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Know more than the basics when you watch the World Cup


By Angela Levins/AL.com

It’s World Cup time. However, if you aren’t a futbol fan, you may feel a bit left in the dark. Or maybe your futbol knowledge scratches the surface.

Dr. William Steffen, the chair in Sports Coaching at the United States Sports Academy, peels away a few layers to help you enjoy the experience.

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The basics:
11 vs. 11
Two 45 minute halfs
Field length 110-120 yards
Field width 70-80 yards
Players include Goal Keeper, Forwards, Midfielders, Defenders
Defenders can attack
Goal Keeper can use hands only inside the penalty area and wears a different jersey

What to watch for:
How is the team set up?
How well do they possess the ball: do the work side to side or counterattack?
How does the game ebb and flow: does one team defend high or drop back?

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Dr. Steffen said soccer is a possession game, and one team is generally more aggressive than the other. However, there are times you will see a team hang back most of the game and then strike.

Dr. Steffen offered examples to watch with game play. He described Spain as being very ticky tacky with little passes in small spaces. He said Brazil is very creative with their play while Germany is very structured and controlled. On the other hand, Italy is defensive and counterattacks.

Game Quirks:
The clock counts up from 0-45 minutes for the first half and 45-90 minutes for the second half.

Stoppage time is time added to the end of the game. The referee estimates how much time was delayed based on injuries, penalties, ball going out of bounds. Dr. Steffen says it is typically between two and four minutes. The time is posted on the sideline.

If a team has a seriously injured player on the field, the opposing team will boot the ball out of bounds. When play begins again, the team with the injured player throws the ball back in to the opposing team. It’s seen as a courtesy.

The Cards:

Yellow: warning, bad foul
Two yellows: player sent off, team can’t substitute
Red- violent foul, team can’t substitute

How the World Cup works:

Round 1:
The top two teams in each group move to the second round.
Four points are needed to advance
Teams earn three points for a win and one point for a tie.
Two wins will put you straight through

Dr. Steffen said that the United States is in the Group of Death which is considered very competitive. Dr. Steffen breaks down the group as Germany being the perennial power, Portugal is home to the world’s best player Cristiano Ronaldo and Ghana eliminated the United States from the last two World Cups.

Dr. Steffen feels if the United States can win in the first game against Ghana, they would probably only need a tie to go through to the next round.

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Round two of the World Cup features the top 16 teams in a single-elimination bracket.

United States:

Dr. Steffen’s opinion is the United States is hardworking and physically fit, but they need to be better technically. He said that some players have strengthened their play by going overseas. Michael Bradley played with Rome, Clint Dempsey spent time with Fullom in England and goal keeper Tim Howard played with Everton.

Final Thoughts:

Dr. Steffen said there is a lot of pressure on Brazil to win, because they are hosting the World Cup this year. There is also a lot of pressure on Argentina’s Lionel Messi and Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo. Both men are seen as top players, but neither has won a World Cup.

He believes there is also some pressure for the United States team with the lack of Landon Donovan. Dr. Steffen said Donovan has the most World Cup appearances, but he wasn’t selected for the team.

This article was republished with permission from the author, Angela Levins. The original article was published in AL.com and can be viewed by clicking here.



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