How to navigate the World Cup frenzy, 10,546 miles from Johannesburg: four must-see matches and the best places to watch them.
Mexico vs. South Africa
June 11, 7 a.m. PST
In the opening game on June 11, Mexico will be up against World Cup hosts, South Africa. El Tri, as the Mexican team is known, will face 11 opposing players and stands filled with 90,000 pumped-up South Africans—all blaring their vuvuzelas, the traditional horn that sounds like a million swarming bees— and all counting on a home team win. Make sure to bring your earplugs.
England vs. USA
June 12, 11:30 a.m. PST
A day later, on June 12, it’s the big one: the most anticipated game in US soccer in the last 60 years. The USA begins its campaign against England in a first-round game that takes place six decades after America beat the Brits 1-0 in the most shocking upset in World Cup history. Can the team do it again? Look out for strikers Landon Donovan and Clint Dempsey leading the US charge.
Brazil vs. Portugal
June 25, 7 a.m. PST
The Portuguese possess Cristiano Ronaldo (the highest paid footballer in the world), but Brazil has “bad boy” Luis Fabiano, nicknamed for his propensity to get involved in on-field brawls. During the match on June 25, expect to see lots of players rolling around in agony on the field—some of it real, most of it fake. The smart money is on a Brazilian victory, but no matter what happens, it’s going to be a passionate game.
Brazil vs. North Korea
June 15, 11:30 a.m. PST
Prefer to cheer for the ultimate underdog? Then North Korea is your sure bet. Appearing in the finals for only the second time ever, this enigmatic team may provide some explosive shocks to its mightier opponents. The team’s first game is against Brazil on June 15.
Where To Watch
El Farolito Soccer Club
If you’re a supporter of Spain, Mexico or Argentina and prefer watching the finals in Spanish (gol!), head for El Farolito Soccer Club. It’ll be swarming with diehards, and there’s a taqueria conveniently located next door for a halftime snack. 2779 Mission St.,415-824-3949
The Pig and Whistle
Should you prefer crisp British accents and wish to follow England’s campaign against the USA, Algeria and Slovenia, decamp to the Pig and Whistle in the Inner Richmond. 2801 Geary Blvd., 415-885-4779, pig-and-whistle.com
Steps of Rome
Defending World Cup champion Italy kicks off against Paraguay on June 14, and there is only one choice for fans of frothy cappuccinos and the passion of Roman soccer gods: Steps of Rome. 348 Columbus Ave., 415-484-1221, stepsofrome.com/caffe
Mad Dog in the Fog
At this Lower Haight bar it’s not uncommon for English soccer fanatics to break into song. If you go there for the June 12 game against the USA, it’s probably best if you’re rooting for the British blokes. 530 Haight St., 415-626-7279
Watch the final match at the park on July 11, along with thousands of other local fans.
World Cup 101
• Diving, officially known as simulation, is the act of faking a foul or injury in soccer. If caught, it merits a yellow card (a caution). Two yellow cards equal a red, which gets you kicked out of the game.
• In the latter part of the tournament, a penalty kick shoot-out decides tied games.
• Thirty-two countries are competing for the 2010 Cup.
• The World Cup trophy weighs 13.6 pounds and is 18-carat solid gold.
• Brazil has won the trophy a record-breaking five times.