Yahoo!, MSN get in the World Cup spirit

Well, after all that, it looks like the U.S. is in the toughest group (with Italy, the Czech Republic and Ghana) for next summer’s World Cup in Germany. Luckily, as the games approach, both Yahoo! and MSN are going whole hog with soccer-themed distractions galore. As it did in 2002, Yahoo! is sponsoring and hosting the official World Cup Web site, which, in addition to the exhaustive biographies of mascots Goleo VI and Pille, offers video clips, breaking news, interviews and more, all in Yahoo!’s ever-so-friendly interface. But MSN has cobbled together some exciting features of its own. It is getting seven top players to provide exclusive content: Brazil’s Ronaldinho, England’s Michael Owen, Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon, Spain’s Xabi Alonso, the Netherlands’ Edgar Davids, Germany’s Kevin Kuranyi and France’s Claude Makelele will each create a player diary and be featured on weekly MSN Webcasts. Plus, MSN will integrate World Cup content into MSN Messenger, including an interactive soccer game. That latter attraction may offer the best chance for the U.S. to wallop the competition.