For soccer enthusiast Iain Jones, the long wait is over.
“It’s something I look forward to every four years,” he said. “There’s nothing like the World Cup.”
The tournament, played over a month’s span, involves teams from 32 countries. Mexico and South Africa will compete in the kickoff match today at 10 a.m. on ESPN, followed by a game at 2:30 p.m. between Uruguay and France.
Jones, the soccer coach at Mount de Sales Academy and an instructor at the Mercer Boys Soccer Academy, said he has made a point to never miss a kickoff game.
“If they air the game in the morning, it will be the first time in 25 years that I have missed the kickoff,” he said. “But I’ll have the recording when I get home.”
Midstate fans said they’re looking forward to Saturday’s match between England and the United States.
Several sports bars in Macon plan to show the game, which begins at 2:30 p.m. on ABC, and some of them will offer specials for the event.
John Paxton, general manager at Jocks & Jill’s on Sheraton Drive in north Bibb County, said he has fielded plenty of calls from World Cup followers who asked that the restaurant show Saturday’s match.
“I’ve had a lot of phone calls for it, so we’re gearing up for Saturday’s game,” Paxton said. “We’ll be doing some drink specials and food specials. ... We’re having it on our big screen with surround sound, so we’re expecting a big crowd.”
Grant Goodrich, manager at CJ’s Bar and Grill on Riverside Drive, said the establishment would try to show every U.S. game, if possible.
“I’m an avid fan myself, so I want to watch it.”
While Middle Georgia fans have high hopes for the U.S. team, most agree that the United States is an underdog.
Brad Ruzzo, the men’s soccer coach at Mercer University, said he thinks Italy will win the cup, though he hopes the U.S. beats England on Saturday.
“My heart wants the U.S. to win, but my brain says England will probably win,” he said. “Italy has a good team, though, and a good team mentality and attitude. I think they have a good chance.”
Teams from Brazil, Spain and Argentina, among others, are also highly touted.
Goodrich said he’ll support Italy if the U.S. is eliminated.
“I used to work at a restaurant with an Italian chef, and we all kind of caught Italian fever, he said. “We kind of had to. He might have fired us if we had rooted for any other team.”
Graham Reynolds, a rising fifth-grader who is attending Mercer’s soccer academy, said he also will support Italy during the World Cup, and he thinks the U.S. will make it to the semifinals.
“(Italy is) a good team,” he said. “They have a lot of good players.”
For others, favorite teams are a matter of roots. Jones said he’s excited to support his home team, England, during Saturday’s match.
“That’s where I lived, and I’ve got to support the boys back home.”
Though numerous predictions have been made about this year’s World Cup winner, Jones said a number of strong teams make the event exciting and unpredictable.
“That’s the thing about the World Cup. You never know what team’s going to come out on top,” he said.