Ever since I was a little kid this event has meant a great deal to me. In fact, it's the only major sporting phenomenon that has always kept my attention. Otherwise (to me), sports is something you do on the street or in the park with friends, not on the couch in front of a television. What makes this televised occurrence special is that it brings together all of humanity in mostly good-natured competition for a handful of weeks. As an ethnophile, I salivate over which of the 32 teams that made it through the heartbreaking eliminatory stages might be my favorites. As a New Yorker, I can't wait to rant and rave, laugh and cry with everyone.
Some interesting details about this particular cup's qualifiers: Can you believe both North and South Korea have made it to the world cup? There is in fact a small possibility they might both end up in the finals. Wouldn't that be weird? The two Koreas battling it out on the field?
Above are another two teams that curiously qualified in the same world cup: Slovenia and Slovakia. In the early 1990s each of these countries broke away from unions with neighbors. Algeria (emblem with crescent moon) was the only Arab nation to qualify. No middle eastern nation made it this time around. Not Palestine. Not Israel. Not that either of those ever do. Nobody. Not even Iran or the Saudis, who are often present. No Andean nation qualified either, which includes my dear Colombia. How sad. Virtually every non-Andean country in South America did get in. For Honduras, it's their second ever appearance. Obviously, I'll be rooting for such underdogs. Other teams on my favorites list include Portugal, Ghana, Greece, and Mexico.