Despite Ireland's absence, Irish keenly interested in World Cup

I know you're up to your eyes in Stanley Cups (congrats, Chicago), NBA Finals and the LeBron saga, baseball and Strasburg-mania, golf, NASCAR and other sports. Soccer news might well have passed you by, but if you were in Europe there would be no doubt that you'd be aware that the World Cup starts tomorrow.

You might be a bit surprised to learn how much emphasis the World Cup is getting here seeing as Ireland will not be playing in South Africa. The Irish team lost out when they received the Andres Galarraga treatment - the referee didn't see what he should have seen last November.

The depth of feeling on that matter all these months later has surprised me, but many Irish people are still really angry that France will be playing in South Africa and Ireland won't. In fact, some Irish people are so angry that they've announced that if it comes down to it they would rather see England win than France, and that's saying something.

Despite Ireland's absence the World Cup is a huge matter of interest here. We have five television channels and one of those five will be showing 56 World Cup games over the next month as well as hours of extra coverage with pre and post game analyses and highlight programs late at night.

It will nearly be wall-to-wall World Cup, with GAA and rugby thrown in for good measure. A full month with little time for anything other than sports. In other words, it'll be heaven

I don't know if 56 games is every single World Cup game, but if there are some games not shown on Irish television you can be sure that (a) there'll be a lot of complaints about what's been missed and (b) there'll be a lot of people looking for those games on the British channels. As I was saying, interest in the World Cup is intense.

So who will the Irish people be rooting for? Well, not America unfortunately, although I daresay that nearly everyone will be rooting for America on Saturday when they play England (2:30pm EDT on ABC).

It's not that Irish people will be rooting against America as such, it's just that, well, they don't exactly rate the American team very highly. They don't see the USMNT as likely to provide any memorable moments, other than the hoped for upset of England.

From what I can make out Brazil is the favorite here, based on the number of Brazil shirts in the stores. You can find shirts for many other countries too - I even found a small selection of adult USA jerseys (no kids' sizes, unfortunately; my son wanted one), which I didn't see in America when I was there in April - but Brazil, Argentina (Lionel Messi) and Spain (the odds-makers' favorites, America's 80-1) are the most commonly available.

I think most Irish people will be happy with a Brazilian win, but mostly they want exciting, entertaining soccer and don't much care who wins - so long as it's NOT England or France.

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