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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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:
That, 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.
Fancy a bit of German? Warum nicht! Gutenmorgen to another goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer:
Sticking continental, here’s what la belle France has to offer.
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.
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.
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…