World Cup Preview
As usual, the World Cup is contested in two stages: In the group stage, every team plays three games, against the other teams in their group; then the top two in each group advance to the 16-team knockout bracket. The U.S. "Group of Death" contains the second- and third-ranked teams in the world in Germany and Brazil, which makes the opening game against Ghana so critical. Ghana, ominously, has knocked the U.S. out of the last two World Cups.
Host Brazil is the clear betting favorite at 3-1 odds to win it all; Argentina, Germany, Spain, and surprising Belgium round out the top five, with France, Italy, England, Portugal, Uruguay, and Colombia tightly bunched after that...Bookmakers were apparently not impressed by Jurgen Klinsmann's decision to leave Landon Donovan off the U.S. squad; odds on the U.S. winning lengthened from 100-1 to 250-1 in the past week. In their final tune-up before heading down to Brazil, the U.S. hosts Nigeria this Saturday, June 7 (5pm, ESPN).
With game times largely timed for prime-time viewing in Europe, kickoffs are at 11am, 2pm, & 5pm our time for the first couple of weeks, shifting to 11am & 3pm for the later rounds. I'll have more complete listings next week, but here are a few early highlights: Mohawk (912 Red River) is showing the games on TV and Projector, with live production sound. Plus “Frosty Beers + Original Cocktails + Food by Frank.” To commemorate the first match, Brasil v. Croatia, The Chrontourage will be there giving away beer to the first 50 people to arrive and giving away Austin Aztex tickets to a lucky few throughout the game. Doors open at 2pm; game starts at 3pm. Fado (214 W. Fourth) is the king of local soccer viewing venues, and they've got a big opening party planned for Thursday's Brazil-Croatia opener, with drink and food specials, Brazilian dancers, live music after the game, and an appearance by the Austin Aztex... Holy Mountain (617 E. Seventh) will host the 11am & 2pm games the next day, with Mexican- and Spanish-themed snacks from Thrilled Cheese... Bar 96 (96 Rainey) hosts Austin FC's World Cup Kickoff party Friday at 5pm, with the Aztex again in attendance, along with reps from Mayor Pro Tem Sheryl Cole's office... And, oh so much more next week and online.
Opening Weekend ScheduleThursday, 6/12
3pm Brazil-Croatia (A)
11am Mexico-Cameroon (A)
2pm Spain-Holland (B)
5pm Chile-Australia (B)
11am Colombia-Greece (C)
2pm Uruguay-Costa Rica (D)
5pm England-Italy (D)
8pm Ivory Coast-Japan (C)
11am Switzerland-Ecuador (E)
2pm France-Honduras (E)
5pm Argentina-Bosnia/Herz. (F)
11am Germany-Portugal (G)
2pm Iran-Nigeria (F)
5pm Ghana-USA (G)
First Round Groups
Group A: Brazil, Croatia, Mexico, Cameroon
Group B: Spain, Holland, Chile, Australia
Group C: Colombia, Greece, Ivory Coast, Japan
Group D: Uruguay, Costa Rica, England, Italy
Group E: Switzerland, Ecuador, France, Honduras
Group F: Argentina, Bosnia/Herz., Iran, Nigeria
Group G: Germany, Portugal, Ghana, USA
Group H: Belgium, Algeria, Russia, South Korea
All games will be shown live on either ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2, and in Spanish on Univision or Galavisión.
All games are also streamed live on the WatchESPN and ESPN3 services.
For more World Cup coverage, see "Soccer Watch."