Oh, the bounty.
For soccer fans, when the World Cup comes around, it’s like Christmas. So much anticipation, so much giddy excitement. And yes, a little bit of stress. Being a fan does that to you.
For American soccer fans (yes, we exist), we don’t have our team in the mix, but we know come Thursday morning, we’ll be happy. There will be so many offerings under our proverbial tree that we won’t know which package to crack first.
Soccer Claus will not let us down.
In conversations with soccer minds from around Sonoma County, I asked what they want out of this monthlong spectacle. What players do they hope get to lay hands on the FIFA World Cup Trophy — and who do they hope gets a lump of coal?
But just like Christmas, it’s not always about the gifts under the tree — it’s about the spirit of the season. And the season is upon us, so let’s have a look.
First of all, working stiffs have to be crafty come Thursday and beyond. These games run almost every day for a month, so only the lucky or the unemployed will get to watch everything live. The rest of us will have to turn off our phone notifications and record everything.
“I haven’t mapped out my schedule yet, but there are some 5 a.m. games I want to see,” said Sonoma Academy girls soccer coach Chris Ziemer.
I love how fans are mapping the next 30 days with the precision of a European train schedule. If you are going to watch soccer, watch with someone like that. Nick Rogers, head coach of the Rancho Cotate boys’ team, does.
“I like to watch the game with other coaches and other soccer players and soccer families,” he said. “I kind of pick the game of the day. I Tevo everything.”
With the U.S. out of the picture, most of us are free to choose favorites without feeling disloyal to the Stars and Stripes. So who should we watch?
Brazil or Argentina, says Rogers.
Brazil plays such a fun style of soccer, with a roster littered with dynamic players, it’s hard not to love them, Rogers said. And with superstar Neymar appearing recovered from injury, watch out Group E.
“Brazil has some of the most electrifying players right now,” Rogers said. “Neymar is in the prime of his career right now and he’s coupled with all these other guys, (Philippe) Coutinho, Gabriel Jesus.”
But Argentina has Lionel Messi, one of the greatest ever to play the game and a player whose place in history probably rides on whether or not he can win a World Cup. The Flea will be motivated.
“Hands down, he’s probably the greatest player of all time — but for him, none of that is justified if he doesn’t win,” Rogers said.
“I would love to see Messi, who has provided us with so many great moments, win a World Cup and hoist the trophy,” he said.
But of course Messi and his Argentinian teammates open the World Cup Saturday against everybody’s sentimental favorite, Iceland.
The island nation with a population smaller than Sonoma County’s is just about everyone’s second pick to do well in the World Cup.