How to Watch the 2014 World Cup in Philadelphia, US-of-A: A sincere open-arm welcome to everyone

How to Watch the 2014 World Cup in Philadelphia, US-of-A: A sincere open-arm welcome to everyone

A man kicks a soccer ball on the shores of Beira Mar, in Fortaleza, Brazil, Tuesday. Soccer fans around the world are gearing up to watch the World Cup, which kicks off in Sao Paulo, Thursday. (AP Photo)

There have been a million articles, posts and click-bait stories written in the last few weeks about why this kind of soccer fan is annoying, why you're not a "real" soccer fan, why American fans have copied everyone else, and why Americans JUST AREN'T ALLOWED TO HAVE FUN WITH SOCCER.

(That last one is written by a Brit who covers the NFL, if irony is your thing).

I'm here, to completely, sincerely, and without sarcasm (on the Internet, I know) WELCOME you to watch the World Cup with us "real soccer fans."

Some of my soccer "brethren" will try to look down on you, or condescendingly explain the virtues of a 4-2-3-1 over a 4-1-2-1-1 diamond, or tell you all about the scarf they got from Eric Wynalda in 1992 and why Tab Ramos was their "boy."

Just ignore them. Or engage them. Whichever you prefer. Watch the games. Drink some beers. Study team rosters. Or don't. Buy a scarf. Or don't.

The World Cup comes along every four years, and it falls in the middle of a relatively dead time on the American sports calendar. Unlike some years (I'm looking at you, 2002 Korea/Japan), the games will be on at great times of day to watch (and drink beer), and some of the best athletes in the world will duke it out over a month of action.

Lots of people will give you rules on how to watch the World Cup, or how to "sound like an expert," but I'm not here for that. It's a game, and it's supposed to be fun. The more the merrier.

So, come ye, soccer newbies, soccer diehards, guys who insist on calling it "futbol," and everyone in between.

Tomorrow we'll give you some more hot soccer knowledge, as well as predictions for the tournament. And on Monday, we'll focus on the US-of-A before their first match.

Here's a few links and helpful tips to get the most out of the next month. And if you prefer to ignore them all and just watch on your couch, that's cool too. And if you want to pick the games against other 700 Level readers (and me!) for a grand prize of 5 minutes of fame in a future post, you can do that here.
When do I watch?
The World Cup kicks off Thursday with host Brazil vs. Croatia at 4 p.m. EST on ESPN. There are games pretty much every day until mid-July. The most comprehensive schedule comes from Jonathan Tannenwald of Philly.com. Bookmark it. Visit it often.

Games will usually kick off at either noon, 3 p.m., or 6 p.m. Eastern time on ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC. There is the occasional 4 p.m. kick, and a 9 p.m.-er this Saturday (4 games in one day!).

The U.S. plays Monday at 6 p.m. (Ghana); Sunday, June 22 at 6 p.m. (Portugal); and Thursday, June 26 at noon (Germany).

This was the scene in 2010 outside Fado.

Where should I watch:
If you live in or near Philly, your choices are limitless. Whether it's Fado, The 700 or Tir Na Nog, there's plenty of options. If you're feeling ambitious, try to find a bar or restaurant, or even a Philly neighborhood that's tied to who's playing. If Germany is in action, you might enjoy the chaos that is Brauhaus Schmitz. But the World Cup is such an event that nearly any place with a TV will have fans gathered around, especially those who "call in sick" on a weekday to see their homeland play.

For U.S. games, there are events planned, including a great one for adults and kids at the Piazza at Schmidts organized by the CASA soccer league, the Union and others. And for the final on July 13, Brauhaus Schmitz is shutting down South Street and showing the game on a giant screen.

If you're in the burbs, there are a few options (a favorite for me is Iron Abbey in Horsham), but any sports bar is fine. If you have any suggestions near your 'hood, drop them in the comments.

And if you like your couch (as I do), there is nothing wrong with putting your feet up and screaming by yourself in your living room.
Who should I watch?
Obviously you'll be interested in the USA, and/or the country of your family heritage, or the place you studied abroad, or the place where your favorite takeout food originated. But there is something to watch in every single match, even if you're rooting for the team with the jerseys you like best.

The "Can't Miss" teams to watch would probably be the United States, Brazil, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Argentina. Chile, Uruguay and Belgium are up there too. No one is going to blame you if you skip Nigeria-Iran, but you never know where the highlight of the tournament will come from.

If you want some entertaining previews (some of which might go over newbies' heads), you can't go wrong with Grantland's Men in Blazers. Otherwise, you could do worse for general info on the tournament than this comprehensive preview from SB Nation, or this "guide for people who don't watch soccer" from SI.com. And of course, there was the preview last week from our own Evster.

If you are a newbie and want a little primer on some of the terms you'll hear over the next month, this piece might be a big help.

Kids play soccer at Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday. (AP Photo)

Should I watch at all?
If you don't like soccer, give the World Cup a chance. If you don't like sports, then you're probably not reading this anyway. And if you just really don't want to ever be caught dead watching soccer, then go play golf for the next month or something.

Plenty of people will tell you that you shouldn't watch the World Cup as a kind of protest against all the chaos and corruption that is behind it, and all the money FIFA will be raking in. Brazilians themselves, the most soccer-mad people on Earth, have been protesting the event.

Listen, FIFA is horrible and nearly every FIFA executive is a complete and total crook and criminal, as John Oliver lays out well in this video (it's worth your time, I promise). I hate that by watching it, and watching an ad for Budweiser, I'm sorta-kinda helping with the very real problems the World Cup is creating in Brazil, and in turn, places like Russia (2018) and Qatar (2022).

But I really like soccer. And I really like drama. And I really like America. So I will watch the games AND be morally outraged at what is going on with FIFA, OK?

But I WILL NOT drink Budweiser. Take that, FIFA.

Seriously though, welcome to the World Cup, whether you're a Union season ticket holder or don't know a touchline from a touchdown. The next month is going to be a lot of fun.

I promise.

 

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.