I'll give it a go:
What Americans call soccer the rest of the world calls football; it is a game of the people. Kids don't need any equipment and play it in the streets all over the world, they live it and breathe it. They don't even need a real ball, they can improvise with a ball of rags and play in their barefeet.
The World Cup is played every four years and allows a nation to bring together it's best players from their clubs to compete against the rest of the world. Like an All-Star game. A nation competes in it's region to qualify. This year U.S., Costa Rica, Mexico, and Trinidad/Tobago represented North America. World Cup begins with 32 Nations, broken into groups of 4, with each team in a group playing the others to determine who advances to the Round of Sixteen. From then on, it's knock-out: win and you advance, lose and you go home.
There are traditionally very strong national teams: Argentina, Brazil, Italy, England, Germany (Bonnie, help me out). When a nation with a strong team hosts, they have a huge advantage. This year Brazil was a heavy favorite as was the host nation, Germany. Brasil was knocked out in the quarters by France; Italy defeated Germany in the semis.
Yesterday's game was the second semi-final with France against Portugal. Zidane of France and Figo of Portugal are club team-mates. Zidane is a striking midfielder with 107 caps (has played in 107 international games for France). He is saying he will retire after this year's World Cup. He has amazing footwork; when he has the ball it is like it is attached to his feet with a string and it is amazing to watch him work around numerous defenders. He anticipates where a ball will be placed, or where his team mates will be. Thierry Henry is a striking forward with 84 caps, and in fact is in the competition for the "Golden Shoe" awarded to the player who scores the most goals. Henry has played for Arsenal, a premier team in the English league for several years. Usually he and Zidane work wonderfully together.
My comment was that Henry seemed a half-step behind yesterday; missed a couple of key shots on goal because his timing was a little slow, and his passes were just a bit off. Zidane has been playing like a man posessed. The French won off a penalty shot by Zidane. Portugal had 12 shots on goal and 8 corners, while France only had 5 shots on goal and 3 corners. Portugal had more chances, more attack, an offensive advantage and still lost. The beauty of soccer and why it is thought to be so loved world wide. It represents most people's life; you work really hard, do everything right, and only infrequently make the goal.
Does that help? And Bonnie, please correct any misstatements and fill in what I've missed.
Probably you'll be sorry you asked.
"...I implore you, I entreat you, I challenge you to speak with conviction, to say what you believe, in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it, because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to "question" authority, you have to speak with it, too."
Taylor Mali, "Like, You Know?"