Chances are that if you are visiting World Soccer Talk, you know enough about the World Cup to hold down a semi-intelligent conversation about the tournament at a cocktail party. However, if you are new to the sport and trying to quickly learn, or are in a profession where you attend numerous events or receptions where the hot topics of the day are discussed, you need a quick primer on how to discuss the world’s greatest sports tournament. So this guide is for you or your “friend” if you are stuck at a party or event needing to quickly sound smart about soccer.
Here are the top ten generic statements you can make about the World Cup that make you sound like you know what you’re talking about but do not invite in-depth follow-up questions. Of course, you will not need to use these after you do your homework and watch the World Cup, but this is a stop-gap solution for the next two weeks. Do you have any you would add? Share them in the comments section.
1. The climate in Brazil is going to be a challenge for most of the countries, especially the European ones.
Weather is a safe topic at any event and we generally know what parts of the world are hot or humid versus cold. Brazil is going to be hot and humid, and for teams/players used to playing in Europe, that will be an adjustment. You can spin this line off into a discussion of a time you visited a foreign country and your adjustment to the climate, if necessary.
2. Jurgen Klinsmann is changing the way the United States approaches soccer, his style is such an interesting mix of European and traditional American.
This is a semi-safe comment, as you do not commit yourself to the pro-Klinsmann or anti-Kinsmann camp. The danger is that you may be forced to go into more detail on your thoughts on Klinsmann’s style or selection, but you can always read this article to help you with that.
3. I like a South American team to win this year, European teams have never played well in a South American-hosted World Cup.
A safe factual statement that few people will vehemently argue with you.
4. One of the players I enjoy watching is Mario Balotelli of Italy. When he is playing well, Italy is a contender.
Super Mario can be one of the most exciting players in this tournament and if history is a guide (i.e., Euro 2012), an on-form Balotelli is critical to Italy’s chances to advance. I would argue their attack is actually underrated, but we are keeping it simple in this article.
5. It is disappointing that Sepp Blatter and FIFA’s antics are overshadowing the great soccer culture of Brazil. I look forward to learning even more about the country just like I did about South Africa in 2010.
This is potentially dangerous territory, as bringing up political debates can either lead you down a trail of international geopolitics or a mad anti-FIFA rant. The key is to pivot the conversation to one about Brazil, its culture and its history. If your conversation partner starts going into the weeds, you can talk about how ESPN and its ilk focus too much/not enough on human interest stories in their coverage.
6. Japan is an interesting team to me. They held their own in the Confederations Cup and I think the talent level is growing to the point that someday soon pundits are going to have to take them seriously.
Chances are that unless you are talking to the nerdiest of soccer fans, the people you are chatting with know little of Japan’s national team. This statement will invite little follow-up and may even derail the conversation. However, be prepared to be viewed as a soccer snob as this is a very soccer hipster statement; delivery of the line is key.
7. While I am rooting for my <home country> I am also following my <family’s home country>
This of course works only if you live in a country that qualified for the World Cup and your lineage is represented as well. This statement allows you to move the conversation to one about your family, your history, or any number of topics. However, if you live in the U.S. and your family comes from Brazil/Spain/Italy/Germany, be prepared to be accused of being a bandwagon fan.
8. I really enjoy how Luis Suarez plays, but his 2010 World Cup handball and his alleged racist remarks as well as biting while playing for Liverpool make it hard for me to root for Uruguay
Note – not for Liverpool fans, but I am assuming people using this statement have only a vague sense of what Liverpool is. There is just enough general detail in this statement to suggest you know about the striker’s controversial past, but not enough that you are an expert. Hopefully you can deliver this without being asked to explain, so gauge your audience well before using this line.
9. My favorite part of watching the World Cup is learning more about up-and-coming players so I can keep track of them after the World Cup. It’s such a learning experience to see the diversity of talent and style of play.
A good general statement that shows you are interested in soccer but there is not a need to follow up with specific details. In fact, this is a good one to use if you feel comfortable sharing that you are not a soccer expert and are in the learning phase.
10. I keep up on all the World Cup gossip and news at World Soccer Talk, it’s my go-to for information.
Goes without saying!