The Biggest Sporting Event In The World
It didn't involve a hoop, or a touchdown. It certainly had nothing to do with a puck.
There wasn't even a game, and the players were dressed in street clothes, and long retired.
It was the 2006 World Cup finals draw. The draw to determine the make-up of the eight four team groups for next June's event took place in Germany, the host nation. The World Cup final typically attracts a worldwide television audience of 1 billion, so a lot of fans were eagerly awaiting the results which would determine the first three opponents for each team in the group phase of the tournament.
The draw was shown live on ESPN2 (and Univision for the fervent Spanish following in the States), and the U.S. will be matched against Italy, Czech Republic and Ghana.
Making it out of the group phase for a second consecutive World Cup would go a long way to legitimizing U.S. soccer in the world's eyes. Although the team is ranked in the FIFA top ten (based on very questionable ranking methods IMO), few believe the team to be better than many of the teams ranked lower. Still, the Czech Republic is currently ranked 2nd and Italy 12th, so the competition will be tough.
For my money, the teams to beat will be Brazil, Germany, England and the Netherlands, with an advantage to the European teams. Historically it has been very hard for South American teams to win the World Cup when it has been played in Europe. In fact only Brazil have ever done so, in 1958 when the tournament was played in Sweden (and they had to beat the host team in the finals). The host nation has played in the final game in 8 of the past 17 World Cups, with Uruguay (1930), Italy (1934), England (1966), Germany (1974), Argentina (1978) and France (1998) winning at home.
So now the draw has been made, the long wait for the start of the tournament begins. Set your VCR or TiVo for the opening match on June 9 between Germany and Costa Rica!