I love soccer, and I love the World Cup.  I was born in ’86, the year the World Cup took place in Mexico.  I have no memories of Italy ’90 or USA ’94, other than watching a rerun of Sport Goofy in Soccermania (originally airing in 1987, of all years).

FIFA World Cup France 1998 logo

Having said that, the FIFA World Cup France ’98 is my favorite, even to this day.  I don’t recall paying as close attention to any other as I did with this one.  I kept up with all 8 groups.  I saw Mexico progress through the first stage admirably (for once) against South Korea, the Netherlands, and Belgium, only to blow it in the knockout stage against Germany.

But even while you are watching your favorite team play, you watch the others ones to see who would advance to the top of the ladder and who to watch out for.  There were always the fan favorites: the European teams that always mop the floor with everyone else, and, of course, the ever-powerful, always-feared Brazil.  Croatia participated for the first time, having not too long before become its own nation.  That team was clearly the surprise of the event and climbed all the way to 3rd place.  I remember seeing that final match and the upset that was the host nation France defeating champion Brazil.

Footix, France '98 mascot

But I not only became familiar with the teams.  I became familiar with the things outside the field.  I knew what Marsielle was, and Toulouse, and the other cities, and Parc de Princes Stadium in Paris.  I loved listening to Ricky Martin’s The Cup of Life (in 1998, I was not a Christian, and Ricky Martin was not out of the closet yet, so you are just going to have to forgive me for that).  I even rented World Cup ’98 for my Nintendo 64.  I loved popping that in and listening to the intro music “Tubthumping” by Chumbawamba (“I get knocked down, but I get up again.  You’re never going to keep me down”) while watching Footix, the mastcot, run on a soccer ball.

Despite all of this, I failed to follow Korea/Japan ’02 properly (if I remember correctly, ABC was showing the games… at 3 am) and practically ignored Germany ’06.  I’m not letting that happen again.

FIFA World Cup South Africa 2010 logo

Of course, at  the time of this writing, I already missed the first two matches (Group A): South Africa vs. Mexico and Uruguay vs. France.  I was quite frankly expecting Mexico to lose against the host nation, but I think I was giving South Africa too much credit there, and they ended in a 1-1 draw.  Meanwhile, powerhouses Uruguay and France either were equally strong or equally weak today, and they also ended in a draw, 0-0.  It’s too early to tell which two will make it to the next stage.

Meanwhile, Team USA (Group C) plays tomorrow against England.  They are also stuck with Algeria (I’ve never heard of Algeria being any good) and Slovenia (new nation, new team, European).  Of course, the team to watch out for is England, so we’ll see how we fare tomorrow morning.

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~My Two Cents