Everyone Has Played Once, Time for Some Awards!

With the end of the Poland vs. Senegal match Tuesday afternoon I’ve now seen all 32 teams play across these 16 games. You know what that means, right?

Time for some awards!

That’s right, I’m excited to announce the first ever Schmeichel Awards!

(You’ll have to read on understand the name.)

THE SCHMEICHEL AWARDS

Best Win

And the Schmeichel goes to … MEXICO for their 1-0 win over Germany. They beat the defending champs, and their fans celebrated so hard that it was picked up by seismographs in Mexico City. Is there anything better in sports than a passionate fanbase winning as underdogs? I think not.

Best Draw

And the Schmeichel goes to … PORTUGAL AND SPAIN for their 3-3 draw. This was the best game of the first 16 for me. It had everything: big stars coming through in big moments, multiple lead changes, an amazing strike (by Nacho), a late goal, and a hat trick from arguably the game’s best player. More of this in my life, please.

Best Loss

And the Schmeichel goes to … there is no winner! This was a trick category! There is no such thing as a good loss in the World Cup. (See, I’m learning about soccer!)

Best Snack I Ate

And the Schmeichel goes to … MICROWAVE POPCORN COVERED IN PARMESAN CHEESE. I enjoyed it so much on Friday that I went back to the well again on Saturday AND Monday. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, and yes, the more parmesan, the better. Also, my parmesan is the closest the Italians will come to participating in this year’s World Cup. Hey-O!!!

Best Performance Pretending to be Shot by a Sniper Rifle

And the Schmeichel goes to … LUIS SUAREZ for his dive late in the Egypt-Uruguay game. You could give Daniel-Day Lewis 6 months to prepare for this role by dodging actual live rounds at a shooting range, and he still couldn’t nail this performance like Suarez did. I can’t imagine someone flopping to this degree in any other sport, good grief.

Best Name

And the Schmeichel goes to … SCHMEICHEL! His name is so great, I named these awards after him!

The Denmark keeper stopped all 6 of Peru’s shots on goal in their first match, but more importantly, he’s got a fun last name. If only his first name was Michael. Michael Schmeichel would be an all-timer.

Best Performance by a Group of Underdogs

And the Schmeichel goes to … GROUP H! Japan and Senegal were each 150-1 to win the tournament at the start and they both won their openers against favored teams. Senegal has made it to the final eight before (2002) but Japan has never made it past the round of 16, could they be an underdog I pull for in the knockout stage? We shall see.

(REUTERS/John Sibley)

Worst-Looking Kits

And the Schmeichel goes to … AUSTRALIA. The yellow on yellow look did not work for me, especially that version of yellow. Brazil, Sweden, and Columbia knew better, pairing their yellow shirts with blue or white shorts. Here’s to hoping the Aussies redeem themselves with better kits against Denmark in their next game.

Best Looking Beard

And the Schmeichel goes to … it’s a tie between 37 different people. Great job on the manscaping, soccer players! Your facial hair is the Real MVP.

Best Long Shot Betting Ticket to be Holding Right Now

And the Schmeichel goes to … IRAN at 250-1! Sure, they’re in the same group as Portugal and Spain, but they are the only team with 3 points at the moment in Group B. Stranger things have happened right? No? This would be the strangest? Okay, let’s move on.

Team I Am Highest On After 16 Games

And the Schmeichel goes to … BELGIUM! For my money Belgium was the most impressive team I’ve seen so far. I realize the Panama squad they beat is one of the weakest in the whole field, but Lukaku, Hazard, and De Bruyne appear to be a terrifying trio for opposing teams.

My Favorite Thing So Far About Soccer

And the Schmeichel goes to … how consistently short the games are! From kickoff to final whistle these games take just under 2 hours, which is incredible. Compare that to 2.5-hour NBA games, 3-hour NFL games, and 4.5-hour Yankees – Red Sox games and revel in the brevity. It’s not just that they’re shorter either, they pack way more action into those 2 hours than American football packs into 3 hours. Bravo, soccer, for not using commercial breaks every six minutes to waste an extra hour of my life.

My Least Favorite Thing So Far About Soccer

And the Schmeichel goes to … how much a penalty kick can affect a game! I’m not saying I have a better solution, but it’s crazy to me how severe an awarded penalty is. Imagine if technical foul free throws in the NBA were worth 10 points each? That’s what a penalty kick feels like to me in soccer. I’m glad they at least have a good video assistant review system to make sure they get these important calls right. I might be showing myself as a soccer newbie here, but it seems that too many games hang in the balance of a foul called in the box.

Best Decision I Made Two Weeks Ago

And the Schmeichel goes to … immersing myself in the World Cup! Some games have been amazing, some have been the exact opposite of amazing, but I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go all in on soccer this month.

So far, so great!

Congrats to all the Schmeichel winners! Bring on the remaining 48 games!

“Good soccer players need not be titans sculpted by Michelangelo. In soccer, ability is much more important than shape, and in many cases, skill is the art of turning limitations into virtues.”

Eduardo Galeano

Bryan Allain has spent 41 years of his life ignoring soccer in favor of the Red Sox and golf, the REAL beautiful game. (His words not ours). This is the account of his 30-day, all in, deep dive on the premier showcase of the most popular sport on earth, the 2018 World Cup.