The World Cup is my favourite sporting event, even though many of the soccer matches are huge disappointments. Part of it is the kind of exotic nature. Back in Seattle during the 2010 World Cup, I would occasionally wake up at 4 in the morning to go out to a bar and drink by myself while watching a game – and I felt proud of it! But definitely soccer being really fun to watch for me is the bigger part. However, I am only a fairweather fan, not someone who knows anything about the players, the teams, the strategies, anything of the kind. So what’s the point of me predicting what will happen? There isn’t one, and though that doesn’t stop me from posting anything else on this blog, this time it will. Instead I will just talk about what I want to happen, because that will at least be enjoyable (to me) self-indulgence.
Group A: Brazil should win the group, and at least make the finals of the tournament. It doesn’t matter that this Brazil team isn’t filled with players who play particularly beautifully. Brazil has that kind of iconic nature a team almost can’t squander. They could play like Greece or Italy and I’d still look at those yellow jerseys and blue shorts and hope they do well (I’d draw the line at playing like England).
Group B: This group contains three teams I like, and Australia. I always cheered for the Netherlands even before I lived there (Clarence Seedorf was my favourite). And then I lived there for a bit, and participated a couple times in the incredible Orangeness that is Queen’s Day and that cemented the bond. Hup, Holland, Hup! And now the Elftal no longer has van Marwijk at the helm or van Bommel in midfield, so I don’t even feel bad about cheering for them (despite van Persie and Robben and Sneijder all seeming like terrible people). Also, they are coached by Louis van Gaal, whom I just watched speaking Spanish with the most lovable terrible Dutch accent known to man. I hope they go far. My first memory of watching an actual World Cup game is cheering for Spain, back when they were the good team that perenially disappoints. And they did then, losing to Nigeria, I think, on a bad play by excellently named keeper Andoni Zubizarreta. Since then, the familiar taste of disappointment kept me coming back as a fan, even when that disappointment turned to triumph. Probably because though Spain’s posession style has been described by some as beautiful and by others as boring, (and both are sort of true) I lean towards the first. I won’t be mad if Chile makes it, either. They’re cool.
Group C: Japan advance, as does the Ivory Coast. I have already mentioned my sentimental attachment to the Japanese men’s soccer team (as much as I disliked pretty much most of my experience of Japan and most Japanese things). Giving up that tying goal to Iraq in 1993 was one of the most excruciating sports-watching experiences ever, but the shared agony has bound me for life to the team. In case that isn’t enough, though, the emblem of the Japanese football association and the Japanese men’s football team is a three-legged crow. How cool is that? Meanwhile Ivory Coast has a team that used to be so good… you’ve got to hold out hope for them to make it out of their group as a consolation prize for the last two world cups.
Group D: Largely on the strength of being a tiny nation, and having featured star of the tournament Diego Forlan last time around, I want the dinosaurs of Uruguay to kick some ass. Also in part because I happen to know a Uruguayan, and also in part because Luis Suarez is crazy, but in a way that makes me want to cheer for him. Other than that, England must not make it. So that leaves Costa Rica or Italy. Not that I’m a huge fan of the azzuri, but I’d rather have them than England.
Group E: whoever advances, and I don’t care who, gets slaughtered in the round of 16, because all these teams are boring. And, luckily, that’s probably what’s gonna happen! Seriously, compare groups C, E and H on one hand and B, D and G on the other. FIFA needs to draw groups differently.
Group F: Argentina! Messi! De Maria! This World Cup being in South America, cosmic justice would be best served by a South American team winning. Argentina is the best bet. I always like them. Bosnia & Herzegovina apparently play a fun style, plus they won me over with this heartwarming (though incredibly pro-Bosniak biased) tale. Plus Aleksandar Hemon is writing about them.
Group G: Even though I lived in the US for six-some years, and I love the US in many respects, it never even remotely occurs to me to cheer for them in international sporting competitions ever. I don’t know why. Now that I think about it, I am feeling kind of guilty about it, and maybe will cheer for them to advance, but most likely not. Traditionally, Germany is the avatar of all that is bad in soccer, but that’s not true of a Germany with Mesut Oezil, Mario Goetze, Toni Kroos and Sami Khedira. Last World Cup I wasn’t prepared for this and was amazed to find myself cheering for them despite years of ingrained Germanofootballteamophobia. This time around, I expect I’ll like them from the start. I was twice forced to move out of a room I was renting because my landlord had relatives coming from Ghana that he wanted to house there. The first time, I found a room in a basement, with a single bathroom shared among eight people. It sucked so much. It was under 400 bucks a month, but I had to shower at school. And I didn’t really even meet the other people who lived there, cause I tried to avoid the place. The second time, I found a really nice house with interesting people and enjoyed it greatly. But they apparently didn’t enjoy having me around nearly as much, and that sort of soured me on that experience, too. That is my only connection to Ghana. I still kinda hope they go through for some reason, though.
Group H: Belgium is apparently good. I’ll cheer for them as long as it’s understood they’re no Netherlands. I want Russia to go through, too. I guess.