The Whole World is Watching
Despite U.S. absence, World Cup still the biggest sporting event of the summer
Chris Price is an award-winning journalist and public relations principal. When he’s not writing, he’s avid about music, the outdoors, and Saints, Ole Miss and Chelsea football. Price also authors the Friday Sports Column at BizNewOrleans.com.
After participating in every FIFA World Cup since 1986, the U.S. failed to qualify for the 21st edition of the quadrennial tournament in Russia, kicking off June 14 and running through the championship match in Moscow on July 15.
The yanks missing the World Cup was a shock and a hit in the wallet for the team’s broadcast partners and sponsors. In 2011, FOX bid $425 million to air English-speaking broadcast rights – nearly four times the previous contract with ESPN – and Telemundo paid $600 million for the Spanish broadcast of the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, according to Bloomberg. This will be FOX’s first time to host the World Cup, and there is worry that without the U.S. team, which drew 16.5 million viewers in 2014, the tournament will not attract casual fans who get caught up in the fun and patriotism involved in the month-long event. But even without the stars and stripes, there will still be immense interest in the 2018 World Cup. Americans have bought more World Cup tickets than any other nation other than Russia, the host. Expect large crowds at our own major soccer gathering places, including Finn McCool’s, Henry’s, The Bayou Beer Garden and the Deutsches Haus.
World Cup Favorites
Germany is looking for its fifth championship. “Die Mannschaft” plays with a machine-like efficiency, is stacked with talent, and have been given 9:2 odds by dabblebet, a United Kingdom-based soccer betting website. The Germans have dominated world soccer since 2014 and enter as the favorite.
Brazil is the world’s sentimental favorite and have 9:2 odds, but the “Selecao” had a poor showing at home in 2014 that included a 7-1 thrashing by the Germans and star player Neymar is recovering from an ankle sprain and broken bone in his right foot that has sidelined him since Feb. 25. There is concern he might not be in top form, and that could hinder Brazil’s hopes of winning their sixth championship.
France has a talented side and 11:2 odds, but “Les Bleus” have underperformed on the world stage recently.
Spain’s “La Furia Roja” dominated world soccer from 2008 to 2012, winning a World Cup and two European Championships with a silky-smooth style. “Los Toros” have 6:1 odds. If they can play together they may charge to another tournament win.
Messi can cement his place as the greatest player in the history of the game by lifting the World Cup. Argentina’s Football Association is a disaster, yet Messi’s magic helped the Argentines qualify and earn 9:1 odds.
Belgium is in the midst of a golden generation of players, including Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku. The Red Devils have a lot of talent and 11:1 odds to match.
Who To Root For
The U.S. isn’t the only surprise to miss this year’s World Cup. Four-time champion Italy and three-time runner-up the Netherlands are out, too.
To hedge their bet on the World Cup, FOX has gone all in on promoting Mexico. Ole! Still, rooting for the yanks’ archrival may come hard for many U.S. fans. The network is also suggesting fans support teams in their family heritage, something most fans already do.
Still looking for a rooting interest? Iceland is the underdog of the tourney. This is their first time in the tournament, they are the smallest nation by population (about 330,000) to ever qualify for the World Cup, and they have 200:1 odds to win. They’re playing among the best nations in the world, and their SKOL chant (since adopted by the Minnesota Vikings) is a hair-raising experience.
WORLD CUP PRIZE MONEY
The 32 national teams participating in the 2018 World Cup will split $400 million in prize money. Each team is guaranteed $8 million, with the champion earning $38 million.
Third place___________$24 million
Fourth place__________$22 million
5th – 8th place_______$16 million
9th –16th place_______$12 million
17th – 32nd place____$8 million