ESPN

This World Cup broadcast team parody cartoon is close to pitch-perfect

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Thanks to the folks at MLSSoccer.com for passing along this apparently days-old parody of ESPN’s broadcast team for the World Cup.

You’ve got fairly strong impressions of Alexi Lalas, Michael Ballack and Ruud van Nistelrooy to go with a clearly-poor impression of Lynsey Hipgrave.

And a simply wonderful, monotone, robotic Landon Donovan.

“Looks like Landon’s flatlined”

It’s all courtesy of Sean Rohani, and it’s below:

Sorry, Super Bowl: How many watched the US/Germany match online?!?

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The web site TechCrunch is reporting that, at its high point, the US/Germany World Cup match on Thursday had 1.7 million people watching the game.

That’s a lot of people, more than the 2013 Super Bowl that pitted Seattle and Denver by more than a half-million viewers (approximately 1,000,000 eyes).

All this despite TechCrunch’s report that many people had trouble logging onto the WatchESPN app in the first place.

The WatchESPN app (or site, or however you access it) was the way that many Americans were watching the US vs. Germany World Cup match today. So many, in fact, that the site had issues serving all of its users in the first half. Some folks, including me, couldn’t log on until many minutes into the match.

Still, that didn’t stop ESPN from hitting a record 1.7M concurrent viewers during the second half, the company tells us. “We did investigate some limited issues due to unprecedented demand during the first half,” a spokesperson said in response to inquiries about streaming issues.

Before you go bragging to all your American football-only friends, consider that the Super Bowl was played on a Sunday on network television. That’s going to limit the amount of people who have to head for the web.

And the ESPN app, as FOX points out, is far more established than the app that was dishing out the Super Bowl. Throw in the NFL being big primarily in America and the fact that many office-bound people likely had to go to the web, and you’ve got a big piece of the puzzle.

But still, 1.7 million? Get some, soccer.

New chill-inducing World Cup promo features American Outlaws

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With the World Cup quickly approaching this summer, ESPN is doing all it can to promote its coverage of the USMNT.

Well, they’ve done a heck of a job with this one.

Following in the footsteps of the Ian Darke commercial narrating a first date was a tough task, and they’ve followed it up brilliantly.

Using only natural sound from supporter group the American Outlaws and a drum beat, the slowly building yet fast-paced promo is a perfect tool to help US soccer fans get pumped up for the World Cup.

Also, US fans are sure to enjoy the quick shots of upcoming World Cup opponents for the US, including Cristiano Ronaldo and Asamoah Gyan, with distraught looks on their faces.

Just remember, “I believe that we will win.”

I have chills.

Lionel Messi ditches his own charity match early

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It’s been a summer of PR nightmare after PR nightmare for Lionel Messi.

First, he made headlines when he was indicted by the Spanish government for evading taxes through laundering processes overseas.  The case was shadily ended with Messi proclaiming his innocence but paying up anyways.

Then, star players scheduled to play in his Chicago charity match dropped out in droves.  He was forced to cancel the follow-up match in Los Angeles.

Now, he apparently skipped town on the “Messi and Friends” game after being substituted off the match in the 70th minute.

There’s not a large amount of information on exactly when he left and what he missed, but from what’s been floating around, Messi skipped ESPN interviews as well as autograph signings for fans who paid for special (and expensive) meet and greet tickets. A few media members in attendance made their feelings known on Twitter.

Unfortunately 140 characters isn’t quite enough to get the full gist of what happened, but with a black cloud over the match already, one can’t help but wonder what the new issue is now, especially this stunt at an event to benefit his own charity.

There was one spectacular moment to take away from Soldier Field.  Northwestern alum Matt Eliason scored a ridiculous goal, chesting the ball down to himself before unleashing a bicycle kick that would have made Messi himself proud.

Watch the goal here.

Confederations Cup schedule: The matches you’ll want to watch

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Sixteen games, 16 days, and although the Confederations Cup is merely an opening act for next year’s World Cup, there are enough intriguing, rarely seen match-ups to justify setting your DVR. Among the games you’re guaranteed to see: Brazil vs. Italy, Spain vs. Uruguay … Tahiti vs. Nigeria?

Not every game will be a gem, but thanks to a stacked Group A, most of them will. Those following CONCACAF qualifying know Mexico’s struggling for goals and poinst, but when Chepo de la Torre’s team may be the worst side in a group, that a pretty stacked set.

The tournament starts this Saturday in Brasilia, when the host nation plays their first competitive match since the 2011 Copa America. Televised on ESPN, most of the games slide into that nice, mid-day, Champions League slot. Plan your lunch breaks accordingly.

Here’s the schedule, with our recommended views in bold.

Group A Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Brazil 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Japan 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Mexico 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Italy 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Group B Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
 Spain 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Uruguay 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Tahiti 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
 Nigeria 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Group stage

June 15, Brazil vs. Japan (Group A), Brasilia, 3:00 p.m. ET: Brazil has more riding on this tournament than anybody, as it’s a proof of concept for a squad which won’t play another competitive match until the 2014 World Cup. Japan, however, may very well be a better team right now. The Selecao have the home field advantage, but the Samurai Blue have the form.

June 16, Mexico vs. Italy (Group A), Rio de Janeiro, 3:00 p.m. ET

June 16, Uruguay vs. Spain (Group B), Recife, 6:00 p.m. ET: This is the only major trophy at Spain’s disposal that they don’t hold. Opening against Uruguay, they get their toughest group test first. La Celeste have faded from a strong start in South American qualifying. If they can trouble Spain, it might be our first indication that South America’s qualifiers will have an advantage over their UEFA counterparts in Brazil.

June 17, Tahiti vs. Nigeria (Group B), Belo Horizonte, 3:00 p.m. ET

June 19, Brazil vs. Mexico (Group A), Fortaleza, 3:00 p.m. ET: Anytime Mexico faces Argentina or Brazil, it’s a major occasion, but just under one year after El Tri claimed gold at the Summer Olympics over the favored Brazilians, this match may have a minor rematch-like atmosphere to it. Brazil will not have forgotten their missed chance to claim the one honor that’s eluded them.

June 19, Italy vs. Japan (Group A), Recife, 6:00 p.m. ET

June 20, Spain vs. Tahiti (Group B), Rio de Janeiro, 3:00 p.m. ET

June 20, Nigeria vs. Uruguay (Group B), Salvador, 6:00 p.m. ET: Assuming Nigeria beats Tahiti, this will likely be the Super Eagles’ chance to claim a place in the semifinals. Stephen Keshi’s is a young team, but one that has the experience of a Cup of Nations run under their belts. If they can spring one upset, they’re through.

June 22, Italy vs. Brazil (Group A), Salvador, 3:00 p.m. ET: In a group out of which any team could advance (well, Mexico would have to wake up), this could be a must-win for both teams, if both sides can’t avoid upsets in their first two matches. Not a bad way to close group play: Two world titans in win-and-move-on scenario.

June 22, Japan vs. Mexico (Group A), Rio de Janeiro, 3:00 p.m. ET

June 23, Nigeria vs. Spain (Group B), Fortaleza, 3:00 p.m. ET: Nigeria needs to take care of business before getting to this point, because with Uruguay likely to defeat Tahiti, Keshi’s team doesn’t want to be in a position to need points from Spain. Nigeria need a win against Uruguay in Salvador with the hopes of making this match meaningless.

June 23, Tahini vs. Urugual (Group B), Recife, 3:00 ET

Knockout round

Semifinals

June 26, Group A winner vs. Group B runner-up, Belo Horizonte, 3:00 p.m. Eastern: This looks like any of Brazil, Italy or Japan against Uruguay, the likely Group B runner-up. If Brazil has any home field advantage, it will be the Selecao facing their South American counterparts.

June 27, Group B winner vs. Group A runner-up, Fortaleza, 3:00 p.m. Eastern: Which Group A team is opening round slip and been drawn against Spain (assuming the Spaniards can handle Uruguay). Regardless, the European Champions against any of Brazil, Italy or Japan will be an entertaining game.

Third Place Game

June 30, Semifinal losers, Salvador, Salvador, 3:00 p.m. Eastern: Don’t watch this game

Final

June 30, Semifinal winners, Rio de Janeiro, 9:00 p.m. Eastern: Four years ago, everybody assumed Spain and Brazil would meet in South Africa’s final. An upset by the United States in the semifinal round knocked the eventual world champions into the third place match. This year, we’ll see if another team will rise up and claim and unexpected spot in the finals.