Ben is considering jumping on the World Cup bandwagon. I thought I’d lend a brother a hand with my guide to enjoying the World Cup. I’ve played a fair bit of football in my time, and watched as much, and played video games (including the boring ones where you manage a team). So I consider myself an expert. I was once almost a sports journalist too… if that counts.
So here’s what you’ll need to do (please note, several of these can be easily faked in order to convince your colleagues that you’re into the World Cup).
- Know the format. The World Cup has 32 teams, arriving after an extensive qualifying campaign. These teams are arranged into “groups” of four. These groups play each other once (so three games) and two teams from each group go through to the knockout round of 16, then there’s the quarter finals, then the semis, then the final.
- Know that the World Cup is a big deal. It’s the biggest event in the world. It has history. We’re just late to the party.
- Call the game “football” for extra snob points, and insist others do the same.
- Know your team. Presumably you’re an Australian. So picking the team you’re going to support has only been this easy twice before. Australia plays a pretty physical brand of the game, low on skill (arguably) high on passion (read “aggression”). We’re marathon runners, not sprinters. It’s tortoise and hare stuff…
- Decorate your office, your cubicle, your car, and your home. If you want to avoid awkward conversations with colleagues that might reveal your ignorance the more over the top the better. Framed jerseys on your cubicle wall are a great idea. Nobody will talk to you if you appear more fanatical about it than they are. Green and gold streamers are the order of the day. Soccer ball hair cuts are also pretty good.
- Practice your cliches. This is sport. Puns about foreign players’ names are fair game. Sporting cliches are a must.
- Know the rules of football, or at least the ones where people commonly yell at the ref and debate points of order. The offside rule is a big one. Before someone passes the ball the player they pass to must have two players between them and the goal (usually one is the goalkeeper). The people responsible for upholding this law are the linesmen (or referee’s assistants). Yell at them whenever they make a call, or don’t make a call, whichever one is in your team’s favour. Any time a player from the other team does something that looks a little nasty to one of your players yell “CARD HIM” at the TV. It doesn’t help. Yellow cards are called “bookings” they’re a warning, though if you get enough you get suspended. Red cards are send offs and automatic suspensions. Two yellow cards = a red. Anytime one of your players gets tackled in the box in front of the goals yell “PENALTY.” That box is the 18 yard box – it’s marked with lines, there’s a second, smaller box, the six yard box, that only indicates where goal kicks are taken from. Goal kicks are taken when an attacker kicks the ball over the back line.
- Pick your second team. Lets face it. It’ll be a miracle if Australia make it past the group stage. They’ve got probably the second toughest group in the competition. I’ll include a guide to teams that might win it (because who wants to back a loser?) below.
- Practice pronouncing foreign names credibly. There’s probably a pronunciation guide somewhere.
- Pick a third team, a likable underdog. It’s not us. We’re not likable. We’re bullies and whingers. Mostly. African teams get bonus likability points this time around because the cup is in South Africa. New Zealand are likely to go very badly. Honduras is my third team.
- Remember that the games are televised at 12am and at 4.30am. Familiarise yourself with the TV schedule, don’t try to watch two games in one night if you have a day job. Unless you can get your boss into it.
The ten teams I think might have a chance of winning (in no particular order)
- Brazil – tend to win every couple of World Cups, it’s probably their turn.
- Spain – they have two great strikers (Torres and Villa).
- Argentina – they have the best player in the world (Messi) and a couple of decent attackers. Otherwise they’re pretty average. If Messi fires in the big games they’ll be right.
- Portugal – they have Cristiano Ronaldo, who some believe is better than Messi. They came fourth last time around.
- France – finalists last time around, winners in 1998, don’t have Zidane this time around.
- Italy – the reigning champions
- The Netherlands – play a nice brand of football.
- C’ote D’Ivoire – I had to pick an African team, if Drogba, their striker, is fit, they’ll be a tough team to beat. But they are in the group of death – with Brazil and Portugal.
- Greece - they won Euro 2004 six years ago, but are really only in this list to pad it out to ten so that I can then insult England by leaving them out…
- Germany – they’re in our group, they have no superstar but a bunch of 8/10 type players who work with German efficiency.
Don’t back England. They never win. They show such promise, and then are rubbish. Players have brain explosions and get sent off, their strikers forget how to shoot, Murphy’s law applies to England in World Cups.