TIME

5 Weird Facts About the World Cup

Cristiano Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid reacts during the UEFA Champions League final between Real Madrid and Atletico de Madrid at Estadio da Luz stadium in Lisbon on May 24, 2014. Jean Catuffe—Getty Images

From Kim Kardashian to island nations, here are some of the weirdest facts about the World Cup

1. The Solomon Islands has the world’s highest Google search volume index for “World Cup.”

Yes, this tiny archipelago northeast of Australia—its team isn’t even in World Cup this year—is Googling “World Cup” like crazy. Next are Vanuatu, Liberia, South Sudan and Sierra Leone.

2. Meanwhile, a small Oregon town called Sheridan boasts the highest search volume index in the U.S.

This tiny city with a population of roughly 7,000 is beating out giants like New York, Los Angeles and Miami.

3. Americans were the least excited about the event, and Indonesians were the most.

In the days leading up to the World Cup, the U.S. placed last in a global survey about levels of excitement surrounding the tournament. Only 11% of Americans were very excited, while Indonesians posted the highest excitement rate.

4. Fast food and beer are dominating World Cup ads for Hispanic viewers.

For the World Cup’s second week, the top advertisers on Univision—a Spanish-language TV network—have been McDonalds and Budweiser. Meanwhile, Microsoft and Bacardi are dominating ads on ABC/ESPN, which are English-language.

5. On average, Kim Kardashian is way more popular than Cristiano Ronaldo—and she’s as popular as the World Cup itself.

According to worldwide Google data since 2004, interest in Kim has been nearly as high as Cristiano during the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. While Cristiano’s and the World Cup’s popularities spike every few years, Kim rules the Internet during off-season. And believe it or not, the Internet’s average interest in Kim is as high as that of the World Cup.

 

TIME World Cup

It’s Official: Soccer is Bigger than Basketball, Baseball

Fans gather in Grant Park to watch the U.S. play Portugal in a Group G World Cup soccer match on June 22, 2014 in Chicago. Fans were turned away from the free event after a 10,000-person capacity was reached.
Fans gather in Grant Park to watch the U.S. play Portugal in a Group G World Cup soccer match on June 22, 2014 in Chicago. Fans were turned away from the free event after a 10,000-person capacity was reached. Scott Olson—Getty Images

But it doesn't hold a candle to football ratings

World Cup viewership continued to break records on Sunday, drawing millions more viewers than the most recent big match-ups in basketball and baseball.

A total of 24.7 million viewers tuned in as the U.S. squared off against Portugal on Sunday, according to figures released by Nielsen company. The ratings surpassed last week’s World Cup match between the U.S. and Ghana, indicating that interest in the tournament is steadily rising — at least, for as long as the U.S. team is involved.

Sunday’s game also surpassed ratings for the NBA finals, which drew 18 million viewers, and trounced the ratings for the 2013 World Series, which drew 14.9 million viewers. So is America’s favorite past time officially soccer, or, dare we say it, “futbol?”

Not by a long shot. The 2014 Super Bowl drew an average 111.5 million viewers, more than quadruple the audience of the most watched soccer match of all time. Football it is.

TIME NBA

LeBron James Will Become a Free Agent

Detroit Pistons v Miami Heat
LeBron James, #6 of the Miami Heat, looks on during action against the Detroit Pistons at AmericanAirlines Arena in Miami on February 3, 2014. Marc Serota—Getty Images

Following defeat in the NBA Finals

LeBron James will become an unrestricted free agent, according to reports Tuesday, just days after the Miami Heat fell short in the NBA Finals.

Agent Richie Paul told the Heat that James, a four-time league MVP, is opting out of his contract with the team, ESPN reports. James’ decision comes after a disappointing performance by the Heat against the San Antonio Spurs, who soundly dispatched the Heat in five games. The Heat have won two championships since James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for Miami in 2010.

James opting out of his contract doesn’t necessarily mean he is leaving Miami. He still has until June 30 to decide whether he wants to remain with the Heat for the final two years of his contract. He would make $20 million next season alone under the current contract. And if he ultimately does opt out, he could still sign a new contract with the Heat.

James’ decision will likely overshadow that of fellow NBA all-star Carmelo Anthony, who announced earlier this week that he will opt out of his contract with the New York Knicks. Analysts have speculated that Anthony is entertaining offers from the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers. But these teams may now race to make space for James.

[ESPN]

TIME Soccer

High-Profile Female Soccer Coach Quits on First Day

Portugal's Helena Costa speaks during a press conference on June 24, 2014 in Clermont-Ferrand, central France.
Portugal's Helena Costa speaks during a press conference on June 24, 2014 in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. Jean-Philippe Ksiazek—AFP/Getty Images

Helena Costa abruptly left the team just hours into the role

The first female coach of a professional team in the top two divisions of any European league has resigned after only a few hours in charge, the Guardian reports.

Helena Costa had been appointed manager of French club Clermont Foot 63, a men’s squad, in May and was expected to oversee her first training session on Tuesday. She is reportedly scheduled to explain her choice at a press conference.

The team claimed in a brief statement that Costa had chosen “not to honor her engagement” and club owner Claude Michy called her decision “sudden and surprising.” Earlier reports said that Costa had neither met with the players, nor been involved in their physical tests before her departure.

There was an expectation that Costa would improve the position of women in professional soccer. When she was offered the job, Costa told the New York Times, “I opened a door today and more women will walk through on my back. That’s what I hope.”

Costa led the woman’s national teams of Qatar and Iran prior to her appointment with the second-tier French team. She had also managed a boys’ team in Portugal, her native country, and coached a regional men’s team there.

[Guardian]

TIME World Cup

World Cup Whimsy Captured in New McDonalds Ad

Adorable kids, a woman in stiletto heels, and an elderly man in a motorized all can’t help but catch the futbol fever sweeping the world right now, showcasing some spectacular stunts (seriously, how many takes did it take to land that shot in the back of a moving truck?) in a quirky FIFA-themed ad from the marketers under the Golden Arches. The ad serves as a promotion for their site gol.mcd.com.

Talk about a Happy Meal.

TIME World Cup

How the USA Let its Golden World Cup Chance Slip Away

World Cup: USA v. Portugal
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo jumps for the ball during a World Cup match against Team USA on June 22. FABRICE COFFRINI—AFP/Getty Images

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo broke free from Team USA's defense to assist a goal in the last minute of play

sportsillustrated

The United States had its foot on the throat of a depleted Portugal in the waning seconds on Sunday, but was forced to come away with a 2-2 draw, putting any knockout stage celebrations on hold. Unlike in its first group match against Ghana, the U.S. looked like a deserved winner, but individual errors snowballed into two points lost.

As has become standard under Jürgen Klinsmann, the U.S. played a four- or five-man midfield with a one- or two-forward set, depending on the situation. The formation could be called either 4-2-3-1, 4-3-2-1 or, mostly out of possession, 4-4-1-1.

USA Eyes Bigger Picture After Letting World Cup Chance Slip vs. Portugal

Portugal stuck to a 4-3-3, with Cristiano Ronaldo floating dangerously between the left flank and central attacking spaces. Portugal had a sliver more of the ball numerically but struggled in attack and was exposed several times on its left.

Manager Paulo Bento never sorted out the problem created as Ronaldo stayed high, leaving room for Fabian Johnson to overlap. André Almeida started at left back, but Bento moved Miguel Veloso into the spot at the start of the second half, which proved to be a poor decision, as the U.S. attacked him and backtracking Raul Meireles.

Portugal struggled to find any rhythm with the ball, and Ronaldo never got comfortable. The U.S. kept enough numbers back to limit the Ballon d’Or winner to sporadic moments of 1-on-1 isolation, and without Portugal able to counterattack, the U.S. looked in control for the second half despite conceding very early in the match and absorbing pressure the first period.

USA Has No Intention of Playing for Draw in Group Finale vs. Germany

Both American goals started on the right flank, one on a corner, and Johnson was their best player. His runs going forward were timed well, as he read the play to ensure a midfielder would be facing forward on the ball and able to provide a pass breaking Portugal’s high line of confrontation.

Graham Zusi tucked inside to give Johnson space to overlap and create 2-on-1 and 2-on-2 opportunities against Portugal’s left-sided players. The trouble in the first half was, when Johnson got forward, he didn’t have support or make the right decisions on the ball to develop it.

Despite holding a high line with its wingers and target striker, Portugal fell back quickly once the initial pressure was breached, inviting the U.S. to throw numbers forward. Part of the ploy was to give the Seleção a chance to counter, but the Americans were so cautious that they often ended up with no attacking capabilities.

Johnson would drive at defenders with the ball at his feet instead of staying patient to allow others to join him. With limited attackers to concern them, Portugal pressured and won the ball easily in its back half.

USA Rues Missed World Cup Opportunity

Michael Bradley’s shot saved off the goal line by Ricardo Costa in the 55th minute was the U.S.’s best look besides its goals. On that play, the U.S. had one more player in attack, but the location of the cross made the difference.

Instead of cutting inside prematurely, Johnson carried the ball to the endline and cut it back to Bradley on the ground. This is the most dangerous attacking situation in football because of the options it provides the attack and chaos it creates for the defense. It allows forwards to get in front of goal and midfielders to make late runs, the kind Bradley makes in his best attacking moments.

Goalkeeper Beto engaged Johnson, who blew past Meireles. The defenders retreated, leaving a gap between them and the recovering midfielders. They had to face the goal, meaning a cross could easily hit a defender and result in an own goal. If not, the receiving attacker (Bradley) would be facing forward with the ball at his feet and a gaping net in front of him.

Chicago Reacts to the Dramatic USA-Portugal Draw

It was a bad miss as much as it was a good block from Costa, as he couldn’t cover the entire 192 square feet of net. Bradley smacked his shot right into the defender, but it was obvious where Portugal was most vulnerable — and how.

With Klinsmann’s introduction of DeAndre Yedlin in the 72nd minute, the U.S. took more control and pushed forward on the back of Jermaine Jones’ stunning goal in the 64th. It was a positive, attacking substitution (the first Klinsmann had the opportunity to make this tournament, as his hand wasn’t forced due to injury as against Ghana) that provided the go-ahead goal late.

Bringing Yedlin on as a midfielder instead of a fullback, as Klinsmann was rumored to be ready to do heading into the World Cup, is something Seattle Sounders manager Sigi Schmid could adopt. Yedlin’s individual defending is his weakness, but putting him in the middle block compensated for that and magnified his assets (a willingness to bomb forward with his natural speed).

World Cup Advancement Scenarios for Each Group

On the play that led to Clint Dempsey’s goal, Yedlin and Johnson both got down the line and into the penalty area (by the time the ball popped out to Zusi, Johnson was lingering on the opposite edge). The midfield cover came slowly, and when it did, it was just William tracking back.

The U.S. looked fitter than Portugal all night, never more apparent than in the midfielders’ lack of backtracking when out of possession. By the time Zusi crossed to Dempsey on the U.S.’s 81st-minute goal, no more numbers had fallen back to support a defensive line that was again facing its own goal and — for once — outnumbered.

Ronaldo hardly set foot in his own half of the field, and he only had momentary isolation points. These flashes of brilliance showed that a Ronaldo at less than 100 percent health is still a dangerous opponent, but his supporting cast didn’t have the same quality.

Portugal focused its efforts on the flanks, but its crossing was no better than Ghana’s on Monday except for Ronaldo’s late effort. Looking for balls into the box played into the U.S.’s athletic strengths. Portugal capitalized just once on Ronaldo’s ability, as he sent an inch-perfect cross for Silvestre Varela to head home in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

The U.S.’s weaknesses continue to be technique and intelligence. Portugal’s first goal came from the former, Geoff Cameron’s scuffed clearance on Nani’s opener being one of several weak efforts in similar situations, while the equalizer with the last kick of the match came largely from the latter.

Bradley gave possession away cheaply in midfield after bringing down a bouncing ball under no pressure. The U.S. looked unbalanced in the back, at least partly as a result of the giveaway.

Omar González and Kyle Beckerman both failed to close down Nani before he completed the wide pass to Ronaldo, despite González having fresh legs and Beckerman being in a spot to provide easy cover. Beasley couldn’t dive into a tackle on Ronaldo and risk being left for dead, so he stood the attacker up and forced him to serve the ball into the penalty area.

Ronaldo picked the perfect pass after looking up to see a 3-on-2 advantage at the back post. Yedlin, the right winger, never tracked back from losing the ball in the corner. He was higher than the lone striker, Chris Wondolowski, when the goal was scored.

Johnson recovered but still allowed Varela’s run behind Cameron, who looked unaware that the attacker was there. Cameron’s body shape was closed off from the back post, so he couldn’t know Varela was there without proper communication.

That series of individual errors and one at the start of the match negated Klinsmann’s superior tactical set-up. The U.S. should have beaten Portugal, but Cameron and Bradley’s errors lost the team two crucial points.

World Cup USA Fans Chicago
Chicagoans gather in Grant Park to watch the United States take on Portugal in a World Cup match on June 22. Timothy Hiatt—Getty Images

Bradley has struggled since Klinsmann moved him out of the holding block and into a playmaking role. The manager has to bear the blame for shoehorning players into positions inappropriate to their strengths, Bradley being chief among them.

At the same time, for a player as important as he is to the cause, he should know kicking it to the moon (the ball or the opponent, to stop the counterattack) would be preferable in that late situation.

So instead of six points after two games, the U.S. sits on four. It’s a disappointing prospect to face Germany and need a result when it could have been a much less stressful game, but the fact that the U.S. has a chance at all in the final game of Group G remains impressive.

This article originally appeared on SI.com.

TIME tennis

Wimbledon: The Scene Behind the Green

There is more to the famous British tournament than the players.

TIME World Cup

How the U.S. and Germany Could Hack the World Cup

Group G - USA vs Portugal
Jermaine Jones of the USA scores the 1-1 goal. Mast Irham—EPA

Scenarios abound after a U.S.-Portugal tie

It is a measure of just how much the U.S. has grown as a soccer nation that a last-gasp goal by Portugal, one of Europe’s perennial powers, to earn a 2-2 draw is being viewed as a devastating loss. Going into that game, most U.S. soccer strategists would have been thrilled to come away with a point against a team fronted by Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the world’s best player.

The now disappointing draw with Portugal means that a draw would be a delightful outcome for both sides in the U.S. game against Germany this Thursday—and a feast for conspiracy fans, oddsmakers, and app makers. The World Cup can be hacked, because a point each would make Germany the Group G winner and the U.S. the runner-up, and each team would advance to the second round.

So it’s simple, right? The U.S. and Germany should have a kickabout on Thursday and waltz into the finals, an outcome made easier because U.S. coach Jürgen Klinsmann and German coach Joachim Loew are friends and former colleagues. A draw between Ghana and Portugal, who play at the same time, would produce a similar result, but there’s no controlling that outcome. (That said, some officials from Ghana’s football federation have been implicated in trying to arrange fixed friendly matches. On the field, Ghana’s players have been nothing short of terrific.)

An agreement? A fix? Couldn’t be, won’t be done, says Klinsmann. His boys are playing for keeps—they’re American, aren’t they—“we will give everything to beat Germany. That is our goal,” he said. On the field, though, life just doesn’t work that way, whatever the players’ good intentions. If this game is level in the second half, it’s only natural that the players on both sides will want to take fewer risks. Better to not win then to lose and go home. No one wants to be the guy who ruins the World Cup for his team.

In the somewhat sordid history of the World Cup, agreements to fix matches or manipulate them are not unheard of. In fact, West Germany was involved in one of the most famous incidents: In 1982, West Germany needed to beat Austria by a 1-0 score to qualify for the second round, a score that worked perfectly for Austria’s advancement, too. The infamous “Great Gijon Swindle” as it is sometimes known (the Cup was staged in Spain that year) saw Germany go up a goal early and then the lads had a nice rest for the duration of the game. The victim was an Algerian team that had played well and deserved better.

The third group games of the World Cup are always a swirl of possibilities. Brazil had a 1% chance to get knocked out; Iran a 15% chance to advance. The U.S. can advance even if it loses and Portugal or Ghana wins. The outcome depends on a series of tiebreakers, the first being goal differential: goals scored minus goals allowed. In this scenario, Ghana can advance with the same record as the U.S., despite having been beaten by the Americans.

That last bit—the fact that a team you beat earlier could advance in a tiebreaker—says all you need to know about FIFA’s tournament management skills. The idea of the U.S. and Germany cooking up common cause is indeed unsporting if not downright un-American. But on FIFA’s distorted planet football, it makes all the sense in the world.

TIME Genetics

Basketball Star’s NBA Dreams Crushed by Marfan Syndrome Diagnosis

Baylor center Isaiah Austin shoots during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal, in Anaheim, Calif. on March 27, 2014.
Baylor center Isaiah Austin shoots during the second half of an NCAA men's college basketball tournament regional semifinal, in Anaheim, Calif. on March 27, 2014. Jae C. Hong—AP

Isaiah Austin was diagnosed with Marfan syndrome. But what's that?

Former Baylor center Isaiah Austin’s hopes of playing in the NBA were dashed this weekend when he was diagnosed with a disorder called Marfan syndrome. A standard EKG during a routine exam for the NBA draft revealed an abnormality, and further genetic testing showed he has Marfan syndrome.

But what is that exactly?

Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder that affects the connective tissues in the body, and can interfere with the functionality of the heart, eyes, blood vessels and skeleton. According to the Mayo Clinic, it’s common for people with Marfan syndrome to be tall with disproportionately long arms, legs, fingers and toes. Austin is 7 ft. 1 in. tall.

The severity of the disease can differ from person to person, but if the heart and blood vessels are affected it can become a fatal disease. For example, aortic enlargement is a possible life threatening side effect and some players have died in the middle of a game due to the disease.

“They said I wouldn’t be able to play basketball anymore at a competitive level,” Austin told ESPN. “They found the gene in my blood sample. They told me that my arteries in my heart are enlarged and that if I overwork myself and push too hard that my heart could rupture. The draft is four days away, and I had a dream that my name was going to be called.”

According to the Marfan Foundation, around 1 in 5,000 people have Marfan syndrome across all races and ethnicities, though only about half of those with the disorder know they have it. The majority of people with the disease inherited it from a parent, since children of an individual with the disease have a 50% chance of getting the mutated gene that causes the disorder. About 25% of people will be the first to have the gene, meaning the disease can also be spurred by what’s called a spontaneous mutation.

It’s been rumored but not confirmed that Michael Phelps has Marfan syndrome, and in 1962, Cincinnati doctor Abraham Gordon was the first to propose that former president Abraham Lincoln suffered from the disease — just one of several theories to explain Abe’s lanky stature.

Treatment for Marfan syndrome usually includes taking medication to make sure blood pressure stays in check so that heart strain stays low. In some cases, heart, spine or eye surgery may be necessary.

“This is devastating news, but Isaiah has the best support system anyone could ask for, and he knows that all of Baylor Nation is behind him,” head coach Scott Drew said in a statement. “His health is the most important thing, and while it’s extremely sad that he won’t be able to play in the NBA, our hope is that he’ll return to Baylor to complete his degree and serve as a coach in our program.”

TIME Baseball

A Major League Pitcher Wore a Protective Cap for the First Time

But his team lost

San Diego Padres relief pitcher Alex Torres became the first Major League Baseball pitcher to wear a protective cap over the weekend.

The league approved the bulky-looking headgear meant to protect against the impact of line drives to the head, and Torres ignored the jeers of his teammates as he made history during a Saturday evening game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

“It could save our lives, if someone hits a ball to your head,” Torres told MLB.com. “I get it for free so, I’m just gonna use it to see how it feels.”

Torres entered the game in the 8th inning, giving up one run, one hit and two walks while also striking out two before the Padres lost 4-2. He said he didn’t think the new cap impacted his pitching.

The hat, which looks a bit like a stylized T-ball helmet, was designed by IsloBox and approved by the league in January. The hat is designed with padded sides to absorb the impact of a ball to the head. Torres said he decided to wear the hat after seeing Tampa Bay Rays’ pitcher Alex Cobb get hit in head during a game last year. At the time, Torres played for the Rays. On Sunday, Cobb told Fox Sports he thought his former teammate’s decision to wear the hat was admirable.

”He’s wearing the MLB one? That’s cool. That’s cool,” Cobb said. “It was out there for somebody to be the first person to do it.”

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