After four years of waiting, four years of qualifiers and friendlies and four years of debating, it’s finally here.
The World Cup is back.
The most emotional, colorful and nerve-wracking 31 days in sport kicks off today, with host Brazil taking on Croatia at 2:00 p.m. MT on ESPN and Univision.
Few days compare to this one for fans of the beautiful game. Today, everyone has hope. Today, it all feels possible. New soccer fans will be born this afternoon, joining those of us who have loved the game for years as we all celebrate the passion, pageantry and promise of another World Cup opener.
We’ll be moved when Brazil’s XI – conscious of the unrest surrounding the tournament – belts out their national anthem with 65,000 of their countrymen in Sao Paulo. We’ll feel that familiar rush when the first goal is scored. And we’ll all long for more when the final whistle blows.
Thankfully, we won’t have to wait long. The World Cup will get into full swing this weekend, with three matches – Mexico v. Cameroon in the morning, Spain v. Netherlands in a rematch of the 2010 final in the afternoon and Chile v. Australia in the evening – being played on Friday, before four more on Saturday and three more on Sunday.
Things will really get popping on Monday, when the U.S. will kick off its tournament with an absolutely crucial match against Ghana. Realistically, the Americans need a minimum of a point against the Black Stars – which bounced the U.S. from the 2006 and 2010 World Cups – on Monday to have a shot of advancing from the tournament’s Group G, widely considered this year’s “Group of Death.”
Of course, Real Salt Lake will play a big role on this U.S. squad, with Claret-and-Cobalt Captain Kyle Beckerman in contention to start for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side and goalkeeper Nick Rimando slated to backup Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in net. It’ll be an incredible ride for Kyle, Nick and the rest of the U.S. World Cup team – we’ll chronicle all their adventures here on RealSaltLake.com in our #RSLBrazil section.
From today’s opener to the World Cup Final on July 13 in Rio, the next month promises to give us some unforgettable drama, incredible moments and beautiful soccer. Let’s all enjoy the party – it should be a great one.