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World Cup Cheat sheet

Tuesday 10th June 2014

New Zealand might have had a place at the last World Cup, but this year local soccer fans are having to take up colours other than all white. Some like their teams showered in glory, some enjoy wallowing in their side's misfortune, while all that others want is a catchy anthem to sing along.

Locals play football in front of a mural of soccer stars Lionel Messi (left), Neymar da Silva Santos Junior (centre) and Christiano Ronaldo at a field in a Rio de Janeiro favela.

Photo: AFP

Here is The Wireless’ guide for latecomers who need to know what face-paint to buy, what names to scream and what chants to shout when the World Cup kicks off this week.

THE BANDWAGON

If you´re looking for a team that has a great chance of taking home the trophy and need a quick bandwagon to jump on, look no further than two of the favourites at this year´s Cup – Brazil and Spain. Hardly any ideology-changing picks here, but that’s the point.

Thiago Silva from Brazil holds the Confederate Cup after Brazil won it in 2013. Will Brazil claim soccer's greatest prize this year?

Photo: AFP

Brazil

Brazil have equal measures of strength and size, speed down the flanks, passing and trickery, and an umbrella of complete athleticism covering the entire team. Lump on top of that the fact that they are playing in front of home crowds that may be the most passionate and boisterous of them all, and you have a team that on paper seems unbeatable.

Colours: Canary yellow and green.

Star players: Thiago Silva, Oscar, Neymar Jr.

Chant: A Taça do Muno é Nossa (The World Cup is Ours).

Spain

Spain is the numero uno ranked team in the world. They’ve won the past two European Championships and became the only European side to win the World Cup outside of Europe in 2010. Spain’s players know how to win big tournaments. The base of this year’s team remains the same as those trophy-winning sides. The biggest wildcard is the fitness of striker Diego Costa who if fit he will add the necessary firepower and goal-scoring ability so needed up front.  Winners win – this can’t be understated or underestimated.

Colours: Red and gold.

Star players: Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas.

Chant: Olé, Olé, Olé.

***

THE DARKHORSE 

Belgium

Belgium is experiencing a footballing golden era and this is a team that many will support if their favourite side gets knocked out of the tournament early. Not quite considered one of the very elite sides in world football, Belgium does however boast a number of high-profile recognizable English Premier League stars – including Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku etc. Belgium has the talent and players to go deep into the competition without the same expectation and hype that will surround the likes of Brazil and Spain. The question is whether or not all Belgium’s star players can become the sum of their extraordinary parts.

Colours: Red.

Star players: Thibaut Courtois, Vincent Kompany, Eden Hazard.

Chant: Oh when the Reds, oh when the Reds, oh when the Reds go marching in.

***

THE LONGSHOTS 

There are numerous teams at the Cup who can be called longshots, and depending on your metric you are going to end up with different teams that are the most unlikely to win the World Cup or even progress out of their group. But here are two massive longshots that can fill your underdog yearnings.

Australia

Australia will be the lowest ranked team, sitting at 62nd in the world at present which is a blatant indicator that little hope abounds in the Australian cause. Combine that with the fact that to even progress out of their group they are going to have to make it past Spain, The Netherlands and Chile, and Cup glory seems impossible.

Colours: Green and gold.

Star players: Mile Jedinak, Tim Cahill.

Chant: Aussie, Aussie Aussie. Oi, Oi, Oi; or another painful rendition of Waltzing Matilda.

Honduras

Everyone has a friend who each World Cup thinks it’s worth placing a fiver on one of those longshots paying out $1000 dollar odds. You may call him your idiot friend. This time around the biggest outsiders include teams like Honduras at $2000 a pop. If you try to explain to this friend that it isn’t worth placing that bet even at those odds, because it is never going to happen, you’ll probably receive a blank stare in response. However, if you enjoy backing the underdog, then this is your area. Just be aware that your dog will most likely run around in circles with three broken legs and cross-eyes.

Colours: Blue and white.

Star players: Maynor Figueroa, Wilson Palacios.

Chant: Culero (over and over again).

***

THE DELUDED HOPE

England

Supporting England has become somewhat of a masochistic endeavor – failure and deluded hope combining in a brutal hurricane of pain every four years since 1966. There’s always boundless rhetoric about how ‘this year is England’s year’ before they exit the tournament early with their tail between their legs and an excuse like the WAGs being a distraction.

England is a team for those who aren’t averse to some light BDSM.

Photo: AFP

While expectations this time around have lowered slightly it is still possible to find people who suggest that if a goal goes this way, and a result goes that way, England might just see themselves lifting the trophy in Rio. Best case scenario for England is probably scraping out of the group, getting a favourable match up with Colombia in the round of 16, and then falling to Brazil in the quarters. A team for those who aren’t averse to some light BDSM. Beware, it’s going to hurt a little.

Colours: White (through convenience because it can double as a flag).

Star players: Steven Gerrard, Wayne Rooney.

Chant: Just the sound of cacophonous weeping.

***

THE ONE-MAN SHOW

Portugal

No legitimate contender at the World Cup will rely on one player more than Portugal. Sure 10 other men will run out with Christiano Ronaldo when Portugal take the field, some of whom are very good footballers, but there’s only one man’s name you are going to have to remember. Portugal’s success will rely heavily on the performance of Ronaldo, and the other 10 players not screwing things up too much. Ronaldo has pure match-winning ability and could literally haul his team through the knock-out phases. It’s a one-man minstrel show not to be missed, and for the ladies (or men) out there, apparently he’s not bad looking either.

Colours: Red and green.

Star players (other than Ronaldo): Pepe, Fabio Coentrao.

Chant: Olé, Ronaldo, Olé.

***

ANTI-FOOTBALL

Greece

If you want your football scrappy, played by hulking colossuses with aggressive personalities, and your only goals to be scored from the set piece, then Greece ticks all the boxes. They won’t set Brazil on fire with electric trickery or finessed passing but Greece frequently surprise like when they won the 2004 Euro Championship. They’ll beat teams up, score despite only having a lone attacker, and could leave some teams blushing. Group C is open for a team like Greece to strangle its oppositions into submission before advancing to seek Group D blood.

Colours: Blue and white.

Star players: Giorgos Karagounis, Kostas Mitroglu.

Chant: Ηελλασ ολε ολε, Δεν σταματω να τραγουδω ποτε… [Yeah good luck!]

Italy

Truth or fiction? Italians are masters of the art of diving.

Photo: AFP

Diving or simulation is a plague on the game of football. Unless you’re from Italy where it is considered a vital part of the game. An art form even. Just take a look inside their training camp. But ask any Australian, and this can also be known as ‘winning football’.. Just don’t be expecting to make many friends when your team knocks out an opponent with a spectacular performance of someone who has been shot, before they promptly get up to slot away the resulting penalty.

Colours: Azure.

Star players: Andrea Pirlo, Mario Balotelli.

Chant: Forza Italia Ale’

***

THE NEUTRAL

Switzerland

You won’t offend anyone with this choice of team and you certainly won’t get accused of jumping on a successful bandwagon. Yet, you still get to support a quality team whose number one group seed means they avoided some of the strongest teams at the competition. If you want to go stealth and not ruffle any feather in your support this June and July, the land of chocolate, watches, and ambiguity awaits.

Colours: Red and white.

Star players: Gokhan Inler, Xherdan Shaqiri.

Chant: Hopp Schwiiz (then three claps).

***

THE AESTHETIC

The Netherlands

They may not have as strong of a side as that which made the final in 2010 and will have to work hard to defeat Chile in group play, but you know that the Dutch will always be looking fabulous in their bright orange kits. Every four years you can pick out the people who are simply supporting the Dutch because they own the funkiest, most distinctive national colour in all of sports. There are worse reasons to support a team. Even if Holland don’t hoist the cup, at least you can still enjoy rocking your orange get-up.

Colours: Orange, orange, some more orange!

Star players: Arjen Robben, Robin van Persie.

Chant: Wij houden van Oranje (We Love Orange sung to the melody of Auld Lang Syne). Who would have guessed?

Buy your shirts, place your bets. Heckle your friends and strangers that you pass by on the street. Jump on a bandwagon, take a punt on a longshot, or dwell in self-delusion for the next month.  Pick a side, any side, and scream its name until your lungs give out.

This content was brought to you with funding from New Zealand On Air.



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JR is a Media Studies graduate of Victoria University in Brazil to cover the football World Cup. When he's not writing he's working on his 2014 World Cup sticker book.
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