10 June 2010
So then, where were we? The World Cup is where we were, second only to Christmas in the things I look forward to with an almost preternatural enthusiasm. And following my laser-like forecasting of the race for fourth I am prepared, in my position as a football expert, to offer you an insight into just how this tournament will play out for every team involved.
Right, we’ll do this team-by-team in group order. Stick the kettle on, get yourself a cup of tea and a Hob Nob and we shall begin.
South Africa: the hosts will quite possibly not score a goal and get their collective buttocks handed to them by all and sundry. Vuvuzelas will become permanently associated with crushing failure, a bit like if Darren Bent owned a kazoo.
France: an early loss to Uruguay will set the tone for a horrific group stage for Les Bleus. In-fighting, much shrugging and an all-pervading sense of ennui will be instantly forgotten when Raymond Domenech sensationally proposes marriage to Patricia Routledge seconds after his charges crash out of the competition.
Mexico: the world will finally notice that Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s trick of leaping tackles with the ball wedged between his feet is not in fact an outrageous piece of skill but rather something children do in the mistaken belief it has any place on a football field. Arsenal fans see Carlos Vela for the first time and weep. Out in the second round.
Uruguay: Diego Forlan and Luis Suarez will form the most lethal non-scoring partnership in world football, endlessly looking the part as they crash the ball past the post. Could go far in the tourney. Obviously won’t.
Argentina: despite boasting one of the most potentially terrifying attacking line-ups in football history, Maradona decides to play it safe and start with one up top. That one being Martin Palermo. Lionel Messi spontaneously combusts in the quarter-finals as yet another through ball trickles into touch. Diego Milito breaks the world frustration record on the bench.
Greece: little more than an excuse for commentators to hark back to their baffling European Championships victory. Nobody notices their exit in the group stages.
Nigeria: could this be the year an African team lifts the World Cup for the first time? No, no it couldn’t.
South Korea: could be dreadful, could somehow find themselves in the semi-finals after a series of baffling refereeing decisions. Dreadful it is then.
Algeria: the comedy side of the tournament. Multiple sendings-off, hilarious goalkeeping errors and the most porous defence since Derby County stunned the Premiership. Raise their game only to scare the knackers off England.
England: the slightly older Golden Generation limp through to the quarter-finals with their sickeningly inevitable brand of football which is never, EVER, as good as you hope it will be. Brief optimism is crushed when they pretend they might beat a decent side in the round of eight only to get men behind the ball in the second half and be taught a cruel footballing lesson. The tabloids find a foreign scapegoat and all is well once more.
Slovenia: something about such a tiny nation doing so well to qualify once again. Functional, uninspiring. Give England a scare, as they are contractually obliged to.
USA: a draw with England in their first game will raise expectations on the uncomplicated side of the Atlantic and suddenly the nation is gripped with World Cup fever. The sense of outraged self-pity when they are bundled out by a clear four goals in the next round can be felt across the globe. Silent delight rules the tournament for a day.
Australia: the Socceroos fare poorly despite their belief that their all-conquering qualification campaign for the tournament should stand them in good stead. When it’s pointed out that their route to South Africa saw them tackling the might of Qatar, Bahrain and Uzbekistan toy kangaroos are launched from a cork-fringed pram. England’s Ashes team will live to regret their amusement.
Germany: worryingly good and make the latter stages playing exciting football. A nation rebels and a dour performance in the semis in line with governmental orders leads to their exit. National stereotypes satisfied, Joachim Loew is sacked and Jens Lehmann assumes the top job. Cue the madness.
Ghana: nope, still not time for an African side to lift the World Cup. Pele knows nothing.
Serbia: cruise through to the second round only to suffer at the hands of an exceptionally spawny England. British television commentators revel in the chance to patronise one of Europe’s young nations despite the Serbians playing markedly better football and deserving to progress. All is as it should be.
Cameroon: I don’t care if you are Roger Milla, it still isn’t time for an African team to win the World Cup.
Denmark: name a Danish player, go on, right now. Nicklas Bendtner. That’s right. That’s how well Denmark are going to do.
Japan: the Japanese will stun the world with their remarkably physical approach to the game. And they’ll qualify for the second round from a tricky group. And I’m not just saying that to make England’s pathetic performance against them in Graz look even vaguely acceptable. That’s the last thing I’d be doing.
Netherlands: should have no problems qualifying from their group. Should have no problems but inevitably will. They’ll hold it together long enough to go out in the quarters or semis. Gio van Bronckhorst and Khalid Boulahrouz are still playing though, for God’s sake. Bronckhorst is older than me and I can barely breathe most days. It can’t end well.
Italy: handed a plum group draw, the Italians will of course make a meal of qualifying for the knockout stages. They’ve got a cracker in them though. One magnificent, glorious performance. Then out in the subsequent round. It’ll be brilliant. Look at his face, just look at his face.
New Zealand: what are you doing here? Really? Come on now, we’ve all had a good drink and we can all take a joke, but seriously, what’s going on?
Paraguay: every World Cup a South American side are tipped to make a massive impact and do the thick end of sod all. This could be Paraguay’s year.
Slovakia: like Slovenia but slightly more likely to qualify for the next round. They won’t though. Martin Skrtel, he’s Slovakian isn’t he? I’m pretty sure I’ve heard of Marek Hamsik as well. But I may have dreamt that.
Brazil: I have this terrible, terrible feeling that Brazil might win this one. And not in a nice Brazilian way, in a Dunga way. Football with a flat-topped buzz cut and a bad jacket. That kind of football. I think I’d be sick if they did that.
Ivory Coast: the African side most likely to get people over-excited about a potential emerging to vindicate Pele. But, as we know, Pele is never right and they’ll crash out at some point.
North Korea: anything could happen. To be quite honest I’m too scared to comment further.
Portugal: they could really struggle you know. And how funny would it be to see Cristiano Ronaldo bid to take every game by the scruff of the neck and fail in an explosion of petulance. His odd little face twisted in rage. Very funny. So let’s all hope for that.
Chile: have been tipped as a dark horse by many. I’m assuming proper football people know more than I do, so I’m tipping them as my dark horse. I’m a football expert, I said so earlier.
Honduras: Wilson Palacios plays for Honduras. I know that much. He looks a bit like a hamster. Honduras, a nation of hamsters. No chance.
Spain: the received wisdom is that Spain are by far the best team in the tournament and so will win it. This will not happen because, frankly, this is Spain we’re talking about and they simply will not perform in one game. Then they’re out. And sodding Brazil will bleeding well win it. A-chuffing-gain.
Switzerland: I’m neutral on this one. LOL.
So there you have it. Your guide to the World Cup and the most accurate forecast of the outcome of the tournament you will find anywhere on the internet.
But enough of this nonsense. It’s the World Cup. THE WORLD CUP. Let us all join hands and celebrate the fact we live in a universe where the World Cup can happen.