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The casual viewer's World Cup guide

The hard core soccer fan has been ready for months. For those that are wanting to jump in to World Cup fever, this will get you started.

Richard Heathcote

Many of our readers have already delved into hundreds of previews of he World Cup. Soccer veterans of Crew nation are keeping an eye on Pipo Gonzalez and Waylon Francis as they suit up for Costa Rica and of course the U.S. matches are at the top of every American's list.

However, I've been asked by some of my less soccer savvy friends on what to look out for. It's a big investment to sit down in front of the TV and watch the tournament. It can be overwhelming with all the teams.

Where to Watch (at home):
On your TV: ESPN, Univision - ESPN will have everything in beautiful high definition with a cast of dozen commentators and analysts. Univision has a deep roster of talent and a history of great production, but they'll be speaking in Spanish.
On your computer: WatchESPN (cable subscription required), UniVision (in Spanish, no subscription required) , there are of course illegal streaming services, but we certainly won't be getting into them here.

Where to watch (at the bar):
Fado - This is the Columbus Crew's World Cup headquarters. They will have the games going on inside and outside the bar. A massive party for a massive event.
4th Street Bar - American Outlaws and Crew Union are teaming up to create a World Cup headquarters. All the games and a big party on U.S. game days.
Hendocs - Home of the Massive Report podcast will have all of the games on. Home of the Hudson Street Hooligans, they have drink specials and plenty of TVs.
Studio 35 - They won't have all the games on the big screen, but all U.S. matches will be. Comfy chairs, a full bar, and the biggest picture in town.
The Three Legged Mare - Work in downtown Columbus? Sneak over to the Mare for a long lunch. Plenty of TVs to watch the games with a big menu and a long draft list.

Where to Watch (Out of town): Our good friends over at Wrong Side of the Pond has you covered with the Soccer Pub Atlas.

How to Watch:
Soccer can be impenetrable for the casual fan. There isn't much scoring and it seems like nothing happens for long periods of time. ESPN does a good job covering the games and most people have gotten the hang of the offside rule and pick up the ins and outs of fouls, free kicks, and the like, but there is always more to the game.

Mike Goodman of Grantland wrote the definitive guide to understanding soccer beyond the basics. This is the hidden game beyond the passes, shots, and goals. It's well worth the read if you want to know more.

What to Watch:
With so many games you can go into overload. Here is a game a day that I'm looking forward to (aside from the U.S. matches). They aren't guaranteed to be good, but they certainly are interesting.

6/12: Brazil v. Croatia - The hosts against a solid Croatian squad kicks off the World Cup.
6/13: Spain v. Netherlands - The finalists in 2010 begin action in Group B. With a tough Chilean side also in the group, points from this game are at a premium.
6/14: England v. Italy - Group D is very challenging with South American champions Uruguay having near home field advantage. Both European sides will be looking for points.
6/15: Argentina v. Bosnia-Herzegovina - A lot of pressure on Argentina against a BiH team that has some very talented players led by Edin Dzeko.
6/16: Germany v. Portugal - Thus begins the bloodbath that is Group G. German has talent, but injuries have mounted. Cristiano Ronaldo is getting healthy at the right time.
6/17: Belgium v. Algeria - Belgium are one of the favorites in the tourney facing off against a youthful Algerian side coming together.
6/18: Spain v. Chile - The champions against the swashbuckling Chileans. Spain will play against the only team that may not bunker against them.
6/19: Uruguay v. England - Another pivotal Group D matchup. With the Costa Ricans picked to finish last, a win by either team likely puts them in the next round.
6/20: Italy v. Costa Rica - The Italians may need points while the Costa Ricans will be trying to snatch a result.
6/21: Germany v. Ghana - Group G has all the intrigue. Every team can progress to the knockout rounds, so every game is pivotal.
6/22: U.S. v Portugal - Both teams may be desperate for a win in the heat of Manaus.
6/23-6/26: The third games of the group stages are played simultaneously. This is where who moves to the next round is decided. The best matchups are for the are nail biters in groups that aren't settled.

The World Cup is a spectacle beyond any other; a month long paean to the most popular sport in the world. The U.S. team will be front and center in America, but there are plenty of other stories to watch.

Does Spain have enough left to win their fourth consecutive international tournament? Can the Brazilians win it all as they host for the first time since 1950? Can Messi pull Argentina to greatness? Is Ronaldo fit enough to be Portugal's one man show? Is Germany fit enough to make a splash? Does Belgium have enough experience to earn their pre tourney plaudits?

So many players, so many teams, so many questions. It will all be answered on the field.

As for my picks?

  • The U.S. won't get out of the group.
  • Mexico lands in the Quarterfinals.
  • England is knocked out in the Quarterfinals
  • Uruguay makes a run to the Semifinals.
  • Spain loses early in the knockout rounds as fatigue sets in.
  • Brazil wins the World Cup (original... I know).