If you're not already aware that the World Cup--the world's largest soccer tournament--kicks off on June 12, a new site from Microsoft and featuring content from ESPN may be just the thing.
On Sunday, Microsoft launched the World Cup Essentials site, sort of a 'second screen' experience to ESPN's own World Cup coverage from Brazil, the host nation. The site is designed for Internet Explorer but will work on most "modern browsers," including the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox.
Interestingly, the site features non-American teams--Brazil and Mexico were two that the site highlighted on the front page. Selecting Teams on the left-hand nav bar auto-loaded the United States side.
Unlike most sites, the World Cup Essentials site forgoes photographs of the players in favor of 3D artwork coded with HTML5 and WebGL. Before the World Cup starts, there's a list of tweets about the team, some recent news, and a schedule of the upcoming matches.
You won't find too much in-depth analysis about coach Jurgen Klinsmann's defensive proclivities or even guesses as to the starting squad, but there's a dedicated section for "fans and traditions," and key stats to help the causal fan know a little more about the team.
"The World Cup is one of sports most storied events, and inspires a tremendous amount of passion and loyalty from fans around globe," Bryan McAleer, associate director of ESPN marketing said in a statement. "The World Cup Essentials site will provide an excellent complement to the comprehensive match coverage ESPN will be providing on television and the web. Working with IE allows us to use the power of the modern browser on the web to surround the beautiful game for millions of fans."
Microsoft, of course, designed the site to show off how it integrates modern Web technologies, such as CSS3 animations, transitions and 3D transforms, WebGL using Three.js to create 3D navigation, and Pointer Events. The Essentials site joins a long list of similar Microsoft initiatives, dating back to its work with making the popular mobile game "Contre Jour" touch-friendly. You'll find a long list of similar sites on Microsoft's "Rethink" archive, including a recent collaboration with the makers of the game Assassin's Creed to bring a subset of the game to the Web.
Hardcore soccer (what the rest of the world calls football) fans will probably be best served sticking to their favorite sites, including ESPN FC. But if you're just interested in learning a bit more about what everyone else will be talking about in a few weeks, bookmark Microsoft's new site.