The search for 16: World cup special

With the group round of the World Cup coming to a close and the round of 16 under way, it’s the perfect time to see what’s piqued searchers’ interest since our pre-tournament search trends kick-off.

Understandably, searches for [world cup standings] climbed steadily during the first week of play as fans around the globe watched the various teams jockey within their groups to qualify for the next round. Upsets in the group round have been particularly effective at driving increased search volume. Switzerland’s win over Spain on June 16 (one of the tournament’s earliest upsets) drove its share of search traffic, and New Zealand’s unexpectedly good performance against Italy, the 2006 tournament champion, inspired people to look for information about the “All Whites” (the Kiwi team’s nickname). Until England’s keeper let in a “soft” goal in the game against the U.S., [striker] was a more popular term than [fullback], [goalkeeper] or [midfielder]—but since then, searches for [goalkeeper] have largely outpaced the other positions. Searches for [england keeper] and [rob green] also spiked on the day of that game.

One of the rising—and controversial—stars of the World Cup’s initial days was the ubiquitous vuvuzela, which, at its peak on June 15, nearly overtook searches for [waka waka], the official song of the 2010 World Cup sung by Shakira. Viewers—and listeners—around the world searched for information about the South African horn, although after the initial spike it seems people have become accustomed to this unofficial match soundtrack, or perhaps purchased their own (listen for the German fans in the round of 16!).

But the vuvuzela is certainly not the only aspect of this year’s World Cup under scrutiny. Controversies have cropped up throughout the tournament, and a rise in search volume was never far behind. Interest in the much-debated 2010 World Cup ball, or [jabulani], has remained high throughout the first two weeks, and searches for [world cup referees] reflect the growing awareness that an official’s decision can make or break the fate of a team. Search volume for this topic peaked on June 18, the day a potentially tie-breaking U.S. goal against Slovenia was disallowed by a controversial offsides call. Searches for [offsides] also spiked on June 18, as well as on June 11 following an offsides call during the opening game between Mexico and South Africa, and June 23 after a call in the U.S. game against Algeria. Among English-speaking countries, most of these searches came from the U.S., a country relatively less familiar with “the beautiful game.”

Participating teams and individual players have also done their part to spark controversy. The French team has been in the spotlight for a variety of reasons: qualification for the tournament in a win over Ireland credited to a Thierry Henry handball, refusal to train after Nicolas Anelka was sent home for insulting the team’s coach (searches for [anelka] spiked following his departure), and their eventual elimination from the tournament. In another newsworthy twist, searches for Algerian player Rafik Saifi have skyrocketed in the last days after his altercation with an Algerian journalist.

As the stakes climb even higher in the elimination rounds, we’re all on the look-out for more exciting (and controversial) moments and emerging stars. So stay tuned—we’ll be back with more search trends as the World Cup action continues.

Posted by Emily Wood

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