A World Cup viewing guide from Rams soccer coach Richard Sutherland
So, you've caught a case of World Cup fever.
You can tell because British announcers have been blaring from your TV more in the last week than they ever have before. Also, since June 12, your definition of a "long ball" has slowly changed from something flying over a fence to something soaring down the flanks. And maybe you even wanted to call it "futbol" once or twice.
Well, good for you.
After the United States' victory over Ghana Monday, there's hardly ever been a better time to go cuckoo over PKs and set pieces or become a temporary expert on them. For if the Americans manage to beat Portugal and/or garner a reasonable result against Germany, they should earn knockout round berths in consecutive World Cups for the first time in their history.
Of course, there's a long way to go.
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A coach of over 14 years in Scotland, Ireland, Spain and the U.S., Sutherland took the time to answer some basic questions about the prospects of the U.S. team and his thoughts on the eventual champion.
Q: What did you make of U.S. coach Jurgen Klinnsman saying it's "unrealistic" for his team to win the World Cup?
"A lot of these guys do these things for different reasons. It could be psychological, motivational. But what's said in the papers isn't necessarily said in the lockerrooms. Generally, I don't take a lot of paper talk at face value. I've done things like that before as a coach."
Q: How do the Americans match up with Portugal Sunday?
"Obviously, Portugal speaks for themselves. Ronaldo is the best player and scorer. He's the player that makes them tick. Ronaldo is the main man. On the whole if Ronaldo struggles or is hurt, I think Portugal will struggle.
"Lot of teams will try to double up on Ronaldo and play heavy on the left-hand side. Portugal will then use that to their advantage and try to get it to the opposite side. The U.S. might play man-to-man. They're strong across the field, but they would be a little bit exposed. It's all dependent on how a manager and coach likes to play against Ronaldo."
Q: Why is Germany such a strong, tough opponent?
"Germany is much more difficult than Portugal. There are far too many players to mark up or try to double. And set pieces become vitally important. They practice them a lot and are very, very good at them. I think Germany will finish top in the group. They're more consistent, more team-based and team-oriented."
Q: Who is a dark horse this year?
"I think, depending on the depth, Beligum could be a real threat. It's a very, very strong squad. They don't have the experience at this level, but they're very, very talented."
Q: Who are your favorites to win the World Cup?
"Holland is going to be strong. Argentina could win it. I don't think Brazil will win it, they're not strong enough this year, but you never know."
Q: What advice do you have for people on watching the World Cup?
"Watch as much as possible. Watch these players and these things they're doing and practice them. It's something we don't do as much in the states. Whether it be basketball, football, hockey ... rather than have a coach constantly teach them, learn on your own. Watch the games, watch the players, watch the way they're playing the games and practice them."