Remember when you passionately cared about the World Cup mascot? Me neither.
But I suppose its some sort of tradition from way back, give the kids something to cheer about.
To be fair I like the Mexican one, the Italian one was rotten and i think the Spanish was an orange??
Now we have Fuleco the Armadillo. He is supposed to represent some sort of football spirit mixed with the virtues of Brazil and conservation etc.
He looks pretty cute holding the ball like that, inviting you for a wee game of keep up but I have been informed this is a clever ruse. He actually leathers the ball off your face, momentarily stunning and incapacitating you while he rifles through your pockets and gnaws at your facial features.
If you see him prowling the Brazilian streets its best to back away slowly and empty your valuables as a method of distraction. Either that or volley him into the undergrowth before he builds any malevolent intentions.
I don’t trust him
As far as shocks go it couldn’t have been bigger or better. On paper the holders had little to fear against the Africans especially when the Indomitable Lions lost Andre Biyik to a straight red in the 61st minute. Luckily little brother Oman managed save Andres blushes by rising to meet a deflected cross. Pumpido made a rickets of a save and Cameroon held on to win an historic victory.
Roger Milla didn’t even get on.
Many may not admit it but it would terribly boring to see the Spanish win another trophy on the trot, even if they are the most pleasing on the eye. The slick inter-passing and pressing game of Barcelona may have the purists salivating but after a while it gets a bit too much and you find yourself yearning for a bit of kick and rush or high crosses into the box.
Iniesta and Xavi have ruled the roost for so long that football as a game needs a bit of change.
That’s not to say we want a total capitulation alike France in 2002 but if they were to win a 4th tournament in a row it would just be too predictable and boring.
Inevitably the team is ageing and many national mangers seem to have figured out a way to combat Barcelona ergo Spain. Whether Vincent Del Bosque can in turn reconfigure and counter this remains to be seen.
They have an abundance of quality players in Navas, Negredo and Silva at Manchester City, Alonso, Isco and Ramos at Real Madrid and Martinez and Thiago at Bayern Munich. There is Mata at Manchester United, Azpilicueta at Chelsea and a slew of world beaters at Barcelona. The only problem Del Bosque has is deciding which attackers to leave at home with Soldado, Llorente, Michu, Torres and recent call up, Diego Costa all vying for places.
Realistically Spain will be there or there abouts when it comes to the latter stages unless that is they falter alike they did against Switzerland in 2010. This time around the group seems a lot tighter and they may not get a second chance against Chile or Holland.
For many Group B has claimed the title of “the Group of Death.
It certainly looks like that for the Ozzies.
Spain, Netherlands, Chile, Australia
At first look it seems it will be a straight fight for the top spot for the two 2010 finalists : Spain and Holland but that is to severely underestimate Chile.
Chile had a very impressive qualifying campaign. Despite starting poorly they rallied to claim some impressive away wins which contributed to a 3rd place finish in the CONMEBOL table, ahead of both Ecuador and Uruguay.
In recent years they have garnered a lot of respect for their style of play, thanks mainly to a high pressing game (favoured by successful ex-coach Marco “Loco” Bielsa) that was introduced by Jorge Sampaoli. Although “La Roja” do not have the strength in depth of bigger South American nations they can count upon two fantastic forwards in Alexis Sanchez (Barcelona) and and Eduardo Vargas (Valencia). Added to this they have various layers dotted around Seria A and the EPL but their real strength comes from home based players which regularly compete with Universidad Catolica, Colo Colo and O’Higgins in latter stages of the Libertadores and Sudamerica.
For many Chile are this tournament’s dark horses if not for triumph but to reach at least the quarter finals. They will certainly need to be on form to beat either the Dutch or Spanish but it is not beyond them to take 1st spot in the group.
For those Scots who are left, again, to watch the greatest football tournament on earth at home you may be pondering on what football team to support.
Of course there are the obvious and tired choices of “anyone playing England” ie. Uruguay, Italy and Costa Rica but if you can put away comic and historical grudges there are a few teams to choose from.
I don’t anyone will begrudge Brazil support, especially if they turn on the samba style. For good reason they are the neutral’s favourite. There is also Argentina with Messi, Arguero, Tevez etc and the technically supreme Spanish (although admit it, they are boring us now).
I don’t mind the English doing well especially as they have so many Liverpool players however i can’t see them getting out of the group. The Belgians and Croatians both qualified from our qualifying group and in a roundabout way their success may reflect well upon us.
There are also a slew of minnows to go for. Costa Rica, Honduras and Algeria will all be imbued with a Scottish underdog style.
But for those who want to support a team in dark blue we have the French, who obviously trying to garner some sort of Caledonian zeal and fight have opted to play in Scottish style away shirt. It may look more like our rugby shirt but it will do, especially with a skull full of cheap ale, sitting in front of the box.
Baddiel and Skinner may have droned on about “Football coming home” years ago but in reality Brazil is the country synonymous with the beautiful game and especially the World Cup. England may have put down the origins of the game (by a gang of toffs and elitist Victorians) but it was the South Americans that gave the game skill, rhythm and beauty and it was the working class hordes that embraced and emancipated the sport.
It is no coincidence that football has left behind the likes of cricket, tennis and rugby in world popularity. Whereas the old establishment and class related sports have hung on to a degree of snobbery and exclusivity, football attracted and welcomed all, thanks in main to its inclusivity and simplicity. So in many ways Brazil is the sporting and social home of football and is truly coming home in June 2014.
Many like to argue whether or not the Copa Mundial is competing at the highest level of football, feeling that it has maybe been superseded in recent decades by the Champions League, however what is not in doubt is the fact that more people will be watching the tournament this summer than any other sports event in history. You can forget the Olympic games and its show of wealth and nationalism through niches sports, or the American only Superbowls or World Series, the World cup is tops. Although it is hard to argue that the wealthiest of nations generally participate in the WC (China, India and the Arab states being noticeable absentees) other poorer countries regularly attend and compete in Fifa’s grandest tournament. The unique qualifying system provides a degree of fairness to poorer nations and levels the playing field.
This summer when FIFA bring their grand exercise in corporate greed to the Brazil everybody will be watching, even those who hate the game. Even the Yanks and the Ozzies have fallen in love with football and its popularity is gaining on their old historical games.
5 African nations, 4 Asian, 4 Central American, 6 South American and 13 European nations will make up the 32 best teams in the world with only Oceania failing to win any representation (largely because they are all gash, apart from New Zealand). There are a couple of surprising non-qualifiers: Sweden, Denmark, Paraguay and sleeping giant Scotland but in the main all the best teams have qualified and all the best players will be on show (minus Ibra, Strootman, Eriksson, and Lewandowski).
Despite being a huge World economy Brazil still has some desperate poverty so it is not surprisingly to see the Brazilians protesting and rioting on their streets. Although Brazil is fanatical football country it will smart to see such lavish spending while much of their surroundings is desperate and dangerous. It seems as if this “bread and circuses” ploy has failed to win over the Brazilian public and much more public disobedience and opposition will follow in next few months (personally I hope that it will be restricted to the metropolises in the south, not for any fear of my safety but I imagine it will wreck travelling arrangements pre and post-match…selfish, I know).
I loved the 1986 World Cup in Mexico. Maybe its because it was the first football tournament that caught my imagination.
Scotland were there and with a fair enough squad of mainly English first division players. King Kenny pulled out due to flu but we still had Strachan, Souness, MacAvennie, Sharp, Nicol etc and Alex Ferguson at the helm. In end, not surprisingly it was a disaster with close losses against Germany, Denmark and a poor 0-0 draw against a 10 man Uruguay sending us home before the postcards….again.
Diego Armando Maradona was in his pomp and prime scoring the best goal of time and one of the most controversial, both against the English.
My favourite game had to be France vs Brazil which went all the way to penalties. There was Schumachers dreadful tackle against France. An excellent final with the Argies edging the Germans 3-2.
All in all it was a magnificent tournament.
Opening ceremonies are the greatest waste of time and money in any tournament but USA really takes the biscuit (or cookie).
Enrolling soul diva Diana Ross onto the pitch was fair enough but setting her up for goal celebration was always going to be tough.
She jogged half of the pitch, while singing then only had to roll the penalty into the net.
But like hapless England team penalty taker she totally arsed and managed to miss by a good few yards. The goalkeeper made a dramatic,looping dive and almost saved it. The goals bursting into pieces only highlights the absurdity of the moment.
Good tune though
In my opinion there has not been many players better than the famous Bulgarian. The ex-Barcelona hit man was prone to violent outbursts and moments of craziness but this shouldn’t retract from what a wonderful player he was. As he the clip shows he was a dead ball expert maybe only matched by Dejan Stankovic in deadliness from a free-kick. He was also a brilliant forward as goal poacher and creator and able to drift from midfield to attack.
His greatest tournament was USA 94 when he captained his national team to an eventual fourth place, thanks in part to his 6 goals and his wonderful free-kick against Germany in the quarter finals.
Bulgaria could do with such gifted footballer these days.
It seems like the BBC and assorted British press are a dog with a bone in regards to FIFA and the World Cup. They still can’t believe that Qatar got awarded the tournament despite their questionable attitudes towards gay people, workers conditions and the unbearable heat in their desert location (nobody has really mentioned they aren’t even a football country either). In the end the bid executive committee said those Englanders were too arrogant and entitled in the process, which is clearly impossible from such a humble and fair minded organisation like the FA. Or maybe the old commonwealth countries were getting a little jab back at 200 years of colonialism? Typically Scottish made an arse of themselves and backed the English FA when the fight was already over.
FIFA seem to stumble through one controversy after another and bat off documentaries, investigative journalist pieces, newspaper headlines and TV news segments like Brian Lara on crystal meth . If it is not Sepp Blatter blabbing some archaic opinion, its stories about shady deals and back handers between confederations and presidents. In truth its hard to see what would actually topple the “blazers” in Switzerland.
And what to England or the English footballing fraternity set to gain from it??
The FA were keen enough to cosy up to FIFA during their bid for hosting the tournament. Quite happy to spend 20 million on the whole process and roll out a grinning David Beckham to give that extra razzmatazz . Maybe they feel scorned because they were promised a proper tilt at the bidding process or even assured of a victory (which in itself would be illegal).
Even if Qatar are proved to be corrupt in their successful election as 2022 hosts the World Cup will not go to another Euro country so close after Russia in 2018 (Russia are all right by the way, they have no problems with racism or homophobia).
2026 could be their next available slot but by that time an asteroid will probably plummet into the atmosphere filling the skies with noxious gasses which shall decimate the human population but leave the good animals like lions, tigers and bears (oh…my) to roam freely and eventually set up their own World Cup.
So as FIFA “step up” their investigation into “acts of wrong doing” don’t hold out for some startling findings. The beans will not be spilled and England will not the get the World Cup any time soon.
ps. If England invite Scotland to bid as some kind of dual “we invented the game and gave it to you lot” special anniversary World Cup i retract everything above.