.A. squad, that may give you a few talking points.
posted by IanMorr at 8:50 AM on April 30, 2010

Best answer: Learn the offside rule. It's actually pretty simple. They made up the rule when some wise guy figured out you could just stand by the goal, receive a pass, and score. They made the rule to stop that. They had to figure out a way to identify how far back was too far; they settled on the "next to last defender", since the goalkeeper is usually the last defender. The penalty for offside is the ball is given to the defenders. If a goal is scored and an offside has been committed, the goal is not valid. The offside occurs when the ball is kicked! Don't be fooled, attackers will run like hell after the ball is kicked and receive the ball in what looks like an offside position. It's not offside. Many people don't seem to understand this, and it's a basic, junior high level tactic.

The rest is simple. Kicking the ball to another player is a pass. Taking the ball away from a player is a tackle. Tackling from behind is illegal.

Pushing, hitting, spitting, grabbing, and all that stuff is illegal. The refs miss it a lot. Doing bad stuff in the penalty box can be really bad for the defenders, if the defending team commits the foul.

Fouled teams are awarded a free kick. The fouling team has to stay 10 yards from the kicker, but the kicker may elect to just kick the ball real quick before the other team can get away.

A foul in the penalty box, called against the defenders, results in a free kick taken from the penalty mark - a penalty kick. It frequently results in a goal.

A note about fouls: If the the team that gets fouled by the other team retains the ball and play is otherwise unaffected, the referee may elect to call "advantage" and let the play go on without calling the foul, or if calling the foul would inadvertently give the fouling team an advantage.

There are a few technical level fouls that result in the free kick being called as "indirect", meaning a goal cannot be scored directly off the free kick. Don't worry about that, though.

That's the basics. The center ref calls them as he sees them. It ain't like American football, where a team of lawyers and video analysts have to consult for fifteen minutes to decide whether a foul was committed. The center ref is there to make sure the game is as fair as possible; not perfect. Sometimes the refs screw up big time. 99% of the time they nail it perfectly.
posted by Xoebe at 4:30 PM on April 30, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks all. I certainly have some reading up to do. Much appreciated!!
posted by Political Funny Man at 5:39 PM on May 3, 2010

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