We are only a couple dozen hours from the start of everyone’s favorite 4-year celebration of burdening a host country with crushing debt and soon-to-be-rusting opulent sports venues!
No, not the Olympics. The other one. The World Cup thing.
Anyway, if you’re looking to lose money like a World Cup host, Alex Bean and I are here to provide some solid analysis that you can definitely throw money at. And, like a World Cup host, you’ll probably have a lot of regrets after you do. All that’s missing are the bribery and corruption, though Alex and I will gladly accept any and all payments of beer and dollars. You won’t get anything from these gifts, but you also won’t have to deal with years of riots. Probably. To the analysis!
Group A: Nintendo World Cup +1
Brazil * Croatia * Mexico * Cameroon
Alex: Brazil will win this group. That’s the Bean guarantee. (This guarantee will only be used in conjunction with Brazil being a massive favorite.) As to the rest, I think Cameroon will come in last because I know nothing about Cameroon football. So it comes down to the game between Croatia and Mexico on June 23rd in Recife to advance. I say El Tri emerges victorious despite their swoon of late. Who do you think advances on June 23rd?
-J.: I know about Cameroon football, kind of, because I was a kid obsessed with playing Nintendo World Cup on the original NES. Three of these teams represent the varying difficulty levels of your progression through the game: you start against a team like Cameroon, you know it’s getting serious when you reach Mexico, and Brazil meant you were up against some serious shit. (Croatia was still part of Yugoslavia at the time, so they don’t fit into this frame of reference.)
Besides learning about the geography of Africa at a young age, I also learned that American countries south of the United States are really good at soccer. So, yeah, obviously Brazil moves on. If it were any other World Cup, I’d also pick Mexico. But El Tri needed Team USA’s help just to qualify for a play-in to get to this Cup, and that’s not exactly heartening. I’ll take a chance on Croatia making it through.
Group B: Colonizers, Colonies
Spain * Chile * the Netherlands * Australia
Alex: Well, shit. Australia is not going to advance. That much is clear. But these three other teams all come in looking like heavyweights. Spain, of course, is the defending World Cup champ and bookended that triumph with back-to-back wins in the Euro tournaments in ’08 and ’12. Literally, the best run ever in international football. Chile is a usually-potent squad that is playing within spitting distance of home, which is a huge advantage in the World Cup. Then there’s The Netherlands, which was runner-up to Spain in 2010 and looks outstanding in orange. I think Spain can keep the tiki-taka magic going through this stage, at the very least. Gonna go with Chile playing in South America to carry the other spot. Roberto Bolaño’s spirit will be pleased by this.
-J.: I hope that Spain loses one game (and only one) during the group stage, just for the novelty of the thing. I hope Australia can get at least one point in the standings, because it’s fun to watch them & New Zealand celebrate. I hope that the window of opportunity hasn’t already closed on the Netherlands, while I hope that it is opening wider for Chile. This is a group of hope. And the group of a boot stamping on a human chest forever.
I expect that Spain will avenge the Eighty Years’ War (and the de Jong chest-boot), and will move onto the knockout stage along with its former colony, Chile.
Group C: Anybody But Greece
Colombia * Greece * Côte d’Ivoire * Japan
Alex: GAH! Why do we get three titans in Group B and then this. Somehow Sepp Blatter is to blame. Colombia would seem to be the favorite, especially since the games are being played in South America. Also, I am recently in love with the writing of Gabo, so there’s that, too. I will admit to being tempted towards Cote d’Ivoire just because I love saying that country’s name. Or should I rely on the all-important question of “Whose national anthem is best?”
-J.: Dear gods, NOT GREECE. Seriously, please, anybody but Greece. If I have to, I will resurrect one of the Xerxes and send his undead army down the Amazon to stop them. I have a copy of the Necronomicon, and I’m not afraid to use it. As for the rest… I like Ivory Coast, as well, because Old Man Drogba and Yaya Toure play some sweet ass soccer. And I’ll go with Colombia, too, because of the Quadratic World Cup Equation:
(S. American team * host continent)^2 + (S. American team * top-ten FIFA rank) + Soccer = Moves Into Knockout Stage.
That said, it would also be fun to watch Japan overachieve as they have in Cups past. But if I have to watch any knockout stage games where Greece parks a trireme in front of their net and just sit back and wait to counter-attack, I WILL summon unholy and inhuman forces.
Group D: The “D” is for “Death”
Uruguay * Italy * England * Costa Rica
Alex: I want to see England fail here. I bear the good people of England no ill will, of course. But as a burgeoning soccer fan the deep & yawning howl of agony that would follow England being tossed at the group stage is what schadenfreude was conceived for. Plus, the next Men in Blazers episode would be hilarious. Costa Rica will almost certainly also be bounced out, so the real question for me is whether Italy or Uruguay wins the group. I’ll say the former.
-J.: I’d really like to see England advance, but that’s asking a lot. I’d have to go against two tried-and-true World Cup standards: a) a Uruguayan team playing soccer in Brazil, and b) Italy. These are things you — as a general principle — should not bet against at a World Cup unless you have a damn good reason. England’s history of shooting itself in the foot is the opposite of a damn good reason, with apologies to the Queen Mum and all.
Costa Rica… well-played and such to get here, but sorry that you ended up in the first Group of Death. You’d be a dark horse team in 6 of the other 7 groups. Here, you’re fodder for the Grim Reaper’s scythe.
(If you’re still hungry for more, our we conclude this silliness here with our takes on Groups E-H!)