It’s that time of… every 4 years, so here we go with a run through the contenders and pretenders for the 2014 World Cup.
When you invite a bunch of your friends over you generally clean up first. Not Brazil. Incomplete stadiums, Police shooting the disadvantaged, unsettled natives, it’s all part of a grand master plan to distract the opposition enough to get through to the knockout stages. If ‘poor but sexy’ turned Berlin into one of Europe’s favourite cities, one can’t help but feel Rio will be the next major city to get an autobahn and fall in love with David Hasselhoff. People are also confused over whether Brazil is spelled with an ‘s’ or a ‘z’. All I can say is ‘it depends if we’re playing scrabble or not’. Still, they can play.
In all seriousness: If they fire from the get-go, they’ll be fine. If they get eliminated in the first round, expect civil unrest, riot police and Molotov cocktails everywhere. It’ll be like Carnivale!
I can’t listen to the commentary of Croatian matches without breaking into dermatitis. Why? Because, on average, 90% of Croatian surnames end with the suffix ‘ic’ (pronounced ‘itch’). Luckily Croatia have been playing with a handicap since the 2006 World Cup, and all players require 3 yellow cards as opposed to two, meaning that the Croats can all go out and ‘break (an opponents) leg’ and still remain on the pitch. Circumstances like these could take Croatia all the way to the final 4.
In all seriousness: Pending the result of the Brazil game, there is every chance that the firepower of Mandzukic, Jelavic, Modric and co could take the Croats to the knockout stages. You could say that many Croatian supporters are ‘ic’-ing for success! Break out the Dettol!
If everybody thinks that Uruguay are a one-man team, one has to wonder how people see Cameroon. Not only are they a one-man team, their one particular man is getting on in years. Samuel Eto’o used to be a powerhouse, and still had a good year, but has now clashed with his national teammates, no doubt over the question of who gets to have the most apostrophe’s in their last name. While jersey designers have run out of said apostrophes, a crisis was averted when they realised they could just turn some commas upside down. At 78 years old, one has to wonder if Eto’o still has enough in him to take them through.
In all seriousness: Will they qualify from the group? No. Will they cause a few upsets? Unlikely. Is there much point carrying on with predictions? No.
The land of Taco’s and Mariachi music… and kidnappings – who even cares about Futbol? I suppose the national team players do. Some people are calling Mexico the wild card of the group, like a selection from a menu you don’t understand because it’s in a different language. Will they be a pleasant wild card that ends in deliciousness represented by glory? Or will they make the wrong choice, as so many of us do when it comes to Mexican, leaving themselves in immense pain, spewing mess from one orifice or another? PORQUE NO LAS DOS?*
In all seriousness: Mexico play fast football that’s fun to watch, but doesn’t often result in goals. As an Arsenal supporter I’m tipping them to go agonisingly close to getting out of the group before undoing themselves with a hat trick of own goals and a kidnapped Goalkeeper in the last 10 minutes.
Before they started winning everything, Spain were considered perennial underachievers – a world-class team with no trophies. all that has changed as they’ve gone on a glut of wins since 2010. No doubt an ASADA investigation will find that they were all on performance enhancing substances – until they accidentally draw the game against Australia. If Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel de Jong can pick up where he left off and attempt to kick a few more Spanish chests in, they might struggle for the rest of the group. If someone has to feel de Jong’s wrath, though, I’m confident in thinking that team mates would elect Fernando Torres.
In all seriousness: The first game from this group will tell us everything we need to know. Unless it’s a 0-0 draw. Nobody needs to know that.
Captain Mile Jedinak says ‘self-belief’ is driving the Socceroos. I knew the budget was bad but did they have to cut the team bus? Everyone sincerely believes that the Socceroos can cause an upset or two, although given that earning ‘a point’ from 3 matches is considered a successful campaign, what defines an upset? For most that benchmark has been set at ‘scoring a goal’ – but we can earn a point without even doing that. Will we have the balls to attack and lose every game 3-0? Or will we play boring, ridiculously defensive football and only lose 1-0? It’s going to be hard to park the bus if they’ve sold the bloody thing. I get this feeling that if we earn a point from any match it’ll be against Spain (you heard it here). Will it be a learning experience? Sure. What will we learn? No doubt how bad we are against the worlds best. Still, you never know. All of the Chilean team could come down with dysentery.
In all seriousness: Massive underdogs, but that’s the way Australians like it. Will we make it out of the group? No. Will we get a point? It’s possible. I’d be more concerned about how to get to the airport afterwards if they don’t have a bus. And the mascot looks like an absolute boofhead with those sunglasses..
South American qualification is a bit like La Liga. Two teams have dominated the landscape for what seems like forever (Argentina and Brazil), and occasionally a third one pops their head up (Uruguay or whoever). In this context, Chile are on par with the likes of Levante**. That being said, Levante could beat Australia . You have to feel sorry for the Chileans – if they were in any other group you’d almost fancy them to advance. They’ll be looking to the opening game against Australia to signal their intent to the superpowers of the group, and if it all clicks from the first minute they might be able to shellack the Aussies in a way that will make us pine for the days of conceding 4 to Germany under Pim Verbeek.
In all seriousness: The difference between Chile and the other ‘underdog’ of the group (Australia) is that Chile have the potential to cause problems. If Australia end up on top of Chile at the end of the group stage I will happily admit I know fuck all about football. Unfortunately that won’t stop me writing about it.
I bleed orange. I used to think that it was because of my passionate support for the Dutch national team (given my Dutch heritage and the fact Australia has sucked for decades), and since the multiple blood tests I’ve since had done were inconclusive I’m going to stick with that rationale (the other is that I’ve got an incurable blood disease). The Dutch made the final in 2010 on the back of solid performances and then fucked it up wonderfully by deciding to smoke some of Amsterdam’s finest before the game. At least Arjen Robben has learned to score in big matches now. The question is whether he’ll ever be presented with that opportunity again. He’s still relatively young, but given that his hairline is aging about 10 years ahead of him he’ll probably have to retire the top half of his head after this. If we don’t win something soon Robin van Persie might change his name to ‘Robin del Persie’ and go and play for Spain.
In all seriousness: We’ve made it to three World Cup finals, and lost them all. Has anyone ever said ‘Fourth time lucky’? I’d proffer some more opinions but that’s about as biased as a Murdoch paper. Maybe they’d publish this? Worth a shot. Holland will get out of the group, or I’ll need a blood transfusion.
*best joke ever
**Football joke, and not a very funny one at that. Don’t worry about it.