In a world, where every four years, 32 nations gather to determine a champion, only one team can hoist the World Cup trophy. [Cue the massive explosions.]
With apologies to "Iron Man 2," "Twilight" and whatever other blockbusters are headed to theaters this summer, none of them can compare to the most dramatic event of 2010: The World Cup.
The World Cup, in addition to being the only truly world championship outside of the Olympic Games, is the only tournament capable of providing the full range of human emotion:Anger, awe, boredom, depression, disgust, embarrassment, euphoria, frustration, guilt, misery, pride, rage and surprise
. The best screenwriters couldn't script some of those things.
To get you ready for the drama that will start unfolding on June 11 in South Africa, The Star and The Full 90 will introduce you to the teams, the key performers, what to look for and what to expect in this year's Cup.
The "favorite" for the Group of Maximum Anglo-Anticipation...
EnglandGroup C THE BASICS
• Nickname: The Three Lions
• Colors: White and Red
• FIFA Ranking: 8
• How They Got Here: Dominated (9-0-1 with 34 goals scored) a rather weak European qualifying group
• World Cup Pedigree: 12 World Cups, 1 title ('66, when they hosted), lost in the quarterfinals four times THE PLOT
Can a foreigner lead the country that invented soccer to a place (the winners podium) it has not been to since it hosted the event in 1966?**The Subplot: Will the far more interesting WAGs completely steal the thunder of their boyfriends/husbands with tales of thousand-dollar shopping sprees? Again> THE DIRECTOR
The former Italian international has won honors in every league he has coached (and he's coached some incredible teams: Roma, Juventus, AC Milan and Real Madrid). He's known as disciplinarian who has no time for disturbances. In the wake of the John Terry-Wayne Bridge fiasco, Capello moved to immediately strip Terry's captaincy and bestow it on Rio Ferdinand. If there was ever a coach that could guide England from the morass they've been under Steve McLaren and Sven Goran-Eriksson, it's Capello.LEADING MAN
Just like with his club side, Manchester United, as Rooney goes, so goes England. The tenacious and lethal striker tends to play outside the box with England. Which is fine, except for the fact that England don't have a potent striker to meet his work in the box.SUPPORTING CAST
Frank Lampard (midfielder, Chelsea) has been in phenomenal form this season, collecting 22 goals (as a midfielder!) and 14 assists in helping guide the Blues to the EPL title; Rio Ferdinand (defender, Manchester United) has had the exact opposite problem from Lampard (he's been in erratic form this season) but he's the team's captain and with John Terry's new injury worry, he's critical to the team's success now; Steven Gerrard (midfielder, Liverpool) has had an up-and-down year, but he's a tireless worker with excellent field vision and passing; Gareth Barry (midfielder, Manchester City) if healthy (big if right now) will be the anchor man sitting just in front of the defenders; Aaron Lennon
(winger, Tottenham) should open up camp as one of the team's wide midfielders and is a pacy and talented worker.LIKELY BREAKOUT STAR(s)
James Milner and Adam Johnson
With some big names struggling with fitness and form (Rooney, Barry, Gerrard) it might be two relatively unknown (how unknown can you be playing for a Top 10 team in England?) midfielders that separate England from the pack. Milner is a tenacious and versatile player who is very good in possession. Johnson is, gasp, a left-winger. Where was he when Beckham was at his peak in 2002? England might have had a complete midfield then!THE LIKELY VILLAIN
Whoever the goalkeeper is
Here are the top goalkeepers (in some order) in the Premiership: Gomes (Brazilian), Jose Reina (Spanish), Edwin van der Sar (Dutch), Tim Howard (American), Brad Friedel (American), Thomas Sorenson (Danish), Peter Cech (Czech) and Shay Given (Irish). The best English 'keeper? Joe Hart. And Manchester City thought so highly of him, they loaned him out to Birmingham City for the season. The likely starter will probably be David "Calamity" James (Portsmouth) even though it should be Hart. Whoever it ends up being, it probably won't matter. If it comes to penalty kicks, England is already screwed.PRODUCTION NOTES
They will likely play a 4-4-2, but, given the talent in midfield, a 4-5-1 shouldn't be surprising. The only thing that's certain: Capello will have a withdrawn midfielder (Barry if he's healthy, Michael Carrick or Tom Huddlestone if he's not).WHAT THEY'LL WEAR
IT'S SORTA LIKE...