Your guide to the World Cup!

Hi everyone! Yes, in just over a week’s time, the World Cup kicks off in Brazil! You know! The FOOTBALL World Cup! Or soccer, as you so cutely insist on calling it.

But it’s come to my attention that some people don’t even know it’s happening. That’s cool. You do you, some people. What I thought might be helpful though, is a little cut-out-and-keep guide to the one of the most-watched sporting events in the world.

2014

So this year’s tournament begins on 12th June, in Sao Paolo, as hosts Brazil take on Croatia. 32 teams are taking part, all hoping to emulate Spain, winners in South Africa back in 2010.

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They’re divided into eight groups of four; the top two teams from each group go through to the round of 16, and so on, and so on, until Brazil play Spain in the final, and Spain win again. JK!

Protests

Not everyone in Brazil is thrilled to have the tournament in their back yard. Many people object, understandably, to the great expense of hosting the competition – £7.6bn, or $12bn – in a country that has huge poverty and inequality. Nearly one in 10 people live on less than $1.50 a day, according to The Economist, and even if President Roussaeff has announced reforms, that’s not stopped protests from rocking host cities.

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Street artist Paolo Ito created this image, which has been shared thousands of times, and sums up how many Brazilians feel about the World Cup. Which is not to say that Brazilians do not love football – they do. But many would have preferred to see far, far less spent on a sporting event. Even legends like Pele, who won the World Cup three times with Brazil, have condemned the cost:

“It’s clear that politically speaking, the money spent to build the stadiums was a lot, and in some cases was more than it should have been… Some of this money could have been invested in schools, in hospitals … Brazil needs it.”

Teams to watch / teams not to watch

But so the thing is going to happen, and while we all hope that it draws some attention – and help – to people who need it, we should enjoy the games too, mindfully. I’m not a gambler, and probably you shouldn’t be either, what with your addictive personality, but the bookmakers have the host nation installed as favourites.

After that, unsurprisingly, it’s Spain, and then France – quite unexpected, as you can never be sure which French team will turn up: the mercurial geniuses, or the moody sods.

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That said, I think the World Cup is going to run relatively true to form this year. I don’t expect too many upsets – which means you can pretty much give up on England now. Costa Rica and Belgium you probably want to avoid in the office sweepstake too.

Players to watch (aka. Football Fitties)

I am in no way suggesting that anyone out there would watch a match because there was an attractive player taking part. Goodness me no. But let’s say you did… these would be the reasons why…

Let’s kick off with a man who – oh god the eyes:

 photo download_zps064461b1.jpgThat, boys and girls, is Senor Iker Casillas, Spain’s goalkeeper and also captain. Iker is known to weep at both wins and losses – of course playing for Spain, he knows far more about the former than the latter. This man’s stats are amazing. But more importantly, oh god the eyes.

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but England is bringing a bit of decent rough to the tournament. Jack Wilshere is a man who started out looking like he would probably steal your car, but now that he can afford to buy not just you but everyone in your street three cars each, he’s another Football Fittie.

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Fancy a bit of German? Warum nicht! Gutenmorgen to another goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer:

 photo Manuel-Neuer_zps87d9328d.jpgIf you love a random fact as much as I do, you’ll be pleased to learn that Manuel was one of the voices in the German version of Monsters University! So not just a pretty face, also a… scary voice?

Sticking continental, here’s what la belle France has to offer.

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Welcome back to Karim Benzema, who has had some difficult questions to answer in recent years but seems to be back to something like his best footballing form, and I’m picking him on that and his face, even if his alleged exploits are not pleasant. I fear though, that his beard is a sign of things to come – this is going to be a World Cup of Facial Hair.

And an honourable mention must go to Yohan Gourcuff.

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The French fittie is sadly unable to take part in this year’s World Cup, because he twisted his ankle walking his dog. His dog’s gain is our deep, deep loss.

The women’s tournament

I’m not leaving out the women’s competition – it’s just that there isn’t one, not till next year when it’ll be played in Canada. Japan were the champions back in 2011, with Germany having taken the previous two titles. You’d be a fool not to back either of those teams, but of course the USA, Brazil and Spain can never be written off.

Sweepstake?

If you’ve made it this far, then a) thank you, and b) congratulations! I thought I might run a Vgum sweepstake – I don’t know if there are 32 of us, but we can always double up? If you want in, leave a note in the comments, and before the tournament starts I will draw your name and the name of a country out of a hat, then post who got what. There’ll be no prize except bragging rights, as logistically collecting the money from you all is going to be a bit tricky. If no one wants to play I won’t be offended. But I won’t forget, either…

About gnidrah

Television, books, music, sports, cooking. I only get paid for one of them. (Update: two of them!)
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54 Responses to Your guide to the World Cup!

  1. Andrea says:

    I think Robin van Persie also needs to be on your pretty boy watch list, I have a friend who defected from Arsenal just because of him, he’s amazing haha. I’ll totally join your sweepstakes so long as I don’t get Australia.. .I’m betting that nobody will be betting on Australia this year, pretty sure we’ll be lucky to score a goal let alone even draw with somebody in Group B!

    • gnidrah says:

      I have ex-boyfriend-related reasons to fiercely hate anyone even remotely connected to Arsenal, but I’ll agree he’s a cracking player.

  2. Ooh, I want to play! Also, hello again, Team Spain. I very much enjoyed looking at you in 2010.

  3. catweazle says:

    Oh I was so hoping this would include pics of hot footballmen and you did not disappoint. Soccer (sorry) is the only sport I will watch without grumbling because it has the hottest dudes. Based just on pictures I have to cheer for Spain!

  4. artdorkgirl says:

    I also want in on this team pool. I know nothing about Football, but knowing nothing has never stopped me from talking about things before!

  5. FRQ says:

    I’m sure having the Olympics in Rio two years from now isn’t helping quell the protests.

    Also I’m totally in for the sweepstakes. I love participating in arbitrary contests involving sports I know little to nothing about (see March Madness).

    • gnidrah says:

      No, agreed, 100%. I am all for opening things up to new territories, but perhaps there has to be more in the way of subsidies. It’s not like FIFA / the IOC don’t have any cash lying around…

      • Simon Spidermonk says:

        I read an article recently about how the preparations for the Olympics in Rio are so ridiculously behind schedule that the Olympics committee responsible for overseeing them have basically thrown up their hands and started laughing insanely. So should be interesting.

        • Simon Spidermonk says:

          Pff, way to grammar, dummy.

        • gnidrah says:

          The rumour was, they asked London to be on standby to host again. But they say that every year. That said, the IOC has put a man on the ground to oversee, something they have never done before.

  6. flanny says:

    I also want to join the sweepstakes. I hope I get a team with green jerseys!

  7. Sota says:

    I want to play! Well…I want to play with a few of those pretty boys above, but I will settle for a Vgum pool instead. 🙂

  8. Spain and the Netherlands are playing in Round 1 on Friday 13. WATCH IT. The Dutch will be looking for revenge.

    Also, I’m probably cheering for Mexico and the Netherlands, since there is no way the USA is making it out of their bracket.

  9. We’re gonna lose 😦

  10. I can’t decide if I want the Spanish guy or the French guy more, so I guess I’ll just take them both. And I totally want to play the game!

  11. old man fatima says:

    I always back Brazil because of my undying love for Nelson Dida (who hasn’t even played for Brazil in ages), but as they’re hosting I feel it would be sort of gauche to cheer them on? Plus, no Dida. So I’m going to back my #2, Mexico, and my #3, Norway. Let’s go Mexico and Norway, and not Brazil because if you win the one time I’m not cheering for you I will be so, so pissed!

    • old man fatima says:

      And also, I’d like in the pool. I had better not get Brazil…

    • gnidrah says:

      Sadly, Norway did not qualify this year. Actually it was pretty bad for all my Scandinavian pals, as neither Denmark, nor Sweden, nor Finland are in either. Pick another sexy Euro team (and I’m 100% picking one for you as well)

      http://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/football/world-cup/2014/schedule/group-stage

      • old man fatima says:

        Whaaaaat? I guess the Flo family have all retired by now, hey? I’ll back Ghana, then. They get points for most improved, they get better every year and they seem to genuinely enjoy themselves on the field more than a lot of the other teams. I can get behind that!

  12. whatisabadger says:

    I’m in too! I may know nothing about soccer, or even trash talk, but I know A LOT about handsome athletes. (what I know about them is that I like them a lot)

    • artdorkgirl says:

      Your handy guide to trash talk: when some says something about your team just reply back “your mom’s _______”. So like: “your team’s a bunch of floppers,” “Oh yeah, your mom’s a flopper.” Voila! Trash talk.

      • whatisabadger says:

        Who knew it was so easy! Perhaps as easy as…..YOUR MOM??? (nailed it.) (I hope you don’t mind me getting an early start on the trash talk. Just testing the waters.) (I don’t think you’re supposed to apologize for trash talk, either)

  13. catweazle says:

    Oh I guess I am in for the contest too as long as it doesn’t require actually watching any of the games!

    • gnidrah says:

      None whatsoever. I go, “Catweazle, you got Uruguay” (for example) and then you sit back and wait for Uruguay to win/lose – which I will tell you too, because I WILL be watching, despite time zone differences meaning most games start at 11pm here!

  14. mordonez says:

    I am also in. Also, I’m looking to get around to this episode of Hang Up and Listen that includes an apparently illuminating interview for those who want to know “what was Klinsmann doing leaving off the only current-ish American footballer I’ve ever heard of”. It is here:

    http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/hang_up_and_listen/2014/05/landon_donovan_cut_hang_up_and_listen_on_the_nba_playoffs_the_u_s_team_s.html

    Psyched for the pool–I won actual honest-to-god money on the whole “pick a pope” thing when Benedict abdicated.

    • gnidrah says:

      Ahhh that’s interesting, I’ll have a listen, thanks. I guess Landycakes is just a bit old now?!

  15. hotspur says:

    I am a huge fan of World Cup soccer — on the American scale, which means I will watch 3-5 of the 1200 games, and those mainly because (given time zones) it’s an excuse to drink Guinness with breakfast. It also means I can explain offsides to other Americans EMAIL YOUR OFFSIDES QUESTIONS TO ME IF GNIDRAH IS IN THE WEEDS.

    And count me in on the sweepstakes. As long as I don’t get Slovakia as they are a bunch of elbow-throwing cheaters and also won’t win.

    • mordonez says:

      I’m available to explain hockey offsides, in case it comes up. Actually no, I’ll be over here weeping (not weeping) because of the stupid L.A. Kings. I’ll just say this–your team should not be allowed to advance if it loses the TV ratings to the opposing city by 15-20 points a game.

    • Last World Cup I watched the USA/Algeria game and the England/Slovenia game while drinking Guinness and eating an Irish breakfast at a pub. It was wonderful. And so was Donovan’s goal (which, btw, he’s not on the team this year?)

  16. nastyemu says:

    Oooh, I’m in if there are still places left! I’ll even share!

  17. mrsberesford says:

    I’m in for the pool! I can’t wait to find out who I get so I can try to rhyme things with it!

  18. Please count me in, if I’m not too late! I always pay (slightly more than passing) attention to the World Cup. It’ll be a lot more fun if I’m invested in one of the teams (I mean, other than the USA, but, y’know…).

  19. Commentatrix says:

    The European part of me is so in! The part of me that doesn’t “get” sports fandom is a little indifferent. But all parts of me loved this post and Thenor Cathillath’s warm brown eyes! Olé!

  20. flanny says:

    I’m so excited about the World Cup now, yesterday I watched a Sports Center (?) segment about the 5 best young players in the World Cup. But they never showed their faces, just them playing. That’s no help at all!

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