Thursday, June 10, 2010

Your TBC Guide to the World Cup, with NHL Analogies (updated below)

The Stanley Cup thingy was exciting stuff, but tomorrow the Planet Earth will witness something at least comparable in excitement: the start of the World Cup! What is this World Cup and where does it come from? Let's find out, together:

Apparently, the World Cup is a great big international soccer tournament, except the Foreigners find assorted ways to call the sport "football." It comes along every 4 years, like the Vancouver Winter Olympics. This year it will be held in South Africa, in both characterless smogpit Johannesburg* and charming sea-breeze-filled model haven Cape Town. South Africa has come a long way since the days of apartheid, but my are they ever beastly to their extraterrestrial population.

Since this is a hockey blog, allow me to explain the various national teams using NHL analogies.


Are they any good? Very much so. If one team has a super-serious chance to win it all this year, it's Spain. They play a flashy offensive game, much like the team of their main striker David Villa (and your TBC editor's favoritest soccer team) FC Barcelona. That's probably because they have a lot of other players from Barcelona on the team as well. They will have a ton of scoring power, they will overflow with fancy footwork, and in net they can choose between one good goaltender and two brilliant ones. Real Madrid goalie Iker Casillas is the first choice, and he's a mighty good one, but Barcelona goalie Victor Valdes is also a splendid net-dweller. Rounding out the goaltending trio will be Pepe Reina of Liverpool FC, who is probably the Spanish version of Pekka Rinne. Which is just as well, because Liverpool is the British Nashville. Think about it: the Beatles, Echo and the Bunnymen, Clinic, COME ON PEOPLE SEE IT MY WAY.

Oh yeah, look at this Iniesta-Silva play as well:

NHL analogue: The Washington Capitals. Will they choke as well? Probably not, but time will tell. I admit I'm a fan.

And now...5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0, let's take a trip to RI-O!!!


Are they any good? Ugh, God yes. As usual, they're disgustingly good. It's pointless to even list the talented players they have, because not only are they stocked with talented players, they're stocked with super-talented players. Most of them have only one name, because in the football world they're deities, not mortals. Gobsmackingly brilliant midfielder "Kaka" is a super-religious evangelical, so I guess he's sort of like a Brazilian Tim Tebow.

NHL analogue: The Detroit Red Wings. This team is a freaking dynasty. They're the only team to ever qualify for every single World Cup, and your TBC editor despises them for it. Bored with this lot, hope someone will do like France did last time and knock them off their pedestal (for whatever it's worth: the France-Brazil game from the last World Cup is the single most exciting soccer game I've ever seen).


Are they any good? Sigh. The Englanders have all kinds of great players, and they're very strong in almost every position (one slight question mark is goaltending). As usual, they're contenders. If there's anything "as usual" about this World Cup though, they'll go down choking like always. They haven't won since 1966, so naturally everyone in England thinks the Cup belongs to them by rights. Your editor has immense affection for the Land of Hope and Glory, and counts several Englishers among his dearest, but good lord I do not like their football team. Names you should know: striker Wayne Rooney, midfielders Steve Gerrard and Frank Lampard, defenders John Terry and Ashley Cole. Three of those fellers play for Chelsea, who your editor likes, the end.

NHL analogue: Toronto Maple Leafs. Not the current Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Maple Leafs for the past few decades. If I wanted to be more precise, I'd say this year's England squad bears some resemblance to the Anaheim Ducks circa 2010. Don't misunderstand me, kids, it would be cool if England achieved something this year. The endless choking can be wearying, though.


Are they any good? Quite good, I'd say. They probably no longer have the all-around firepower of a Brazil or Spain, but they have plenty of it in players like Franck Ribéry and Thierry Henry (your editor's favorite soccer player of all human history). They will miss the great Zinedine Zidane, or maybe they won't, seeing as how the only reason they didn't win the whole thing last time was Z's scarcely believable head-butt on that dumb Italian player. Really, they were minutes away from winning it, then Zidane had to go and get himself thrown out of the game with the stupidest penalty of all time. Sad sad sad, especially considering that up to that point he'd been such a classy player. Oh well. What will they achieve this year? They have the potential to achieve a lot. And how could you not love that Gallic rooster on their blue uniforms?

NHL analogue: The Vancouver Canucks, Henry and Ribéry being the Sedins, with a stellar supporting cast of smart, hard-working midfielders and defenders. After the USA, this is the team I most favor. Mainly because of the photo above. However, they are getting some discouraging press at the moment, and in the comments section below Go Puck Yourself makes the case that they're really more like the Calgary Flames. My argument: people said very similar things about France last time, and they nearly won the Cup.

Who's next? Let's try Portugal. Let me find a suitable photo...ah, okay. I can see where this picture gallery is going.


Are they any good? Yes. They might even be good enough to knock off Brazil in Group G. Mainly because of the masterful but imminently hateable Cristiano Ronaldo, who is kind of like Sidney Crosby if Sidney Crosby showed interest in human females.

NHL analogue: Do you even have to ask? The Pittsburgh Penguins, without question.


Are they any good? Well, they have the single greatest player in the world right now. Lionel Messi is his name. You can't miss him.

Also worth keeping in mind is Argentina's coach Diego Maradona, who is one of the greatest and most hilariously arrogant soccer players of all time.

NHL analogue: The San Jose Sharks. They have all the talent in the world, but they haven't quite been able to get it done in recent tournaments. We'll see what happens this year. Always been a fan, since I was a tyke.

But you know who might do really, REALLY well this World Cup? So well that I'm actually picking them to win the whole thing...


Are they any good? YES. In fact, just let this article explain why they're in fact the best team and will probably win everything. Hint: it has to do with their love of the color orange. And their ridiculously talented roster: they're strong in every single position. And they have a super-easy group to get through. So hooray for Holland!

NHL analogue: Chicago Blackhawks.

There are a lot more teams, but honestly I'm just too tired to keep typing. South Korea is alright, Ghana will try their best, as will Uruguay, homeboys South Africa will try to put on a good show, Germany and Italy just might get something done, and the Cote d'Ivoire has Didier Drogba.

Well, that's it. Thanks for reading. Didn't leave anyone out, did I?



What about the USA?

Are we any good? We're not bad. In fact, I think we have the potential for some upsets, though this Saturday's joust with England probably won't be one of them. If our fine goaltender, Tim Howard, plays as well as he's capable of playing, we just might get somewhere. Hooray!

NHL analogue: Florida Panthers. World class goaltender, okay team up front, potential to play above our level.

Okay, exhausted now. To leanr more, take a look at the Guardian's witty and ultra-comprehensive liveblog and the New Republic's excellent World Cup blog Goal Post. It stars the always-fun, always-Brazil-bashing Brit Alex Massie. Worth your time.

*Sort of like Atlanta! And don't get angry, South Africans. As I say, Cape Town is a lovely place. Or so I hear. Including this one time I was told by a South African model, around whom I was so bumbling and dumbstruck I couldn't speak. It was sad/hilarious.

UPDATE: Two teams I didn't mention that could do well: Mexico and, as stealth operative Go Puck Yourself points out, Chile. Both of them could go farther than many would expect, particularly Chile. Mexico isn't going to get super-far, but they can do some damage. They might be on par with the US.


GoPuckYourself said...

First off, any and all TBC readers/editors/writers/Chinese spammers are welcome to join an ESPN World Cup bracket predictor I've set up. The group name is "Landon Donovan's Forehead" & the password is "atlanta1." Come ride the North Koreans as they bomb their way to a World Cup trophy!

Multiple points here....
-Chelsea (or Chelski) football club is the damned devil.
-Everybody on the French team hates each other, has a coach that's universally hated and questioned, and underperformed magnificently in qualifying. Sounds more like the Calgary Flames to me.
-Cameroon=Columbus Blue Jackets. One big name player that everybody knows, fairly decent uniforms.
-Italy=NJ Devils. Boring to watch. Hated by many. Always make a run in the tournament. Team is pretty damn old.
-Chile=Phoenix Coyotes. Team most likely to come from out of nowhere and advance out of the group stages.
-The team closest to the Thrashers? Qatar. Or Bahrain. Take your pick of the 150-something countries that didn't make it.

Mortimer Peacock said...

- You're right, Domenech is a weird one. He's actually a little bit crazy. I mean it literally, I think he has a clinical disorder. But I wouldn't be surprised if France manages to pull it together.

- So true re: Italy = the Devils.

- I feel like I should've treated Uruguay in depth. They might do something interesting.

- Good point about Chile. It could happen.

- WAHAHAHAAHAHA @ Thrashers= Qatar or Bahrain.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Also, there were serious doubts about France last time too. But the doubts might be even more serious now...

Razor Catch Prey said...

Based on your pictures, I vote Argentina.

Obviously soccer isn't my thing, but I hope it's a great tournament for y'all.

There was some college rugby on NBC last weekend. I really enjoy watching that. Can't tell what the heck is going on, but it's a lot of fun to watch. Gaelic Football is absolutely awesome. We watched a lot of that a couple of years ago when DirecTV did a free weekend of Setana Sports. What an awesome game. Again, I couldn't figure the rules out for the life of me, but it was tons of fun. Very high paced, lots of hitting and emotional, probably drunken Irishmen. They actually got in a fight over the water bottles during a time out. The bottles were probably full of Guinness.

FrenchCatalogues said...

Wouldn't it be funny if Cote D' Ivoire knocked out Brazil? Ain't gonna happen, but hey Drogba is amazing. Best tournament in the world. Can't wait.

GoPuckYourself said...

Only problem the Dutch have? If things play out the way I expect, they have to face Brazil in the quarterfinals. Oops.

However, I'd love to see the Dutch finally win it all. Besides the US, the Dutch and Spanish are the two teams I've tended to support recently. Usually I've predominantly supported the English as well since I was there during the 2002 World Cup, but ahem....not this time...for multiple reasons. Like this display of typical Liverpudlian class! Enjoy!

Mortimer Peacock said...

Jesus. I think Liverpool might be the dumbest city on Earth.

FrenchCatalogues said...

Yeh, Scousers.............

My bet is on Spain by the way. Pretty damn stacked with Xavi, Torres, Iniesta, Silva, and on and on.

Mortimer Peacock said...

Yes, Spain is basically Barcelona minus Messi and Henri, and plus Torres and Casillas. They might well win it all. Which would be cool.

GoPuckYourself said...

Spain will choke against Brazil in the final. Dunga's got Brazil playing a very technical European-style game that's all about grinding out results. They also have that guy named Poop in midfield. Dude can play.

I hope I'm wrong, though.

Also, all of you can make your predictions for the tourney in that ESPN group I listed at the top. Come get some.

Mortimer Peacock said...


In and done. I changed my mind at the least minute and picked Spain to be the Champions.

Big Red said...

FrenchCatalogues- Cote D'Ivoire wont knock out Brazil, but they might knock out Portugal.

Brazil(best all round), Spain(best strikers villa and torres), England(best midfield, kaka is good, but gerrard and lampard together is better), and Netherlands(decent all round) all have a good chance to win.

Portugal- OVERRATED. Nearly didnt qualify. Denmark finished ahead of them(denmark are you kidding me? wtf) and Sweden and Hungary were close to finishing ahead in their qualifying group which would have knocked Portugal out.

Italy- evil. second worst call in FIFA world cup history(maradona "hand of god" is worst) got them a penalty at the end of the round of 16 last world cup. australia deserved to beat them in that round. italy didnt deserve to be champions.

France- didnt deserve to even QUALIFY for the tournament. The goal that got them past Ireland was off a hand ball. Ireland should be in the world cup, not France.(they sucked vs. Uruguay today as well). Awful coach, they dont play as a team.

Argentina- disapointed in qualifying, they probably wont get far. Finished below Brazil, Chile, and Paraguay. Good team, awful coaching.

Mutton Sourdough said...

Morty, how could you not post a pic of Liz Phair swaddled in an American flag for the picture of America? I thought for sure that was where we were headed...

Seriously though, I have always enjoyed the Copa Mundial but I've never been able to get more than a passing fancy in it despite growing up playing soccer. I'll watch a game if it's on and I won't change the channel if it's a good game or teams I like, but in general I just don't get that into it. I'll cheer on some underdogs though.

Always wanted to see either the Danes or the Dutch win it. Aside from the fact that they usually don't have much of a legitimate chance, it'd be pretty cool to shout "Great Dane, them there Danish bear clawrs won her!" Or, if the Netherlands (Will someone please tell the president it's the NetherLANDS and not the Nether REGIONS?!?) won it, you could use the Dutch oven angle.