Let the World Cup Begin
The World Cup may take our minds off the scandal of FIFA and Qatar. Momentarily.
Before the first game began Sunday, I put out a call to one of my best soccer advisors to get his thoughts about this World Cup.
That would be my grandson, George Wilson. He’s a college graduate now, with a good job near home in Pennsylvania, but back in the day his dad and I went out on the lawn and tried to teach him the game.
I gave the pre-schooler the hip, and sent him tumbling to the grass, and when he protested, I said that was the point of the game, knocking the guy off his stride, and if you go down, go down like an Italian – I demonstrated with flailing arms and legs, and facial gestures of extreme pain, just like my favorites on the Azzurri. George seemed intrigued by the concept of faking pain.
Welcome to calcio.
As a tyke, George challenged me to play one of those early FIFA electronic games.
As soccer spread through the younger generations (much to the horror of my aging cadre of sportswriter buddies), George knew all the players and all the uniforms and all the stadiums depicted on the screen – but more importantly, his reactions were so much faster than mine, that it was a mismatch.
“Pop, you’re not even trying,” he said. But I was.
Nowadays, I rely on George (and his dad) for split-second on-line reactions to real games on their screens and mine. His dad roots for Christian Pulisic, from nearby Hershey. George roots for Liverpool and their totemic player Mo Salah.
Alas, Mo’s Egyptian team was eliminated by Senegal in the African playoffs.
On Saturday evening I asked George for his current thoughts about this World Cup before the U.S. opens with Wales on Monday.
(By George Wilson)
“I want the US to do well but I really don’t have too much faith in Berhalter. I think he was a nepotism hire and that with the players he has at his disposal he will continue to underperform. I think the core group of young guys can still get results but I fear they will be out-coached by more flexible teams.
“ If I had to name teams I think could be surprise performers or ones that are good to keep an eye on, they would be both Uruguay and Ecuador. Uruguay is pretty easy to explain, a young core of solid players and a few really exciting talents among them.
“Ecuador is in a similar position, they have some really solid players who could easily pull some upsets. The likes of Estupinian, Caicedo and Hincapie are all top talents and will likely be on some of the larger European teams in the coming seasons.
“I also think Brazil or Argentina will win -- barring a major collapse they appear to be in the best shape at this point. If France hadn’t been decimated by injuries, I’d have them in contention, too
“I’d add that my dark horse winner call would be Uruguay. They have a shockingly accomplished team. In goal, defense, midfield and attack they have an amazing team and with a few moments of inspiration, I don’t see why they couldn’t do it.”
(I noted George's choices for outsider teams but also said I had more confidence in Gregg Berhalter, the manager and former World Cup stalwart.)
In a few hours after I typed this, Ecuador would play Qatar in the opening match. I will root for Qatar to hold a safe and exciting set of games.
For the moment, maybe we can put aside the scandal of how Qatar (and Russia) came to host the World Cup (packets of American $100 bills, handed out in lobbies of FIFA meetings.)
But let's never forget Saturday's self-pitying bleat of FIFA overlord Gianni Infantino, who portrayed himself as a beleaguered victim, bleating that he had nothing to do with the scandal.
Sounded familiar. . We have one of those over here.
In the meantime, I’m monitoring the World Cup.
I welcome any comments on any game or any player -- on this site -- from some former players and current fans. Best, GV
11/20/2022 10:40:36 am
Your grandson and I both picked Uruguay as a dark horse!! Just saying… Watch out for Rodrigo Bentancur!!
11/20/2022 01:47:53 pm
Qatar looked like what they are: a team that would never get close to a World Cup if they were not hosting the event. And Ecuador is not that strong a team this time around. I wonder what Infantino and Mohammad bin Salman, seated next to the FIFA President tonight, talked about? Their mutual dislike of troublesome journalists and how to deal with them?
11/20/2022 02:31:50 pm
Soccer’s men and women’s World Cups are my favorite sporting events. The current one is at the wrong time of the year and in the wrong place.
11/20/2022 06:36:32 pm
11/21/2022 04:25:30 pm
I love that your grandson can be a soccer buddy and Guru.
11/21/2022 07:16:57 pm
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.