In which, for no good reason, I disparage a bunch of countries that probably have lots of nice people in them.
You guys, it’s World Cup season, which means it’s time to laugh at the rest of the world for caring so much about this event. Unlike the Olympics, which are our biennial (not biannual. That’s different.) chance to stick it to China and/or the USSR, America could not give a shit about this event. Like, it’s fun when we win, but then you have to celebrate with the kind of Americans who follow soccer, or as it’s known here in America, soccer. Because this is inevitable, let’s get all the soccer fan insults out of the way. They wear stupid scarves, inexplicably use “side” to mean “team,” “pitch” to mean “field,” “pace” to mean “speed,” “kilometer” to mean “0.621371” miles and annoyingly pluralize team names, as in “On a kilometer by kilometer basis, Brazil have the most pace on the pitch of any side.” Speak normally!
But back to the soccer. There are a lot of countries to keep track of in this tournament, so here’s a handy guide to the teams of the 2014 World Cup.
For a country with such a rich musical tradition, somehow this is still the song I was most quickly able to associate with Brazil.
Win or lose, Brazil’s hilariously corrupt World Cup will go down in history as being hilariously corrupt, that is, unless an interesting soccer thing happens, in which case everyone will forget the billions of dollars used to construct useless stadiums across the country, including one in the middle of the Amazon that is only reachable by plane. Even if Manaus has two million people, it shouldn’t feel like you need Indiana Jones or that adventurer dude from Jumanji to get to a soccer stadium. On the soccer side of thing, they’ve looked underwhelming so far, struggling to finish on their scoring chances and generally looking tight in front of their home crowds. (That might be the only bit of actual soccer analysis I have to give).
Did you guys know that Mexico hates America’s soccer team? It’s true! In any case, Mexico wouldn’t even be in this tournament if it weren’t for America scoring late against Panama in qualification, so you’re welcome, Mexico. I’m sure whenever the Americans make it back to Mexico, they’ll be given their traditional welcome of a golden shower.
On the plus side, their uniforms double as picnic blankets when they’re not using them (the checkerboard element is taken from the Croat Coat of Arms, which is quite the tongue twister). On the downside, I’m pretty sure that every player on their team’s last name ends with ivicisevicicicic, which can be confusing.
Cameroon, a West African nation with 22 million people, has already been eliminated, but at least they can win the World Cup of African countries whose name resembles a white dude. Oh, except for Chad. Forgot about Chad.
Only about 37% of Dutch people live in Holland, so anyone who uses those terms interchangeably is actively making the world a dumber place. The Netherlands are almost certainly the best soccer-playing country to never win a World Cup (as Spain was four years ago) and are currently rampaging through their group. Despite draping themselves in orange, their flag conspicuously doesn’t have any orange in it, which is suspicious. I should also note that “The Netherlands” is a pretty badass name, whose intimidation factor is ruined by having players with names like Robin van Persie and Nigel de Jong.
They’ve won twice, but come on. It’d take some Isabel Allende-level magical realism for them to win this thing.
They’ve already been eliminated, their championship dreams sadly flushing counterclockwise down the drain.
Defending champions Spain went out and got smoked in their first two games and have been eliminated, with only a meaningless game against Australia to go. And thank God. When they won it in 2010, their last four games were all 1-0 wins. BORING. Let’s get some hot 3-2 SOCCER ACTION going this time.
Colombia has won its first two games, but when your two primary industries are cocaine and coffee, it’s very plausible they’ll get out to a hot start and then peter out quickly.
It took me a long time to find that little hat to put on the top of their name, so I’ll be brief on the Ivorians. There’s a surprising amount of inland territory, so I’m sure when people from there travel to other places, and say “I’m from the Ivory Coast” everyone is all “Must be nice, living by the beach, surfing all the time,” and then the Ivorian guy just agrees and feels a little guilty for not correcting them by pointing out Bouake is a four and a half hour drive to the ocean.
Japan: on one hand, a forward-thinking country that has given us the widest variety of sex robots and some non-sex robots. On the other hand, an old-fashioned society so mistrustful of change that the fax machine somehow holds a sacred place in their society. I’d say this was a metaphor for how Japan is doomed at this World Cup because while it wants to push its soccer team into the 21st century, their leadership is holding them back with archaic strategic maneuvers. They also lack the kind of immigration that has replenished the rosters of its rivals. But perhaps Japan is actually going to lose because it’s not particularly good at soccer.
It’s interesting that all the swarthy deadbeats of Europe (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain, aka PIGS) are in this tournament. Maybe there’s something about racking up huge amounts of debt, then protesting that the overextended social safety net you installed is overburdened that makes you good at the ol’ footy. Greece, though, is clearly a non-contender, blowing their chance to beat Japan by getting a guy sent off with a red card in the first half. Which, by the way, sure seems like a pretty harsh penalty, to have to play with one fewer player. This just proves the point that they have too many people on the field in soccer games. They should play five-on-five. Obviously the playing field would have to be smaller, but the advantage is that you could play indoors, on wood if you like. And you should be allowed to use your hands. But then it’d be too easy to score, so the goal should be made smaller and put 10 feet in the air, and then made parallel to the ground. Yeah, those rule changes would make soccer awesome.
Costa Rica: undefeated in war and in the 2014 World Cup, with wins over perennial heavyweights Italy and Uruguay, they’ve earned safe passage into the knockout round. But their country is too pleasant to win the World Cup. It’s literally just a couple coasts. It’s everything the Ivory Coast claims to be but isn’t.
ARE YOU READY FOR A TEAM TO TAKE A LEAD, THEN PASS THE BALL AROUND, MAKE NO EFFORT TO SCORE AND THEN FLOP AT THE SLIGHTEST TOUCH FOR AN HOUR AND A HALF?!?!?!
Uruguay is the smallest country in this World Cup, with a population of 3.3 million, and though they entered as a favorite, they need a win over Italy to avoid elimination. This shouldn’t be surprising. 3.3 million people and they were expected to do well? We should be able to send the San Diego metropolitan area team to beat them. Unfortunately that is not the case as they have Luis Suarez, an excellent player who happens to be a horse-faced, biting racist. Biting really the most soccer-y way to assault someone. Even in a fight, still unwilling to use their hands.
In something of an inverse of the Holland/Netherlands situation, England is home to 83% of the United Kingdom’s population, and they have their own team, thank you very much. In any case, they’ve suffered their inevitable, hilarious elimination already, which they always seem oddly surprised by. I do say this must be the year that the pasty white guys from the cold, wet rock we live on do prevail in an athletic contest!
Ah, it sure was great when France came in last in their group in 2010 and they all feuded with each other, very Frenchly. Good memories. Unfortunately, they’ve destroyed the very mediocre competition they’ve faced thus far, setting themselves up for a different kind of failure: one in which the first good team they play beats them, and then they headbutt someone.
Isn’t it against Swiss law to participate in a competition with winners and losers? Shouldn’t they be busy with their normal activities sipping hot chocolate, hiding terrorists’ money and hunting down the monster of their own creation that killed all their friends and family? (That was a Frankenstein reference. It takes place in Switzerland, I promise).
Ecuador is just one enormous mountain and it’s named after an imaginary line that goes through it. Not impressed. You don’t see Madagascar calling itself Capricornhole or Mali calling itself Cancerland.
Honduras has the world’s second highest murder rate, being beat out only by the fictional town in Maine from Murder, She Wrote. And much like rural Maine, Honduras sucks at soccer.
Argentina has Lionel Messi who is the greatest player in the world, which is not as helpful in soccer as it should be. Because–and you may not have known this–it’s hard to score in soccer. And everyone seems to know this but the announcers. The first time I ever watched Argentina play, this happened:
That’s Argentina scoring a game-winning goal against Mexico. Everything that happens there is almost impossible. And yet as you watch these games, you’ll see something like a guy running full speed, timing his teammate’s kick from 50 yards away, and diving and trying to use his head, and if he gets even the slightest bit of separation and misses, the announcers will be all “Just a terrible, terrible header. They really let a chance go begging there. Should be one-nil.” And they’ll do this multiple times throughout the game. Haven’t these dudes watched enough soccer to know that pretty much nobody scores, ever?
It’s quite possible that Nigeria will be the only African or Asian team to advance to the knockout round, which is exciting for them. But like, come on, vast majority of the world’s population, do better. Isn’t there another good team in Africa or Asia? China, maybe?
After reviewing the tape, China is in fact, not good.
Iran has an American coach and one American player on their team. I really hope that American guy finds a way to score like seven goals and lead them to victory, just to see Fox News call for his indefinite detainment in Gitmo.
Bosnia and Herzegovina
I can’t be the only one who when pronouncing “Herzegovina” starts really strong through “Herze” and then just sorta mumbles the rest and hopes they were close enough.
They kinda deflated our luftballoons of hope by failing to beat Ghana, which would’ve put the United States in a more favorable position prior to today’s match with Portugal. One fun thing about soccer is that regardless of a team’s actual playing style, everyone will use national stereotypes to describe what they see. So get ready to hear descriptions of Germany’s tactical brilliance, cold efficiency and anti-Semitism bubbling below the surface of their placid exterior.
USA! USA! USA!
We’ve already avenged defeats to Ghana in the last two World Cups. So what’s next? First, the opportunity to put Portugal in its place as the ugly stepsister of Iberia. Nobody cares about your weird language in which everything ends in ao. Learn Spanish. Next, we have a chance to beat Germany at their second-favorite thing, having thoroughly beaten them at their favorite thing twice in the 20th century.
Only at the World Cup can it be an upset when the most powerful country in the world beats an African nation that doesn’t have enough electricity for everyone to turn on their TV’s at once.
Cristiano Ronaldo is basically the villain from every ’80s teen comedy. He’s rich, handsome, smug, soulless and unreasonably good at sports. We must destroy him.
For some reason, lots of people believe Belgium is a dark horse to win this World Cup. Belgium will not win this or any World Cup, unless we’re talking about the World Cup of weird cartoon dogs that nobody in America is interested in.
Representing our other best hope for Africa/Asia is South Korea. But really, when South Koreans want to distract themselves from the horrifyingly overcrowded metropolises they all live in, they prefer theme parks and water parks to soccer victories, thank you very much.
For how much guff Germany gets for being a bunch of Nazis, Russia sure skates by on the brutality of the Stalin regime. The lesson, as always, is that if you’re going to kill a lot of people, do it at random. In any case, groups G and H face each other in the knockout round, so if Russia and the US both advance we could get an exciting Cold War II in a sport that isn’t exceptionally popular in either country. Do you believe in minor upsets!?!??!?!
The most famous Algerian is an emotionally dead French guy who murders for no clear reason and inspired the terrible The Cure song above. Considering that most of their team is actually French and the nature oppressive heat in Brazil, we should probably keep tabs on these guys.
In conclusion, soccer.