1st – Brazil
‘Brasil’, to football hipsters. ‘The Selecao’, to pretentious football hipsters.
I can’t wait to watch The Selecao – at home, in a World Cup, with gold emblazoned shirts – playing dynamic, powerful, expressive, samba football. It really represents triple grade A purity from a sporting point of view.
Really, they should win the whole thing. And it should be awesome. This isn’t a galacticos Brazil replete with Ronaldo, Romario, Rivaldo and the like – this is a balanced Brazil, with just the right amount of starpower and obscurity. An inevitable winner in a quarter-final is just as likely to be struck by a peripheral player from Fluminese than a Barcelona centre-forward – and that peripheral player (to white, Anglo audiences) will be a gun.
2nd – Croatia
Croatia. Red and white check shirts. Baltic. Scary. Getting bashed when you’re 14 at train stations. Stereotypes. Villains from James Bond, therefore the enemy.
Croatia are an excellent team and have a number of outstanding players they’ll be looking to for inspiration. Luka Modric is the purists’ purist – ballplayer, tight short game, expansive long game – the complete midfielder. He recently cut his highly European hair short, however, rendering his European headband unnecessary, and this could hurt.
They also have Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, Lovren – essentially a fairly star-studded Champions League team that is tailor made for tournament football, whatever that is. Certainly have the cattle to progress deep, but did get beaten by Scotland twice in qualifying – so can’t really be that good aye.
3rd – Mexico
Mexico – the non-Cancun Mexico – is the destination of choice for the cerebral tourist, and can’t you just hear the conversations amongst young, white, tertiary-qualified adults who’ve trekked it, intrepidly, over to Brasil. ‘Make sure you check out Guadalajara – it’s a beautiful little pueblo near Laguna de Chapala etc etc etc’.
Of course, Guadalajara was home to Javier Hernandez, the Mexican striker otherwise known as Chicharito or ‘Little Pea’. Hernandez, now at Manchester United, has recently been out of favour in a Mexican side that apparently carries a large split between the homegrown and European players. Hernandez however is a prolific scorer for his country and will be ultra keen to impress as he allegedly seeks a move away from the bench at Old Trafford.
Incidentally, I twice saw Hernandez play live when I was in England. I’ve never seen better movement or pace on a footballer in my life. He also comes across as really nice, so all power to him.
They also have Giovanni Dos Santos who is also good. Despite a terrible qualifying campaign, they might escape the group.
4th – Cameroon
Cameroon: The Indomitable Lions. Possibly the best moniker of any team in all sporting history.
TPA has written at length about the power of logos, and this is up there. It’s a child advocate’s dream: ‘Don’t discard the fact that, on top of being king of the jungle, if you were under any illusion as to their strength, consider the fact that they are actually indomitable.’ It’s a strong initial position, and the logo alone should put them in good stead.
They probably won’t progress. The team is rife with internal issues. Players spent 2 days on a plane before arriving in Brasil, striking over the reportedly low wages they’ll be paid at the tournament. They’ve been abject in the build up to the tournament, and their highest profile player, Samuel Eto, strikes all as one of the bigger dickflops going around.
Obviously people will hope for African flair, which deep down will be driven from white, middle class guilt and ignorant stereotypes about how Africans approach life.
I hope they do well.
By Sam Perry