Football. Soccer. Fútbol. Calcio. Fußball. The Beautiful Game.
What you call it is not important because the 2014 FIFA World Cup is upon us at last! Qualification among 207 nations around the globe began on June 15, 2011 and three years later, the final chapter begins on June 12th when host nation Brazil kicks off against Croatia.
I hope all my fellow Polynauts will join in chatting about the World Cup here in this thread!
Let's get to the games we can play!
Fantasy World Cup
I went a little crazy and set up three different games for us to play along with! I'll list them out below from simplest to most complicated -- I hope you'll join them all!
ESPN Bracket Predictor
I've set up a Polynauts group on ESPN's Bracket Predictor! Click here to join.
The group is called Polynauts United and the group password is zishowwescroll.
This is a pretty straight forward prediction challenge: Choose the top two teams in each group and the subsequent knockout round winners, all the way to a champion. Fill it out before the World Cup starts and you're done!
Since World Cup brackets can go to hell pretty quickly, I went ahead and set it up to allow two brackets for each user. Brackets will lock as soon as the World Cup begins at 4pm EST on June 12th, so get your picks made as soon as possible.
FIFA World Cup Predictor Challenge
This comes from FIFA's official site and involved making a little more involved predictions along the way. Click here to join.
The group here is called Polynauts Predict and the group password is zishowwescroll. (Figured I'd keep it easy and use the same group password everywhere, right?!)
This challenge involves making a series of changing predictions about each game, along with a bonus "golden question" that will be revealed 24 hours before each match. This will take a little more involvement from those choosing to participate, but should be a fun way to engage with the tournament throughout.
FiFA World Cup Fantasy
Also on FIFA's official site. This game follows a salary cap style fantasy football league, where you choose players from all teams, keeping them within an available budget. Click here to join.
This group is called Polynauts Fantasy and the group password, as usual, is zishowwescroll.
You have a max budget of 100M to set up your squad of 23 players. Values per player range from 10M to 1M, so it'll take a bit of creativity to build a nice, solid squad -- though if you're feeling lazy and just want to play along, you can leave the site to auto build your squad for you, then tweak to your liking.
There's a lot of great material out there previewing the World Cup, but here are some personal recommendations:
The Guardian has consistently excellent coverage. Their minute-by-minute reports during matches are always fun to follow along. If you want your World Cup fix in audio format, their Football Weekly podcast is world class.
If you're just looking for a solid primer on the sport as a whole, Grantland published a good, solid piece entitled "How to Watch the World Cup Like a True Soccer Nerd." (I disagree with some of what's said in there, but it's still an excellent starting point.)
One final shout out goes to WhoScored.com, which features a ludicrous number of stats that would make any football manager squeal with glee.
For those of you who'd like a good mobile app, I recommend Onefootball, which is available on just about every OS. They've launched a separate app just for the World Cup, as well.
Let's keep it civil here! Hopefully we can all avoid arguments about "soccer" or "football" as appropriate terms. Passions run high during the World Cup, but we're all friends here. Stay cool and let's not slag each other off too much for who we choose to root for, etc.
Note that for the poll below, I've just picked the top 10 favorites to win based on betting odds, with an 11th option for "other".