It’s been labeled ‘the group of death’ – which isn’t nearly as realistic a moniker as what some participants at this year’s World Cup may actually face when they get home after an unsuccessful campaign.
Nevertheless, a group with Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the USA could prove to be the most fascinating of this year’s tournament.
1st – Germany (FIFA Ranking: 2. Known for: Atrocities, sausages)
Even when they’re bad, they are so good. It’s the German efficiency and mechanical-like precision that makes any German anything unbelievably hard to resist.
Can we just pause for a moment and appreciate that Germany, a silly little country with numerous borders, managed to hold the entire world hostage for six years during the 1930-40s?
Sure, that was due to a maniac with an agenda, as it usually is, but it does speak to the efficiency, adaptability and ruthless execution of plans that sporting institutions strive for.
Saying that, what a remarkably friendly people the Germans are. I once ended up on a plane to Frankfurt from London Gatwick after/during a heavy night of drinking. For some reason I had my passport with me and, on a dare, jumped on the last Easyjet flight of the night.
I can tell you now, there’s not much kicking off around Frankfurt airport at 2am on a Sunday morning. The next morning I awoke in a hotel and had the most glorious German sausage for breakfast served to me by a heavy-set women whose name could surely only have been ‘Helga’. We did not keep in touch.
But back to the football. Even when they were West Germany they were winning World Cups and making finals – and although 2010’s squad was largely made up of no name youngsters just looking to not be embarrassed, they still finished third!
That year, in South Africa, they lost 1-0 in the semi-final to eventual winners Spain. The South American locale of this year’s event will prove a significant one, and you can expect to see a number of teams from the region progressing through, but Germany will almost definitely top this group regardless. Their team is packed full of superstars with fun names to say (like Bastian Schweinsteiger) and they will be a joy to watch.
2nd – The United States of America (FIFA Ranking: 13. Known for: Guns, obesity, getting it wrong)
Take your pick with this one. Choosing second place here is like choosing whom you’d sleep with first: Kate or Pippa [Middleton]. I’ve gone for the USA because they’re in a nice little run of form but deep down i know that they’re shit and won’t really deserve to go through and when they do go through they’ll be absolutely no chance of progressing any further. They’ll weasel it. I know they’ll fucking weasel it.
The runner up of this group plays the winner of Group H, which will likely be Belgium, I suspect. Jozy Altidore is their main goal-scorer and he scored his first goal this morning in 27 matches. They’re shit, but a big part of me thinks they’ll go through.
Football is weird in America. Everything, from gun control to food servings, is weird in America. USA ’94 was the first World Cup I remember. I was 8 and watched Oprah Winfrey running the opening ceremony as Diana Ross famously “epic failed” in her attempt to execute a penalty.
Somewhat ironically, Italy’s Roberto Baggio did exactly the same as he missed the crucial penalty in the final, handing Brazil the trophy. Symmetry, hey? Football is a struggling game in America that, similarly to the A-League here in Australia, still relies on ageing superstars to market the game; to make it feel relevant. The US don’t deserve to go through, but I just think they will.
3rd – Portugal (FIFA Ranking: 4. Known for: Cristiano Ronaldo, Madeleine McCann)
Two words. Cristiano Ronaldo. If Portugal were any good, they would have swept through qualification in a canter. Instead, they needed a playoff against Zlatan Ibrahimovic (formerly known as Sweden). Ronaldo scored a quite scintillating hat-trick to secure their place in Brasil in the dying minutes of that match and it’s that kind of one-man-show which I’d like to see get through the latter stages of this tournament.
I love it when one guy takes over, like LeBron James in the 4th, or Willie Mason in Coffs Harbour (allegedly).
Their next best player, you’d have to say, is the very much hit-and-miss Nani from Manchester United. He is Shaun Marsh in every capacity: zero or a hundred. Expect very little from Nani or any of Cristiano’s teammates. There’ll be a lot of Kobe Bryant about Ronaldo in this World Cup. Lots of throwing his hands up at team mates for not passing it to him and an even greater lack of passing by Cristiano.
4th – Ghana (FIFA Ranking: 37. Known for: Kofi Annan, high crime rates)
Ghana has actually knocked the US out of the past two World Cups, but I can’t see that happening this time. Kevin Prince-Boateng will hold the key in midfield for ‘The Black Stars’. He has about 38 tattoos, a private jet and an awful injury record – which his fiancé believes is down to their sex life. He’s also known to properly kick-off on just about anyone, so here’s hoping that happens early to give us something to laugh and shake our heads at.
They’ll have a striker up front, Asamoah Gyan, who is reportedly earning $200,000 a week without tax in the backwaters of UAE’s league too, so who’s to say he won’t drive onto the pitch in a gold plated tank or something equally ridiculous.
One thing we do know about Ghana is they bloody love to run. They will be among the most athletic teams, of any sport, you are likely to see on a world stage. They are tremendous athletes capable of the sublime and the obscene. Which way it will turn out for them will be a matter of mental application. UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan best be in the dressing rooms to keep heads cool.
By Ian Higgins