1st – FRANCE (FIFA Ranking: 16. GDP: US$2.6 trillion)
It is a given that France will progress through to the second round. Historically, France, unlike Switzerland, is a perfect example of a country tailor-made for football. Here’s why:
1) French intellectuals were pivotal in the European movement known as the Enlightenment; therefore the French have a strong history of intellectualism and forward-thinking, which is clearly evident in the way they play football;
2) In 1789, the French conducted a successful revolution, with Guillotines and shit; therefore, the French are scrappy;
3) The French enjoy the finer things in life – be they food, wine or fashion – therefore the French are aesthetes;
These three traits – intellectualism, scrappiness and an appreciation for aesthetics – are why the French will remain a force to be reckoned with. To think otherwise would be silly. Don’t think otherwise.
If you came here to read a reasoned, balanced article on the teams in Group E, you might as well stop reading right now, FYI.
2nd – HONDURAS (FIFA Ranking: 30. GDP: US$18 billion)
I lived there for a few months and got to know a bit about the Honduran mindset. Hondurans are resilient, aspirational people; however, life is challenging, and lacking in opportunity.
I was traveling on a bus one day in the city of La Ceiba, when two men boarded the vehicle and proceeded to hold the majority of travelers up at gun-point. Luckily, I was at the back of the bus and managed to avoid this stick up (a good thing, given I was likely the only person carrying anything of material worth).
But the silent acquiescence of the passengers, who swiftly handed over their valuables up without protest; the fact that the fully cognisant bus driver continued on-route to his destination, as if this was a daily occurrence (it may well be) – these memories remain with me today and shape the way I think about Honduras.
Hondurans know that getting held up on a bus is no big deal in the big scheme of things. Disputes can and will be settled by kidnapping the offender in the middle of the night, taking him out to a pineapple field and decapitating him with a machete. Word will subsequently get around that this particular fellow is not to be trifled with.
The Honduran team has a couple of international stars, including the EPL’s Wilson Palacios. They’re a good solid team. I’m backing them to sneak through to the Round of 16, mainly because I think the Swiss are soft.
3rd – SWITZERLAND (FIFA Ranking 8. Net Worth US$632 billion)
Despite its geographically central position within Europe, landlocked by some of the biggest footballing powerhouses in the region, Switzerland does not – and never will – scream dominance.
If you look at the history of the World Cup, you will see that the most successful countries have been those ravaged by war, both civil and international… or have at least engaged in warfare of some description.
Pain is helpful in that it helps bind a nation together. It’s an incredibly effective narrative device, really. In Australia’s case, we draw upon World War I, where British forces sent our troops into Gallipoli, a strategic error that yielded a large-scale loss of life.
Today, AFL and NRL marketing types alike opportunistically leverage this occasion, with the ‘ANZAC spirit’ now synonymous with Jobe Watson racking up 30 disposals against the Pies at the G.
My point is that, even though Australia has enjoyed a largely prosperous and conflict-free 200 years or so (discounting the systemic Aboriginal genocide because, well, that’s an inconvenient truth for the point I’m trying to make – and hey, we celebrate ‘Indigenous Round’ so at least there’s that, right?), we still draw upon our hardships in order to succeed as a nation.
But the Swiss don’t have that. Instead, that have a different arsenal to draw upon: their anal-like precision.
Roger Federer and Stan Warwinka have the purest backhands in tennis. They have grown up playing on clean, pure tennis courts. Tennis is an expensive sport in Switzerland, with the cost of renting a court ranging up to CHF$70 per hour. Presumably, these courts are well maintained.
And when you play on a well-maintained sporting field – be it a tennis court, a private golf course or a well-groomed cricket oval – you feel more professional, and your style of play is more elegant and generally better.
But football is different to tennis. You cannot survive on purity and cleanliness. It is a team sport and, as such, you need several different elements. You need attacking flair, defensive nous and an intelligent midfield. You need desperation. You have to play ugly at times.
In other words, you can’t have 11 equally anal individuals on a soccer team. The Swiss’ propensity for anal-play is thereby suited to individual sports such as tennis.
4th – ECUADOR (FIFA Ranking: 28. GDP: US$84 billion)
Ecuador does have one world-class player, Manchester United’s Antonio Valencia, but it will likely not be enough. They will miss the firepower provided by Christian Benítez, who sadly died last year from a heart attack.
Football aside, I’m comfortable admitting that I don’t know shit about Ecuador. The only thing I really do know is that their national currency is the US dollar. The US dollar! Shit, dog. Embracing the Greenback – that just makes sense!
Still, there’s something mildly embarrassing about a non-European country that doesn’t even its own form of currency. Even Honduras – a country that fucking aspires to be everything American – has the limpiera. It’s a worthless piece of shit currency, sure, but its theirs.
By Dave Edwards