For people who don't follow soccer, the sudden inundation of World Cup coverage can be a bit overwhelming. Fortunately, Jeff Blum over at the literary review n+1 has drawn up a thumbnail analysis of soccer's greatest contest, one that doesn't assume vast foreknowledge on the part of the reader. It should also be said that Blum is trading--in a jokey, self-aware way--on some pretty ridiculous national stereotypes here. For example:

Australia

It is tempting to describe the Australian team as a bigger, better version of the New Zealand team. I am going to succumb to that temptation.
Other highlights include Blum's silver-lining appraisal of Japan ("not very good at soccer, but it has the world’s highest average life expectancy"), his unexpectedly thoughtful assessment of the big American names ("The more discerning USA fan knows that Donovan is Cristiano Ronaldo Lite—overrated, overexposed, and a bit of a whiner. The US actually relies on Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley, and Tim Howard, all of whom are equal to or superior to Donovan in ability but for various reasons less marketable"), and his summation of the state of the Italian team ("the Italian team this year looks old and shitty").