Thursday, June 10th, 2010...10:41 pm

World Cup Preview (Podcast)

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It’s taken me awhile but I’m finally dropping my first L-Hoops podcast. The topic: The World Cup.

It doesn’t take me much to be fascinated by sport. Admittedly, I’m a borderline perv when it comes to baseball, college basketball, anything fantasy, and come to think of it, just about every major sport out there (except for Hockey). I also happen to closely follow NASCAR, PGA Tour, World Series of Poker, the Tour De France (where my peleton at!), and action sports. I remember one summer (1995) of adolescence being enthralled by Dennis Connor valiant attempt to lead Starts & Stripes past the Kiwi’s in the America’s Cup (that’s a sailing race for everyone other than Ellstien).

My point here being that it’s a no-brainer for me to get all wrapped up in World Cup fever. The World Cup is what the Olympics used to be. An international competition featuring a sport people care about!

I’ve been following the US National Team pretty closely and I’m somewhat literate when it comes to European club soccer but by no means am I an soccer aficionado. I’ve enjoyed the last few World Cups so I want to go into this one as knowledgeable as possible. Some people stress about work or life….I stress about not knowing who is starting in Spain’s midfield.

So I asked the most avid soccer fan I know, my birthright homie Leor Shapiro, if he would take part in the maiden voyage. Leor’s a big sports fan. In fact the first time I ever met him, in the Israeli desert no less, he was wearing a St. John’s hat! He also recently lived in London for the better part of a year and got to experience a season of the Premiere League.

It took awhile to get our rhythm. I had some technical difficulties and the sound quality could be better. At first I was a bit wishy washy but grew more confident as we went on. I would also like it to have been a little more punchier and more of a conversation than an interview. All in all though, I think it was a good first stab (but do recognize there needs to be lots of improvement). When it comes to soccer, Leor knows his stuff (as my dad likes to say). I especially enjoyed Leor’s commentary breaking down the USA team players and their style of play.

If you have a chance, listen here or click on the podcast player at the bottom of this blog post page. If you have any World Cup questions, leave a comment and I’ll try and have Leor respond.

Also, if you are around the next few weeks and want to watch World Cup soccer during the day hit me up. I plan to take a bunch of long lunches at PS450 (below my office) or at Bar 29 (29th and 3rd).

Finally, if you want to understand the culture significance of the game of soccer (which is far and away the most popular global sport) check out the book How Soccer Explains The World by Franklin Foer.

  • Jschwartz81

    What will be the biggest upsets in the 2010 FIFA World Cup?

  • Leor Shapiro

    Thanks Josh, here are a few that I like:

    Serbia vs Germany – Serbia has a strong defense with Vidic, Subobic and Ivanovic and Germany lost their captain and most experienced midfielder in Ballack. Serbia also has some strong young attacking players that could do the job. 2-1 Serbia who will go on to win the group with Germany in second place. (This group plays the USA's group in the 2nd round which is reason to watch).

    Paraguay v Italy – Paraguay cruised through South American qualifying (under the radar) which is probably the hardest region to qualify for the WC due to the strong teams and home field advantage in soccer crazed S. America. Italy are the WC holders but are aging and have a few injuries at the moment (Pirlo). Italy are a defensive team and this is effective for them in the WC, but I see Paraguay winning 2-0.

    USA v England – have to pick this one, but don't underestimate this team. Our players are althletic, fast and much better on the ball than in years past from their professional experience in Europe. I think if we can contain Rooney and the speed of the English midfielders (Aaron Lennon and Stevey Gerrard) we could certainly hold them to a tie and quite possibly snatch all three points on a counterattacking goal.

  • Matthew A Horn

    Well it's been the biggest question in the media so we might as well get your take on it – can Messi & co. transcend Maradona's insanity and bring Argentina all the way? If they do, what does that do for Messi's legacy?

  • Leor Shapiro

    I've spent some time in Argentina and “futbol” is everything there – there's nothing else. Maradona's insanity, drug abuse (which he got kicked out of World Cup 94 for), divorce, fidel castro episode, cursing at the media etc doesn't matter there. When we say a player is a so-called “god” at a sport in the US, he can still go to jail or get destroyed by the media (Tiger). In Argentina its much different – they really are above the law and Maradona IS god there. His face is spraypainted all over down there and he will forever be loved by the people. There's no doubt that today, after the season he just had, Messi is the best player in the world. If he brings another Cup back to Argentina he instantly becomes that icon to the people there. The irony of Maradona coaching Argentina at this tournament and the fact that they both are the same size and have similar left footed playing styles are really incredible. If you've never seen Messi watch him and how with each step he takes, at full speed, he touches the ball and doesn't slow down…no one in the world can do it like that. If you have a second or two, go to youtube and search for “Messi's goal vs. getafe” – try to listen with volume and listen to the crowd in the background erupt as the play goes on…its my favorite goal ever.

  • Matthew A Horn

    Well, soccer may have the most frenetic following, but there are some other things in Argentina that intrigue me, such as:

    Steak dinners that cost like $15 (with alcohol)
    Really hot women
    “Summer” Snowboarding (Bariloche – I know that doesn't interest you)

    Here's my “limited” take – which should not be taken seriously since I have no idea what I'm talking about. Maradona and Pele are alone at the top – his brilliance as a player is uncontested. But he is 100% certifiably insane. The stories are absolutely ridiculous. If he pulled that ish here he'd be almost in OJ camp and wouldn't sniff a coaching position. After Brazil (who is a favorite behind Spain), they aren't that far behind in overall talent. Not just Messi, but Angel di Maria and Diego Milito are not to shabby either (I've played with the Argentina national team in FIFA – which is the proper medium through which to judge players).

    But, this is all Messi. Only he has the singular talent to transcend Maradona's madness. And if he does, he belongs in the big conversation. But, I just don't see it – the guy is just too nuts. And WHY…WHY doesn't he play Messi at the right wing???? Obviously Messi likes crossing to his left. I think he's proven that. Gee, here's a guy that won player of the year last year, a prolific goal scorer…let's take him out of his natural position for one of sports biggest prizes. I'm sure he's still good in the middle, but, like, this is the WC – put him where he belongs? Please??

  • Litty

    Good stuff Leor. I think you single-handedly led us to a good result. The podcast lives another day!