World Cup 2010 kicks off in June--got your barstool lined up yet?
I'm pulling for the Ivory Coast when the World Cup 2010 starts up in South Africa June 11. Just don't go thinking I'm some footie fanatic who knows what he's talking about: I just like watching the tournament--and enjoying a pint in the process. And, well, being a lifelong Mexico fan has meant countless cups and only a solitary 1986 quarterfinals appearance during my lifetime, where West Germany eliminated El Tri on freaking penalty kicks.
Now, Ivory Coast--and Cameroon and Ghana and Senegal--made a respectable showing at the 2006 Cup in Germany, losing its group matches against Argentina and the Netherlands, but beating Serbia and Montenegro. Les Elephants, the team's nickname, didn't advance pass the group stage, but in 2006 the country was still divided by civil war, and the football team was one of the few things that everybody could agree about--just the sort of sappy sports story that totally gets me. Since then, I've become a casual follower, and while I won't be donning a flame orange jersey when watching matches--I'm way too cheap to buy one--I do know that in forward Didier Drogba, coming off a recent hat trick in Chelsea's 8-nil drubbing of Wigan to win the English Premiere League, Les Elephants have one of the most electrifying players in the tourney.
How long they last is the only problem. Ivory Coast got seeded in the formidable Group G along with North Korea, Portugal, and perennial favorite Brazil. Only the top two teams advance from each group, and should Ivory Coast make it past the group stage--presumably as the runner-up to Brazil--it'd face the winner of group H, more than likely the heavily favored Spain.
This cup, though, is the first to be held on the African continent, perhaps giving the African teams--Algeria, Cameroon, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, and host South Africa--something like a home-field advantage. And perhaps when Ivory Coast takes the pitch at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth for its first match against Simao, Cristiano Ronaldo, and Portugal on Tuesday, June 15, at 4 p.m.--that's 10 a.m. in Baltimore--perhaps you might be getting to work late, too, hitting a local pub to catch the match.
The no-brainer stop is Slainte (1700 Thames St.,  563-6600), Fells Point's go-to destination for all things football--and rugby for that matter--which also serves up a solid Irish breakfast ($12) and opens every day at 7 a.m. Football, a good fry-up, and a breakfast pint--Slainte does it up proper.
Also worth checking out: Tír Na Nóg (201 E. Pratt St.,  483-8968) and the James Joyce Pub (616 S. President St.,  727-5107) also say they plan on showing matches--and James Joyce will even be opening early; if you pop in on the weekend, don't pass on the bangers and mash ($8.50) off the brunch menu. And Butchers Hill's Life of Reilly (2031 E. Fairmount Ave.,  327-6425) says it'll be showing a few matches, too.
And if you think you're seeing a pattern here, you're right. If Brazil, Spain, Argentina, or even defending champion Italy ends up winning the tournament, that's cool--as long as it's anyone but England.
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