Photo from FIFAIt's coming! Starting tomorrow, the world's biggest collection of hot, hot soccer booty will be literally taking over the world from this year's World Cup site, South Africa. (And in case you're interested, the World Cup 2010 Opening Ceremony is Friday at 8 a.m. ET.) Whether you're already a futbol fanatic or will just be watching because everyone else is, here's the salient info that'll keep you interested even as your attention starts to flag and you wish for a seventh-inning stretch.
Rooting for the Home Team:
USA doesn't usually do all that well, but obviously you'll want to catch those games. Here's a guide to the hottest US players. What's kinda cool about our team is this: Like our country, the team is pretty diverse and international: Jose Torres' parents are Mexican, and though he grew up here, he usually plays in Mexico; Stewart Holden was born in Scotland and moved here as a kid; the powerful Oguchi Onyewu's parents are from Nigeria, while Jozy Altador's are from Haiti; Clint Dempsey grew up in Texas, but played against Mexican kids in his trailer park. The coach is Bob Bradley, and his son, Michael Bradley, is one of the best players on the team. Our guys are known for being very fit, but not as skilled, and not strong scorers.
The Major Players:
David Beckham, the only soccer player since Pele that everyone knows, is injured. I'm serious. He really is not going to play, though he will be on the sidelines and will be essential to his team's morale. (And ours -- am I right, ladies? #highfive.) So here are some other players to watch (and their salient points):
Wayne Rooney (England)
The 24-year-old Roo usually plays for Manchester United, sort of the Yankees of England. (The Red Sox, then, would be Chelsea.) He's known as a hot-head, and in fact got in trouble for cussing out a referee just this week. In '06, he was tossed out of a game for stomping on a rival player's nut-sack, though many say that was a "flop" -- that the other player faked the injury to get him red-carded out of the game.
Lionel Messi (Argentina)
He usually plays for Barcelona (in Spain), and people are calling him the best player in the world. Seriously. Also, the coach of the Argentine team is, shall we say, eccentric. So this team and this guy: worth watching. Fun fact: His nickname is The Flea, because he's kind of tiny and, in fact, was treated for a growth-hormone deficiency.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ronaldo usually plays for Real Madrid, and he's the only other player who gets as much praise as Messi. He's also the biggest contender for Hottest Player now that Beckham is sidelined. He's a bit of a playboy, often compared to teammate Kaka, who's a quiet homebody.
Samuel Etoo (Cameroon)
The best African player next to arm-breaky Didier Drogba, Etoo is known as the guy you can count on not to choke in a big game (not so much for Drogba). He usually plays for Barcelona, but his presence on little-known Cameroon gives them a shot they've never had before.
His real name is Ricardo Izecson dos Santos Leite, so you can see why he'd want a nickname. Whether "poop" was the best choice for that nickname remains an open question. A survivor of an awful spine-injury as a teenager, he worked his way back to become European Player of the Year in '07.
Amuse yourself when you hear the announcers talking about players named Butt (Germany), Shittu (Nigeria), and Kaka (Brazil). There was supposed to be a guy named Kuqi, pronounced "Coochie," but his team, Finland, didn't make the Cup. Sad for my inner 12-year-old.
A Word on Hair:
Soccer players, like hockey players, are known for their hair horrors; my all-time favorite will always be Roberto Baggio, whose braided rat-tail is forever cemented, in my mind, with a heartbreaking missed free-kick in the '94 World Cup. This time Spain is the hair-team to watch, with Torres, who just trimmed back his ugly mohawk, Ramos' Joan-Jet 'do, and Puyol's shaggy curls.
Kaka and Ronaldo are usually teammates on Real Madrid, and they'll be pitted against each other when Portugal and Brazil play each other. The captains of Portugal, Ivory Coast, and Germany are all usually on Chelsea together -- John Terry is, too, and he was the captain of England before this happened ...
There was huge drama on the England team, though it's all over now. One of their star players, John Terry, dated the ex (or maybe not-so-ex) of another player on their team, Wayne Bridge. The two guys got into a total Desperate Housewives brawl over it, and Bridge left the team, even though this was his last shot at a World Cup. Honestly, guys are such chicks sometimes.
Didier Drogba isn't hot, but he's an amazing player -- one of the best. He usually plays for Chelsea, and would have been playing for Cote Ivoire in the Cup, but he broke his arm last week. Some say he won't play; I say, it's soccer! They use their feet! Jury's still out.
Two brothers are playing for different teams! Jerome and Kevin Prince Boateng have a German mom and a dad from Ghana. Jerome made the German team, Kevin the Ghanain one, and they're in the same group -- awk-warrrd!
Brazil is favored to win, especially since they have Kaka. Spain is also in the running. You'd think England would win, but they almost never do; their only World Cup victory was in 1966, pobrecitas!
The big Cinderella stories this time are Mexico, Ivory Coast, and Cameroon, who are not necessarily the greatest teams, but are in groups against teams that'll let them get pretty far.
Will you be watching the World Cup? Rooting for who? Tell us in the comments!