I suppose I should justify the existence of this blog on our site. If I were to make an insincere effort to do so, I would argue this: Writing about culture is a very sizable portion of our ambit and this is the single greatest cultural spectacle of them all—a window, therefore, into nationalism, global capitalism, our notions of leisure, and other very worthy topics. And since it consumes so much of the world’s mental energies for a month, it would be simply irresponsible if it didn’t consume ours.

Sadly, I’ve have taken stick in the office from certain colleagues who consider this explanation a grotesque fabrication. And, in moments of honesty, I’ll concede the point. This blog—and our World Cup preview issue—are basically acts of self-indulgence. How else will we account for a month spent watching television?

This spring, we recruited Aleksandar Hemon to write a monthly column about soccer and encouraged him to write without pandering to a broad audience. And that’s the same spirit that we’ve embraced for this enterprise. Our cast of bloggers is filled with many eminent novelists and journalists (and a Deputy Mayor of New York City). They will write about the spiritual and metaphysical aspects of this tournament, I’m sure. But they will also write about tactics and players and coaches. They have a green light to be as wonky as they want.

We debuted Goal Post during the last Mundial. And you’ll hopefully recognize some of our contributors—Alex Massie, León Krauze—from then. This will be basically the same format. Only the web has grown into a far richer resource for following the tournament. We’ll include regular aggregation of pieces (and video) that you might not encounter if you were to just check in with ESPN or the British papers.

So, without further throat clearing, let’s start with the obvious discussion: Who is going to win this thing?