Group F pits three predominantly Islamic nations against one hardcore Catholic nation.
It’s not quite Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilisations, but it’s close.
Here’s how it’s going to play out.
1st place – Argentina
Argentina are good at football.
Their players have long hair and great phonetic names. Any seasoned football fan will understand these are important attributes.
Ahn-hel Di Mah-Ria (Angel Di Maria), Pah-bloh Zah-bah-leht-tah (Pablo Zabaleta) and Mar-Tine Dee-Mee-Chel-Ees (Martin Demichelis).
On top of this, Argentinian players have technical skills and street smarts. The latter of these two is crucial when it comes to winning football tournaments.
One historic moment is instructive. Let’s take a ride back to Mexico in 1986. Argentina beat England in the Quarter Finals (in part) because their best player (and the best player in the world) Diego Maradona punched the ball into the back of the net with his hand. Not technically legal, but the referee didn’t see it, and so the goal stood.
Would an Englishman have done the same in similar circumstances? No. Because his western sensibilities and notions of gamesmanship would forbid it.
But an Argentino would, because they know how to play streetball. Like Charles Oakley, they know how to hustle. In Grade Cricket terms, they have a bit of c*nt in them.
If Argentina can bring blur the rules of football like El Diego in Brazil while still playing solid football, they will go far.
Prediction: first place and eventual World Cup winners, if they bring their bag of dirty tricks.
2nd Place – Nigeria
Every World Cup there is one African team that threatens to go all the way and win the whole damn thing.
At the cliché dictates, this team will show plenty of promise and attacking verve. There will be exciting goal celebrations and dancing. And they will make the Quarter Finals, where sadly they will be beaten by a team from a rich, European country that will be described, in thinly-veiled racial overtones, as more professional and better organised.
In 1998 this team was Nigeria. As an impressionable young man I was quite taken by Nigeria. They were exciting. They were black. They had names like Jay Jay Okocha And they wore bright green jerseys. I was adamant they would fulfil Pele’s prediction of an African team one day winning the World Cup.
I was, however, wrong. Despite dispatching with Spain and Bulgaria, they lost 4-1 to Denmark in the second round.
As a bandwagon fan of the Super Eagles, this experience burnt me. I felt like I was on a roller coaster, only to be dumped off at the end with someone else’s puke on my lap.
The same thing happened with Senegal in 2002, and then Ghana in 2006 and 2010.
As such, I wish Nigeria a moderate amount of success, but please I ask that they please don’t play well enough to get my hopes up – only to have them crashing down when they lose to a small European country in the second round.
Prediction: lose in the second round to Switzerland.
3rd Place – Iran
If the World Cup was like Eurovision, Iran would come dead last.
I don’t think I am being unfair in saying that as a country, they’re just not that popular. I guess it comes with being an international pariah and threatening to drop nuclear bombs on all of Western civilisation. People just don’t take too kindly to that kind of attitude.
The World Cup is not, however, Eurovision.
I for one am grateful for this. Every year I’ll give Eurovision a go, have a laugh at the Eastern Europeans, but will change the channel after 30 minutes. It’s just too cheesy for my liking.
My point is the World Cup is not a popularity contest. Despite this, Iran will still not win it.
Prediction: a few points here and there, but not enough to do anything remarkable.
4th Place – Bosnia and Herzegovina
I think I speak for the majority when I say I know very little about this country.
While those who lived through the 90s will be familiar with Bosnia due to the war of the same name, unless we’ve been keeping up to date with our subscriptions to the Economist, many of us will be surprised to learn that the area we once knew as Bosnia (primarily as someplace dark in the former Yugoslavia) has somewhere along the way added “and Herzegovina” to its title.
What is Herzegovina anyway? And perhaps the more important question, does the addition of Herzegovina add or detract to the footballing capabilities of the Bosnians?
The answer is, I don’t know. And this ignorance makes me uncomfortable. Mad even. Like an uneducated brute facing my own stupidity, I choose blame others for my lack of knowledge rather than facing the painful introspection required when facing up to one’s shortcomings.
I will not educate myself about Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Instead, I will award them with last place in Group F to teach them a lesson. Make me feel stupid at your own peril.
Prediction: Go home guys. I learnt geography on a map of the world that included the USSR and your existence troubles my small mind.
By Ben Shine