What everyone is playing for.
  • What everyone is playing for.

So today's print version of the Mercury has a handy clip 'n' save guide to places to watch the World Cup but I thought I'd add some additional fun and informative resources to follow all the kicking and running happening in South Africa for the next four weeks. There's 32 teams, the USA among them, but how do you know your Ghana from your North Korea or your Cote d'Ivoire from your Slovenia? Hopefully this will help sort things out.

First off, news. With thousands of journalists descending on South Africa, there's no shortage of news coverage. To help cut through the clutter, here's some good places to start with stories ranging from team reports to tactics to WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) and much more inbetween:

ESPN Soccernet : Duh. ESPN is the official broadcaster of the tournament in the States and have understandably equivalent thorough online coverage.
The Guardian : My favorite London news publication, their soccer coverage is unparalleled. Plus, with England having invented the game, it is fascinating to see English writers fret about how their national team will do in South Africa. More on The Guardian in a bit.
Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated : One of the best American soccer writers out there, follow his Twitter feeds for all kinds of good updates and slices of life around the tournament.
du Nord : An excellent aggregate news source blog for all things soccer related in the U.S. Du Nord packs it all with links and short zen-like pithy comments.
Zonal Marking : This is for Ph.D. level soccer fandom. Zonal Marking is, as the title suggests, a site that marks players and what zones they move about in on the field. It's a great site to really delve into the tactics and strategy of teams and individual matches. If you want to learn why players go where they go on the pitch, then this is the site for you.
Kickette : To figure out where players go off the pitch with their WAGS, Kickette is a must visit. It's like if you took People Magazine, mixed it with Entertainment Weekly, and had them only cover the beautiful game (and the beautiful people), then you'd have something close to Kickette. In their own words: "For those that love football, but also love the WAG lifestyle, footy culture, designer labels, [and] gossip/debauchery just as much."
Vanity Fair's Fair Play : VF brings their excellent writing to bear on things related to soccer, culture, and other fun things like sex.

Podcasts, music mixes, and random predictions after the jump!

Now I hear some of you saying, "But that's too much READING. I don't like all those words." Well, I have the solution for you: Podcasts!

The Guardian's World Cup Daily : Put out by the clever folks at The Guardian, they are doing daily updates on all the goings on around the World Cup. Host James Richardson leads a roundtable of some excellent and amusing soccer writers who know their stuff. It's much more entertaining than listening to some American sports journalists who know nothing of the game trying to make themselves care.
US Soccer "Sounds From South Africa" : A podcast created directly by the US Soccer Federation, this is a great collection of interviews, press conferences, and inside updates on our boys in red, white, and blue.

Need a soundtrack to your online coverage? Nike Sportswear and the Fader Magazine Pitch Perfect program teamed up to create six different music mixes—one for each continent (though Antarctica gets the shaft). The mixes are great and free to download. My favorite so far is the South America mix.

So, after all that, who to watch? Well, apart from the US who open against England this Saturday (go watch in Director Park), Cote d'Ivoire is gunning to be the first African team to win the Cup provided Didier Drogba can recover in time. Diego Maradona is looking more and more like a crazed Gandalf while coaching Lionel Messi and Argentina. Germany, Holland, Portugal, Italy, France all could make runs though Spain is mentioned as the definite European favorite and Brazil is always always in the mix. Some tap Uruguay as a dark horse but what about their brethren guay, Paraguay? And will host South Africa make the most of home field advantage?

My fearless predictions:
-The US will beat England this Saturday and make it to the knock-out round.
-Goalies will continue to complain about how the ball is too round and moves weirdly.
-A WAG will do something outrageous.
-Fans will complain about the traffic in South Africa.
-Someone will talk about Cristiano Ronaldo's abs.
-Maradona will lead Lionel Messi and Argentina to victory. (Of what, it remains to be seen.)

Got other predictions? Websites you like? Email me or post them in the comments!