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Posted: June 14, 2014 10:00 p.m.

FIFA World Cup: Beginners only

The FIFA World Cup is finally here! 207 countries have competed in qualifiers since June of 2011 to be here with the 32 best national teams on the planet. All eyes will be focused on Brazil as they host the most popular sporting event in the world.

While there are plenty of die-hard soccer fans out there, I realize there are many folks that aren’t comfortable shooting the breeze about soccer around the water cooler at work. For the next month, you will not be able to elude the endless highlights on EPSN or conversations about soccer in the workplace, at the dinner table or at the gym.

Don’t fret, I have your back. Here are a few things you may want to know about the World Cup that can help you go from ignoramus to legend when World Cup banter ensues.

First, a little on the host country, Brazil. They come into the tournament as heavy favorites thanks to their roster stacked with world class players. Neymar is poised to be the star of the tournament. His performances will ultimately decide whether Brazil goes through as champions or flop. Brazil has won the most World Cups with five. The team have also scored the most goals (210), have the most wins (67) and have the most red cards (11) in tournament history. Ronaldo, also from Brazil, is the tournament’s all-time leading scorer with 15 goals.

Leonel Messi is regarded by many to be the best player in the world. He is the captain of Argentina and is playing in his third World Cup at the age of 26. He has devastating individual skills and the ability to beat defenders on the dribble and score brilliant goals. Many also think that Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo is the current king of soccer. He is very fast, incredibly athletic, can beat players with his pace and is a devastating finisher in front of goal (the girls think he is quite good looking as well). If his Portuguese team manages to win the cup, his reputation will be cemented as one of the best all time.

Presently, the world rankings have Spain, Germany, Brazil, Portugal and Argentina as the top five (in that order). They are all certainly favorites from the field of 32 to win the World Cup. Spain, as defending World and European champions, will be a formidable opponent. Germany, with their dynamic attack and rigid defense, are perennial favorites. For Brazil, playing in front of their home crowd will be incredibly difficult to beat. Portugal and Argentina both have mega super-star players. If Portugal’s Ronaldo or Argentina’s Messi bring their A game, there may be no stopping them. Personally, I am taking Brazil. With Neymar, a host of unbelievably talented players and a nation of soccer loving die-hards cheering them on, it just seems like destiny.

Needless to say, this is going to be a great month. I hope you enjoy the culture, passion and spectacle of the 2014 World Cup.

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