I Wish I Could Play for Both Teams

I Wish I Could Play for Both Teams

FIFA World Cup Brasil

First, let’s go to the rich mahogany rugby desk where we find lots of excuses for the Highlanders suffering an unexpected home loss to the Force last weekend. A narrow two-point loss will have knocked their confidence a bit but it was close and every cloud has a silver lining (and all those other well worn sports clichés that could be invoked here). They will just have to take it one game at a time. The reality is that it’s early days of a long season so I will not abandon ship at this early point.

However, I will allow myself to say – even if it is at the risk of starting off the process to joining the Chiefs’ bandwagon – Waikato are looking strong.
Actually, I have always supported the Chiefs – in a roundabout kind of way. When I was younger I didn’t really understand what the Waikato was. I just knew I was geographically obligated to hate the Crusaders and I didn’t like the Blues and the Hurricanes because they were the evil big cities. So I would always support the Chiefs when they weren’t playing the Highlanders. (There, not a bandwagon jumper – although I am definitely not a Breakers fan anymore ... )

This week we continue the road to Brazil with a look at the very tough Group B that contains both finalists from the previous World Cup. While it has not been given official “group of death” status yet, stay tuned for that in a few weeks.

Next week we will continue our football “analysis” and have an “in-depth” look at the UEFA Champions League that is shaping up very nicely.

UEFA - Union of European Football Associations
Population: 47 million
Currency: Euro
Capital: Madrid
Language: Their nickname – La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”) – has been warranted recently.
FIFA World Ranking: 1st
Qualified: Winner of qualifying Group I
Fun Fact: They’re the only team in history to have won three consecutive major tournaments: World Cup 2010 and Euro 2008 and 2012
History: They’ve had a pretty easy qualifying run but lost the Confederations Cup final to Brazil.
Key Players: Barcelona provides an experienced spine for the team with Xavi, Iniesta and Fabregas. The Manchester City trio of Silva, Navas and Negredo shows the depth they have.
Prediction: Are among the favourites but some tired old legs will catch up with them in a semi-final loss to the eventual winner..

UEFA - Union of European Football Associations
Population: 17 million
Currency: Euro
Capital: Amsterdam
Language: The team is often informally, and incorrectly, referred to as Holland by many.
FIFA World Ranking: 11th
Qualified: Winner of qualifying Group D
Fun Fact: Dirk Kuyt could reach 100 caps during the group stages if he plays all three games. Wesley Sneijder can also bring up a hundy if the “Flying Dutchmen” make it to next round.
History: Went from being runners up in 2010 to not making it out of their group at Euro 2012, but recently went undefeated in qualifying for Brazil.
Key Players: Manchester United striker Robin van Persie, who was the overall top scorer in World Cup qualification with 11 goals, has the firepower to win big games.
Prediction: A very solid squad that should go through. They will be a threat in the knockout stages but won’t make it back to the final.

CONMEBOL – Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol
Population: 18 million
Currency: Peso
Capital: Santiago
Language: in Spanish, fans call them La Roja (“the red one”).
FIFA World Ranking: 15th
Qualified: third place in the South American group.
Fun Fact: Consistency without any major success recently makes them the Arsenal of international teams.
History: Best result is an irrelevant third place in 1962 when they hosted the tourney. They have recently beat England in London.
Key Players: Arturo Vidal of Juventus and Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez are capable of producing game changing moments. (Well, they do on FIFA 14.)
Prediction: The dark horses of the group. The “South American home ground advantage” could benefit them.

AFC – Asian Football Confederation
Population: 23 million
Currency: “Aussie dollar”
Capital: Canberra
Language: Their nickname – the “Socceroos” – is derived from an uneducated-sounding understanding of English.
FIFA World Ranking: 63rd
Qualified: Finished as runner up of Asian Group B
Fun Fact: In 2006 they became the first team to qualify for the World Cup via a penalty shoot-out when they beat Uruguay 4 - 2 in Sydney.
History: Only two wins from their three previous World Cup appearances. Recently were thrashed 6 - 0 by both Brazil and France.
Key Players: I like their captain Mile Jedinak who plays for my boys Crystal Palace in the Premier League.
Prediction: Lowest ranked team who are there to make up the numbers. A few lucky goals maybe but no wins. The shrimps will be on the barbie quite early.
This article first appeared in Issue 5, 2014.
Posted 5:30pm Sunday 23rd March 2014 by Daniel Lormans.