How It Works: FIFA World Cup

The year is 2014 and so many people are still oblivious to the workings of the World Cup. After explaining the process to my friends, several times, I figured I should make my first HOW IT WORKS post explaining how the tournament works. So, without any further ado, here it is:

Alright so every four years the world’s attention shifts to a universal game called football. Social media, newspapers, journals, radio, and television focus on the month-long buzz centered around the tournament. Advertisers, big-name brands, the automobile industry, even celebrities take to endorsing national teams and players of FIFA’s World Cup championship. But before we get started, let’s make some clarifications. Is it soccer” or football”? Really, it’s up to you. They’re both equally used, though I personally feel the term “soccer” sounds silly as the sport was first called football. Call it what you want, it’s a sport that’s celebrated around the world as early as the 1800s, making it the world’s most popular sport.

Let’s get down to the actual World Cup tournament. First of all, in order to qualify for the World Cup, a country’s national team must champion wins in a series of matches taking place globally in the course of three years. Out of all the competing countries, only 32 advance and claim a spot to compete in the World Cup. The groups are then split up equally so that no single group is too easy, or too hard. This said, every year within the eight groups consisting of four national teams each, one group is deemed the “Group of Death”. In this years World Cup, the Group of Death is Group G, consisting of Germany, the United States, Portugal, and Ghana. What makes this the Group of Death is that the number of strong competitors outnumbers the available spots for advancing to the next round.

Starting June 12th, 2014, these eight teams of four countries each play matches with the other three members of the group. A win dictates three points, a draw claims one point, and a loss results in zero points. In a situation where three of four teams have the same number of points, the team with the smallest goal differential advances. Goal differential is exactly what it sounds like. For instance, in the heartbreaking tragedy that was the Netherlands versus (my personal favourite) Spain, the Netherlands scored five goals and Spain scored 1. This leaves Spain’s goal differential at -4, which is a number calculated from subtracting the number of goals shot in Spain’s goal by the Netherlands from the number of goals Spain made. The Netherlands boast a +4 goal differential. This aside, only two teams of the four advance into the second round of the tournament.

The second round is literally a single elimination knockout round consisting of 16 of the previous 32 teams, so if you lose a match, well, you’re out. Simple. It can be heartbreaking, but hey, that’s how a championship works! Risk it to get the biscuit. [Sidenote: I’ve never used that phrase, but it’s a day of firsts]. But how is it decided who competes against each other? It’s really simple, for each group, the winners play the second place winner of another group. Basically, the teams will continue to play until you reach the final two teams. The clouds will part and the skies will be optimistic for both teams as they compete in the World Cup final, taking place on July 13th, 2014.

The victor will wear the title World Champions and all hell will break lose in their home country. I will never forget four years ago when Spain won the World Cup: being the super fan I am, I managed to find a live stream of the parade in Madrid when the team returned home. Literally all day and night I was glued to the screen, celebrating as the champions wore their crown and held the beautiful golden trophy through the streets of Madrid.

So far, this tournament has truly surprised me, as teams that I didn’t know had much potential broke through and boasted their title of winning underdogs. I will always remain loyal to Brazil, as I grew up supporting them since I was in primary school, though my heart remains with Spain as well. This first match was a bit of a blow, but I don’t doubt their potential. And lastly, I’m faithful to my home countries, Iran and the United States. The World Cup is one of my favourite parts of football, as you’re exposed to the best of the best. It’s a beautiful sport that I will always enjoy to play and watch, whether it’s from the sidelines or from a TV.

I hope this post clarified some misconceptions and now you understand the beautiful sport just a little more, and maybe even appreciate it as much as I do. And think about it, for one entire month, the world speaks a universal language of football. How freaking beautiful is that?

Below is a graphic to further clarify my explanation.


Wanna stay updated? Download these apps for free from the App Store to be in the know of what’s happening on the pitch, even if you can’t watch the match.

FIFA Official App | App Store

ESPN FC Soccer and World Cup | App Store

WatchESPN | App Store

Onefootball Brasil | App Store

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