5 Reasons I’m Excited About the World Cup

Soccer City Stadium, site of the World Cup Final

We’re now less than 24 hours away from the start of the most prestigious international football tournament. I’ll be honest: I’m not always passionate about soccer. Call me a bandwagon fan if you want, but I can’t help but be caught up in the excitement for the World Cup! Here are the top five reasons I’m looking forward to the World Cup:

5. The tournament has already been a wild ride.

The Adidas Jabulani, the official World Cup ball.

When it comes to big-time athletic competition, some injuries will happen. For this year’s World Cup, the injuries started early. David Beckham, one of the world’s most famous footballers, has been out for months. England’s captain Rio Ferdinand was also injured, so Steven Gerrard is stepping into the role. Just last week, Ivory Coast’s striker Didier Drogba broke his elbow and underwent surgery. North Korea incorrectly listed one of their players as a goalkeeper, and now he won’t be able to play as a striker. Plus, the official match ball the Adidas Jabulani has been met with mostly negative reviews from both keepers and field players. You can’t make this stuff up.

4. The U.S. has a shot.

Forward Herculez Gomez & Midfielder Stuart Holden

Granted, no one expects the U.S. to actually win the World Cup. Still, coach Bob Bradley has assembled a squad that’s exciting to watch. In last year’s FIFA Confederations Cup (a warm-up of sorts for the World Cup), the U.S. upset powerhouse Spain 2-0 in the semi-finals, only to lose to Brazil 3-2 in the final game. The team has seasoned veterans, including goalkeeper Tim Howard plus Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan, as well as young studs, like José Francisco Torres. There are still some question marks concerning injuries and the defense, but the U.S. will benefit from drawing a favorable group. The team’s first match is Saturday against rival England (2:30 P.M. EST, ABC).

3. Africa

Nelson Mandela with the World Cup trophy

This World Cup is the first-ever to be hosted in the African Continent. South Africa beat out Morocco and Egypt in the bidding process to host the tournament. It hasn’t even been two decades since democracy began in the country once torn apart by apartheid. In South Africa, people still perceive “soccer [the sport] of the black man” despite its popularity.  The continent has a reputation for being a land of endless famine and war, but many countries are making progress. Historically, home-grown teams do well in the tournament, so expect an African team to be successful (the best bet: Ivory Coast).The World Cup is a chance for both continent and country to shine.

2. Media Buzz

Time Magazine Cover

If you watch as much Sportscenter as I do during the summer, you know ESPN is hyping the World Cup like nobody’s business. Of course, the network is broadcasting all the games, but they are relentless with their advertisements, segments, and previews. Some commercials even star South African actor Djimon Hounsou. (It’s not like ESPN has to convince Americans everywhere that we’re a soccer-obsessed country like the rest of the world or anything.) Last week in the mail, I got the latest issue of Time (pictured above). It’s the best issue I’ve seen in a while, and it discusses the cultural and political impact of the World Cup. If you’re excited at all about the World Cup, I definitely recommend you pick up a copy. Oh, and then there’s this epic commercial: 

1. It’s the World Cup. Duh.

The World Cup, like the world’s other great sporting competitions, is an event. Die-hard soccer fans have been looking forward to tomorrows since Italy won the last World Cup in 2006. (And who can forget that game, with Zidane’s headbutt seen around the world?) Like the Olympics, it’s hard not to get swept up in national pride when watching the World Cup. Let’s face it Americans: soccer is the world’s sport- it’s egalitarian and has the power to unite people.  

The World Cup kicks off tomorrow with South Africa facing a talented Mexico team (9:30 AM EST, ESPN). Are you going to watch? And who are your favorites?

~ Sarah

Movie Review: Letters to Juliet

Ah, summer movie season. It’s full of blockbusters, frat-boy comedies, and rom-coms. Granted, I’m generalizing, but summer movies tend to get old quickly. I’ve browsed IMDB’s Summer Movie Guide and there’s not much to look forward to, unless there’s some surprise, well-reviewed hit. It hasn’t even been a week since Memorial Day- I’m not sure I’ll make it to August.

This is why my friend Daniela and I were in a bit of a dilemma yesterday, when we finally made a trip to the theater. We debated between Prince of Persia and Sex & the City. Both got terrible reviews, so we ended up buying tickets for Letters to Juliet. (Side note: I was absolutely shocked when my ticket only cost six bucks. How awesome.)

Letters to Juliet stars Amanda Seyfried as Sophie. She travels to Verona with her fiancé Victor (Gael García Bernal) on a “pre-honeymoon”. Sounds like a fairy-tale already, right? But Victor, who is opening a restaurant, begins to neglect Sophie as he meets with suppliers. Sophie is left to explore Verona when she meets the “secretaries of Juliet”. These women spend their days answering letters women left at Juliet’s courtyard, all asking for advice when it comes to love. Sophie joins them and soon finds a long-lost letter dating back fifty years. Since she can’t bear to leave the letter unanswered, Sophie writes back.

A few days later, the woman who wrote the original letter, Claire (Vanessa Redgrave), arrives in Verona inspired to search for the lover she left decades ago. After a chance encounter, Sophie joins Claire and her handsome yet pompous nephew Charlie (Christopher Egan) on their sojourn through the Italian countryside. And really, I can stop describing the plot now because the trailer gives away everything.

Despite its predictability, I found Letters to Juliet to be such a pleasant film. Even though all the leads are pretty much stock characters, the actors all give solid performances. Seyfried has come a long way from her Mean Girls days- she’s transforming into one of Hollywood’s brightest young actresses. Redgrave is just radiant- absolutely stunning. She approaches her role with such passion, her Claire becomes the star of the show. The cinematography is gorgeous: Italy is splashed with sunlight, and it helps the movie’s vibe enormously.

Although Letters to Juliet was marketed as a romantic-comedy, it’s refreshing in many ways. It’s light on the comedy (nearly no slapstick, thank goodness), with just the right amount of romance. I did tear up occasionally but it was no tearjerker like The Notebook. It was great to see a romance set outside of New York City (for the most part) because compared to the usual, glossy chick flicks, Letters to Juliet feels intimate and sincere. The movie doesn’t revolve around the relationship between Sophie and Charlie, leaving room to for audiences to connect with Claire’s story. And her story is a great one, even if it is a modern fairy-tale.

This may seem like a non-sequitur, but the movie made me ridiculously hungry. Just the sight of gelato- Italy itself is mouth-watering. And you know those never-ending bread sticks at Olive Garden? They may not be real Italian or all that filling, but are still incredibly delicious, warm, and real. Well, that’s Letters to Juliet. Bon appetit.

Sarah