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5 Reasons to Still Care About the World Cup

The U.S. World Cup dream is over, but big matchups and personalities should win over soccer newcomers.

JOHANNESBURG (TheStreet) -- The U.S. is hanging its head, and English and Mexican fans want to hang the refs, but there are still plenty of reasons to keep watching this year's World Cup.

Sure, many Americans -- as well as U.S. Soccer sponsors like


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-- are disappointed that the U.S. team didn't capitalize on Landon Donovan's equalizer and crush Ghana's hopes on Saturday. Meanwhile, the bad-goal calls that plagued the U.S. have only deepened the losses for England and Mexico. However, that's no excuse to shut off the biggest event in the world.

5. Today's late-game matchup:

Spain and Portugal have never played in a World Cup match before, but today's battle of Iberian powerhouses will show the globe just how deep this rivalry runs. Portugal has yet to allow a goal in this tournament and its star striker, Cristiano Ronaldo, has yet to find his form -- scoring his lone World Cup goal during a 7-0 blowout of North Korea. Spanish superstar David Villa, meanwhile, found the net three times since his squad's early 1-0 upset loss to Switzerland and reignited the fury of

La Furia Roja

. Take a long lunch, prepare a pitcher of sangria and settle in for this one, as it's shaping up to the match of the tournament thus far.

4. Today's early matchup:

Sometimes a World Cup match that looks like a snoozer can turn into something special, especially when Japan and Paraguay take it all the way into penalty kicks that conjured images of

Italy's Roberto Baggio shanking his last shot

and ceding the cup to Brazil in 1994. When teams get as evenly matched in the later rounds as Paraguay and Japan were -- despite Paraguay's eventual 5-3 advantage in penalty kicks -- there are bound to be more matches decided this way. Though the purists moan that the players should hold four-day marathons if that's what it takes to decide a match, Landon Donovan showed U.S. fans that there are few plays as exciting as penalty kicks.

3. Diego Maradona:

Every game Argentina wins makes its superstar coach better known for his colorful declarations than for his "Hand of God" against England in the 1986 World Cup. When Argentina qualified for the tournament, Maradona told the media to "suck it and keep sucking it," which resulted in a two-month suspension by FIFA. When Brazilian legend Pele questioned Maradona's motives for coaching Argentina -- implying that Maradona needed the money to cover debts -- and French icon Michel Platini mused that Maradona's skills weren't up to snuff, Maradona immediately told Pele to "go back to the museum" while remarking that "we all know how the French are, and Platini is French." When not

running over a cameraman in his Mini

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and blaming said cameraman for his trouble, he was declaring that "if we win the World Cup, I'll get naked and run around the obelisk" in the center of Buenos Aires.

2. No steroids:

So far, the 2010 World Cup has been free of

performance-enhancing drugs and other elicit substances

thanks to FIFA testing two randomly selected players per team per match. That makes a string of four-straight doping-free World Cup tournaments since 1998. Meanwhile, Major League Baseball's last violation dates to April 20, the latest in a string of 26 since the policy was implemented in November 2005. But why pick on American sports when the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing had 18 athletes from 14 countries disqualified for doping, or the Tour de France, which has had nine of its


since 1977 test positive for or admit using various substances.

1. What else are you watching?:

Tell us, sports fan, are you really checking out the riveting action that is first-half baseball? How are those first 80 or so games treating you? Excited about those four (almost five if an ump didn't botch Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga's attempt) no-hitters, the league's all-time-high strikeout rate and a home-run pace that hasn't been this slow since Bill Clinton's first 100 days in office?

Oh, and how have those long, breakless days at work been since you stopped flipping to the World Cup live stream or stepping out to the local pub for "lunch"? The Nielsen ratings show you had some fun during the past few weeks of the World Cup and that doesn't have to stop, even if you want to just watch this for a while to make you feel better:

-- Written by Jason Notte in Boston.


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Jason Notte is a reporter for His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post,, Time Out New York, The Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.