My World Cup Biases
To paraphrase John Hodgman on the Daily Show, the World Cup gives the world a way to revisit old nationalistic rivalries, a metaphor for war. He then pointed out that the United States doesn’t need a metaphor for war because we actually have wars without bothering with the metaphor.
Indeed, a lot of print and effort by all sorts has gone into discussing why the United States doesn’t care that much about soccer or even the World Cup, including an interesting piece by Dave Eggers. Whether or not the majority of America cares, I am hooked, and like Hodgman and Simon Black, author of a socialist analysis of the World Cup, I’m hooked on the geo-political rivalries.
So, what follows is an analysis of the groups, the schedule, who I want to win, and why.
Ecuador and Germany are already going to advance with two wins each. I would have preferred Poland or Costa Rica to Germany, but it is the German’s home turf. Interesting fact: Poland has never beaten Germany in World Cup Soccer. That’s fucked up.
England’s already got it sewn up, but I want Trinidad and Tobago to advance. Why? I like for former colonies to win, and when possible, to beat there former colonial rulers. At various times, the islands were controlled by the Spanish, Dutch, and French before obtaining independence from the English in 1962. There is nothing more enjoyable for me than seeing the arrogance of Imperial European soccer punctured by the post-colonial world. Now, Trinidad and Tobago lost to England, but that’s OK, because they still have a chance to advance to the next round. Here is what has to happen: They have to beat Paraguay and England has to beat Sweden. The way the point system works, this will force a tie for second place between Sweden and T&T, which will be determined by point differential. Currently Sweden leads with 1 while T&T has -2. So, for T&T to advance, their win and Sweden’s loss must be more than marginal.
Argentina and the Netherlands are already set for this, and it’s heartbreaking. The Ivory Coast was in this group, and you’ve seen the commercials: This was their first appearance in the World Cup ever, and it brought peace to the civil war. This was the perfect story, and it’s a damn shame to have to bow so early. At least Argentina is moving on, but that’s barely consolation.
This group tears me up. Portugal is a lock and the other tree teams are Mexico, Iran, and Angola. North American loyalties make me want Mexico to win, and any non-religious influence in Iran, especially one as gloriously populist as soccer is something worth cheering about. Angola of course, got to face their colonial rulers, Portugal in a match that ended with Portugal winning 1-0. However, the chance for a rematch remains. Angola can advance if they beat Iran and Portugal beats Mexico, and Angola manages to make up the three goal differential that separates them from Mexico.
This is the United States group. Italy leads, and the Czech Republic and Ghana are tied, with the U.S. in dead last. I could say that I’m a secret patriot, that the United States is the first post-colonial nation (as odd as that seems, it has a grain of truth), that it’s a good team that doesn’t get respect, or any other reason. None of it matters or would be believed: I am an American, and I want America to advance. Here’s what needs to happen: We need to beat Ghana. If Italy wins against the Czech Republic, we advance. If the Czechs win, we need to beat Ghana by a lot, or Italy needs to lose by a lot. There is a five goal differential, and so to ensure a win (because I don’t know what happens when there is merely a tie in goal differentials) we would need to win by three and the Czechs need to win by three (or any other combination that adds up to six). So basically, what I am saying is that we need Italy to win.
This group has Australia, Croatia, Japan, and Brazil. I want Brazil to advance (and eventually play Portugal?), but I have a feeling they will. For years and years, Brazil has been the best thing in the World Cup. Not just because they win, but because they always win with the coolest looking moves. As for the other team, with spots up for grabs, I’m thinking Croatia. Maybe I’m spending too much time in the Russian department, but I’m sympathetic towards the Slavs. So yeah, Brazil and Croatia.
Togo and South Korea. Togo is one of those colonies that got traded around by all the big boys in Europe, so naturally I am cheering for them. Also, they are in the same group in France, and now they have the opportunity to pull off the first defeat of a European power by a former colony in the tournament on June 23 when play against them. I picked South Korea because the World Cup should include East Asia and I already voted against Japan. Also Switzerland? No interesting geo-political rivalries can be explored by a team from a country so devoted to neutrality. That’ll teach ‘em to not take sides!
So I’m obviously going to pick Tunisia because they were colonized, but for the second pick I have to go with Ukraine. First, there’s the Slav thing. Now, obviously, I’m not going to support Spain after all my whining about Europe, so that leaves the Ukraine and Saudi Arabia. A case could be made for Saudi Arabia, but I just can’t make myself cheer for them. Sorry. So I will be cheering for Ukraine, who is technically the last place team in the tournament after their 0-4 loss to Spain. Go underdogs.
So there it is. In excruciating detail. I know no one else cares, but I just needed to get this out of my system.