Only a quarter of the way into the world’s biggest sporting competition, the FIFA World Cup, and the planet is well and truly Brazil nuts! From games with own goals and games with no goals, to free kicks and costly mistakes, it’s already been an exciting week of play. What’s been missing is a lighter look at some of the nations whose teams are performing on the world game’s biggest stage this year around. So with that in mind, let’s get this World Cup ball rolling as I risk a red card and put my boot into 16 of those teams at random – the good, the bad and the English!
Brazil – Not only are they this year’s hosts, but they’ve raised the World Cup more times than any other nation. Also, between all of that, they’ve even found time to patent a style of intimate hair removal. Amazing given the fact that poverty is so predominant in Brazil, most of the Brazilian players such as Marcelo, Maicon and Hulk, can’t afford more than one name each. They’re the only team at this tournament in the ‘green and gold’ kits that are expected to achieve greatness. The team carries the name the “Little Yellow Canary”, which refers both to their kit colours and possibly to the fact that they will be the first to drop in the event of a gas leak at one of their hurriedly completed stadiums. Big props to them for also playing with such great enthusiasm despite the fact their Football Federation’s initials are ‘CBF’ and are sewn onto their shirts.
Bosnia & Herzegovina – A nation with a past so complicated, they have to put an ‘&’ in their title. It’s their first FIFA World Cup and in “World Cup” years (1 ‘World Cup year’ = 4 calendar years) they are less than 5 years-old. Like most toddlers there’s a good chance they’ll make mess of things and be put to bed early. Conceived during a drunken World Cup ’94 after-party they are somewhat of a ‘Balkan bastard child’. Their team nickname is “The Dragons”, presumably because the World Cup has never seen them before and those who have heard of them still believe their nation is made-up. Sledging tips for other teams; remind them that their flag looks like their nation is based on the ideals of the ‘Bank of Queensland’.
The Netherlands – Or as the USA calls them; “That place where Michael Jackson and Peter Pan lived.” It’s very important to note that people from the Netherlands are happy for you to refer to their country as “Holland”. They are not happy when you refer to it as the “Nether-regions”. Dressed in Oompa Loompa Orange and looking as scary as an aggressive pumpkin, one thing’s for sure; whether wearing clogs or boots, the “Clockwork Orange’s” recipe for success will be prepared in a ‘Dutch oven’.
Australia – Some people take away points from games, but the Socceroos are that team that’s always “taking away positives”. Remember Eric Moussambani in the pool at the Sydney Olympics? Well, most of the World Cup community pretty much sees us as the Eric Moussambani of this tournament… “The Soccerics”. While others are aiming to break records, we’re just happy to get to the other end of the pool without drowning. Aussie supporters get pretty excited at every World Cup, mainly because most believe “soccer” is a sport that’s only played every four years and was invented in 2006. This team’s big asset – multiculturalism. Our national team is like a mini World Cup, where we took players from each nation and threw them in a mixer. The taste might not be great, but we should at least get points for a diverse range of ingredients.
Colombia – A team that gave new meaning to the phrase “it’s more than a game”. As a nation they have a history of “white line fever”, a lenient stance on drugs and yet a zero tolerance approach to “own goals”. They’ve chosen to name their team “The Coffee Growers” because judging by their dramatic history, their brand of football is sure to keep you up at night. One thing’s for sure, if they manage to make it across the finish line, it’ll be by a nose.
USA – They make us happy they didn’t choose to follow Colombia’s lead of naming their team after their chief export, because “Obese under-educated war-mongers” is a lot to fit on a Nike shirt. We can only assume that their team philosophy is the same as their national philosophy that “the best defence is a strong attack.” Exciting match-ups we want to see are with Russia and Iran. Best tips for opponents – a candy bar or smart phones in the pocket could be well-used ‘weapons of mass distraction’.
France – Not a nation known for their attack, my prediction is that shortly after their first encounter with a strong opponent, they’ll surrender, give-up their half of the field and hand over at least a third of their players. Their nickname is “The Blues” which essentially makes this group of men the second batch of Blues Brothers, and as we all know, the sequel is rarely better than the original. Things they have in their arsenal; they’re previous winners of the tournament, they’re home to some of the best players in the world and they have a star player that looks like a Bond villain.
Croatia – Chess board shirts match a chequered past. While they can’t seem to imitate Germany’s history of quality football, they did have a player suspended for the chanting of Nazi epithets before the World Cup, so that’s something. They also have more “ić’s” in their team than an Aus-Kick clinic during a lice outbreak. Another sledging tip for opponents; remind midfielder, Luka Modric, any time he goes down and complains about contact, that “this is what happens when your name, literally translated, means ‘Harbour Little Bruise’.” No confirmation as to whether striker, Ivica Olic’s dad is in fact named ‘Alko’. But will the team nicknamed ‘The Blazers” burn out suddenly or set the field alight? Whether you’re ‘pro or ante’ Croatia, you can be sure the team whose kit looks like a French restaurant table cloth, will be eager to serve-up a title-taking dish.
Switzerland – A country unlikely to kick into gear in this tournament as they’re first choice has always been ‘neutral’. A team from a nation so bland, they even managed to avoid getting Hitler offside. If you don’t believe me, they’re national team nickname is “The Schweizer Nati”, which means simply, “The Swiss National Team”. Intimidation is not in their list of powers. In fact, there’s a reason their country sounds like Disneyland… I mean… it is a “small nation after all.” They also gave the world cuckoo clocks, which I hope means there’s a good chance their keeper will step out of his box perhaps once an hour, make some noise and then go back in and not do much. Their national flag is a first aid kit, their best known army weapon is used more on scout camping trips than battlefields and they’re more likely to produce holes in cheese than in their opponents’ defence. A stable economy, a well-educated nation, a quite undramatic history; their back story just doesn’t read dramatic or romantic enough for me to believe they could make something happen at Brazil 2014.
Germany – Colder and more clinical than a Siberian doctor’s surgery they’ve faced-off with almost as many nations in war than in the world cup. Reasons to watchout for them; they have a history of football success, quest for world domination and a teamsheet of player names that read like a Nuremberg trial list of defendants. They’re team nickname “The Mannschaft” resembles a World War II tank or German word for male genitalia. That seems appropriate, because this is a team that likes to score and has proven they can penetrate the box and produce results. Free kicks against them could be an issue as they have a history of constructing big strong walls that are almost impossible to get over. They do what it takes to win, even if that means having a German team with hardly any Germans in it. Tactics you can use against them; what tactics? These people don’t get comedy, their leader has the Star Wars title of “Chancellor” and they list David Hasselhoff as a national hero. On a scale of 1 – 10 (‘10’ being “no chance of beating them”) most teams will come in at a “NEIN”.
England – If Germany resemble the guy that turns-up and gets the job done, England is the guy that draws-up a great design, gets the job, and leaves mid way through construction but vows to come back in four years to finish it off. Also, I have to point out that for a country that’s seen its fair share of war, it seems a little ironic that they’re most likely to be taken down in a penalty shoot-out. The only place where England is likely to perform worse and score fewer points is at ‘Eurovision’. You get the feeling the cup could be won, by the ‘Two Ronnies’ before the team named “The Three Lions.” They’ve certainly been England’s least successful boy band. In fairness, Katy Perry has shown more “roar”. Realistically, the toughest opponent for England at Brazil 2014 will likely be England. If World War II was fought as a football game, Londoners would definitely be speaking German.
Spain – The country who lets their football do the talking, mainly because the Spanish language means all their players speak with a lisp. They won the last World Cup and the last two European Cups, which means they’ve actually won more international competitions than many of the teams at Brazil 2014. “The Red Fury” seems like an apt nickname given how they must feel after their performance at this World Cup. Easily the most disappointing Spanish performance at Brazil 2014 after Pit Bull at the opening ceremony. The Spanish are known for a famous inquisition so it seems ironic they haven’t really asked any questions of their opponents.
Mexico – They don’t need to do anything. They’ve already given us tequila, turned chips into a main meal and own the rights to the wave most people will be doing in the stands. No matter who lifts that trophy in the end – they’re the real winners.
Argentina – One thing you can say for sure about the “White & Sky Blues” is that they’re the first to put their hand up to grab a World Cup title… literally. With Messi, Di Maria and Aguero among others, they have more stars in their team than Bosnia & Herzegovina has on its flag. And unless the lyrics, “Hello, is it me you’re looking for” give you nightmares, it’s the only time a man named ‘Lionel’ is ever going to instil fear into the hearts of any opposition. As well as being the country that brought us ‘Tango’ dancing, they’re the only national team to have had goals scored for them by Maradona and a song sung about them by Madonna – what a difference a consonant makes! Whether it it’s from the ‘hand of God’ or the ‘boot of Messi’, it’ll certainly take more than two to tango with this team.
Italy – Italy’s economic troubles are rarely as well-illustrated as at the FIFA World Cup where we see that to save money, they’ve had to combine their national football team with their national diving team. With a steady diet of pasta, pizza and garlic bread, the term “carb-loading” is etched in their culture and the “Azzuri” are ready to try and sip from the World Cup. There’s no “i” in “team”, but there is an “i” in “Italy” and even more “i’s” in their players’ names. Beware; this is a country so in love with football that they shaped their country like a boot kicking a ball. Tip to opponents; if you see an Italian striker with the ball outside the box and another inside the box in a good position, be very careful – if you believe the bible, a Roman was responsible for the first ever “cross” and it ended badly for the opposition.
Greece – If ever there was a team voted most likely to win the World Cup and then melt it down and use the gold to repay foreign debt, Greece is that team. Always assured a top spot in the “group of debt”. They’re the nation of hard rocks and soft pastries and by having midfielders with surnames like ‘Christodoulopoulos’, their biggest concern isn’t winning, but rather fitting the names on the back of their kits. Clashes to watch out for will be if they face off against Germany in a battle of the “Borrower Vs the Bank”. They’ve almost single-handedly managed to bring down Euro – the world seems the logical next step. Their team nickname is “The Pirate Ship”, one can only assume because their team consists of a group of swarthy bearded men who are on a quest for gold and speak broken English. Hot tip for anyone going up against Greece; just focus on getting at least a one-goal lead. Greece’s national track record shows they have trouble bridging a deficit. Ultimately, with a team full of players whose names end with the sound “loss”, odds are Brazil 2014 could prove to be a Greek tragedy.
And THAT folks, is the final whistle!