Many U.S. sports fans are spending this week boning up on their World Cup soccer facts with the world's most popular sporting event debuting Friday, June 9 with host Germany playing Costa Rica.
For instance, which U.S. players are in their third World Cup? (32-year-old defender Eddie Pope, Claudia Reyna and Kasey Keller) When do the Americans play? (June 12 vs. Czech Republic, June 17 vs. Italy and June 22 vs. Ghana). Is it a difficult draw? (Toughest of all, with #2, #5 and #12 seeds).
Who is the official mascot? (cheeky lion Goleo VI). What is the official World Cup sponsor? (Budweiser, but German beer companies certainly have their own winning strategy). Who are the Cote d'Ivoire Elephants and why is Group C so tough? (Tune in and time will tell).
What will five-time World Cup champion Brazil achieve if it beats Croatia June 13 in its opener? (eight straight World Cup wins, a record). Is it true that you can access nearly instantaneous and free video highlights on FIFAworldcup.com? (From June 9 all the way through the July 9 finale).
What are the top six ranked teams of the 32? (Brazil, Czech Republic, Netherlands, Argentina, U.S. and Spain). Why is host Germany's Group A such a cream puff? (Germany is ranked 22nd, Costa Rica 25th, Poland 26th and Ecuador 38th).
What will Brazil's striker Ronaldo achieve with just three goals this time around? (the all-time World Cup record, breaking Gerd Muller's 14. Ronaldo had eight goals in South Korea/Japan back in 2002).
What were the last three World Cup final results? (Brazil 2-0 over Germany in 2002, host France 3-0 over Brazil in 1998, and Brazil 3-2 in penalties after a scoreless tie with Italy when the U.S. hosted in 1994).
Most of all, can the U.S. prove its quarterfinal finish four years ago wasn't a fluke? The Americans beat Angola 1-0 Monday in a closed-door friendly match, with Brian McBride scoring. McBride needs four goals to tie Eric Wynalda for most-ever career international goals by a Yank.
All these facts are second nature to avid futbol players on the Lefty's Bar & Grill men's soccer team based at Ketchum's Atkinson Park.
They're already lining up tube time and strategies for watching the month-long stretch of preliminary group matches, quarters and semis.
They even stretched it out and played a little last weekend at Boise's Ann Morrison Park.
In its first action of the summer tournament season, Lefty's won its first two games and captured the silver medal with a closely-contested 1-0 loss to Boise United in Sunday's championship game of the little five-team, two-day meet.
Shaun Kelly of Lefty's said, "It was a good game, a real battle. We just ran out of energy."
Mountain-bound Lefty's players weren't in the best of shape for their season debut and fatigue was a factor, but the team has a big upside in 2006—more players are out.
Kelly said, "We've never had as many players come out for our first tournament—22 Saturday which was down to about 15 Sunday because of injuries and graduation ceremonies and things like that. It's a great pool of players, and new ones, too."
The weekend started out with a very exciting 3-2 Lefty's shootout victory over Boise United Saturday morning. Like the championship game between the two sides, it was a real battle played to the end.
Ciro Lima of Lefty's, assisted by Austin McCann, provided the visitors with a 1-0 halftime lead. Boise equalized 1-1, then McCann's unassisted goal made it 2-1. Boise United tied it 2-2 after the regulation 90 minutes. It went directly to kicks.
Lefty's enjoyed great success with its kicks as Lima, Rob Butterfield, Kelly and Trey Knox all made their attempts. Lefty's goalkeeper Drew Detwiler came up huge, stopping two Boise kicks for the win. "We knew it was going to be our hardest game," Kelly said.
Indeed, Lefty's cruised 3-0 over the Boise Busters Saturday afternoon behind goals by Mauricio Both, Josh Stanek and Leandro Stasi. Detwiler got the shutout but wasn't tested.
Lefty's accomplished its mission Sunday morning in its 3-2 shootout loss to the Boise Rebels. All Ketchum needed to do was to avoid a loss in regulation time to advance into the championship game. Lefty's led 2-0 and saw the Rebels tie 2-2 after the 90 minutes. Ultimately the kicks favored Boise 4-3.
Butterfield, Lima and center midfielder/stopper Raul Kenesan made kicks for Lefty's.
Two hours later the championship game unfolded and Boise United's first-half goal stood up in its 1-0 triumph.
Lefty's, also sponsored by Sun Valley Insurance, KB's (Ketchum Burritos) and Johnny's Subshack, holds its practice sessions Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6 p.m. on the upper field at Atkinson Park. Anyone with a strong soccer background is welcome to play.
Upcoming tournaments are July 8-9 at Park City, Utah; July 29-30 at Jackson Hole, Wyo.; and the home Sun Valley Classic tourney Aug. 12-13.