This summer marks the third World Cup Finals that we have covered here on 200%, and we’ve decided to mark the occasion by doing something a little different this time around. Four years ago we marked the occasion by producing match reports for every single match played within literally days of them having been played, but the questions hanging before us as we started to prepare for this tournament were pretty straightforward: who, exactly, reads match reports these days and why would they bother reading them at a place like this – where we play fast and loose with both spelling and fact-checking – when they could read them at any one of a vast number of more reputable media outlets?
The answers to those questions was given to us four years ago in the site viewing figures – it was practically bloody no-one – so we figured that this time around we would try something a little bit different. In keeping with the defiantly grumpy, middle-aged, “things from the past should almost always be viewed through rose-tinted spectacles” attitude of this site, we’ve decided to draw upon the World Cup television coverage of the past to influence us over the next four weeks or so.
Each of the sixty-four matches to be played in Brazil this summer will be covered here by a live blog, which will be brought to you by two of our seven writers, all of whom have been given a free pass to cover these matches in any way they see fit. This may, of course, completely crash and burn, but there’s only one way to find out for sure, and if we can tap into some of the spirit of ITV’s coverage of the 1970 tournament (though hopefully without any of the colossal racism), then so much the better. For those of you who don’t want your world World Cup spoiled by conversations about what the best type of owl is or obscene puns based upon players’ names, meanwhile, every morning we’ll be bringing you “World Cup Breakfast,” a daily review of the previous day’s news, along with highlights of a classic World Cup match from the past and a selection of the best links from elsewhere. In the meantime, we asked some questions to our panel, by way of introducing them (oh, and me.)
Who do you think will win the tournament? Are people really betting on anyone other than a reasonably strong Brazil team playing at home to win this? Good lord. Mind you, they probably said that in run up to the 1950 finals too, didn’t they?
Who do you want to win the tournament? My relationship with the England team has become increasingly fraught over the last few years, but as long as I don’t leave the house, switch on the television, read any newspapers or speak to anybody over the course of the tournament, I may reluctantly end up following them. Other than that shower, the USA are usually quite fun to watch. Tough draw, though.
What’s your prediction for a First Round surprise? Well, Italy are in poor form and a traditionally “slow starters” (football cliché klaxon) but, you know, they’re in England’s group, so… Costa Rica to get through that group with Uruguay. If you can’t be right, be bold, I reckon.
Which player is your one to watch? Wayne Rooney’s onfield nervous breakdowns when he doesn’t see the ball for twenty minute spells at a time are always entertaining. With the humidity and all, I fully expect his entire head to turn the deep, rich colour of a glass of Ribena by the middle of England’s first match.
Who is your predicted World Cup villain? Rod Liddle probably won’t be able to resist the temptation to say something controversial for money at some stage during the tournament. The absolute, utter prick.
What is your favourite World Cup memory? It’s not really a “favourite” as such (I was a bit of a Francophile then, just as I am now), but Harald Schumacher’s attempt to shoulder barge Patrick Battiston’s head clean off his shoulders during the 1982 semi-final between West Germany and France is a difficult one to dislodge from the memory once you’ve seen it.
Who do you think will win the tournament? Spain. Boring predication but they’ve won the last three big tournaments. They continue to play that lovely passing football (which I do not get to see watching non-league…) and still have a bloody good squad of bloody good players.
Who do you want to win the tournament? Eurgh, I would really like England to win but I’m realistic, it won’t happen for oh so many reasons. I’ve liked Portugal since the golden days of Figo and co, but again can’t see them going all the way when they basically revolve around Ronaldo and don’t have much in the way of a plan B. So I’m going to go out on a limb and say it would be great to see someone totally new win it, maybe Ivory Coast.
What’s your prediction for a First Round surprise? Bosnia and Herzegovina, the debutants. Yes, the squad is a bit thin and they tend to play without any real variety but beginners luck could see them cause an upset. Maybe.
Which player is your one to watch? Well there’s this Argentinian lad called Lionel Messi….ok, I know, I know but hear me out. This is the big chance to see if he can actually do it internationally, if he is the mostamazingplayerevereverever or if history remembers him as just one of the good ones. Also keep an eye on Abdul Majeed Waris, a young Ghanian who studied as a student just down the road from me at Hartpury College in Gloucestershirep. He’s scored four in nine for the Black Stars and while his side probably won’t make it out of the group stages he could be a good bet for a goal or two.
Who is your predicted World Cup villain? Rooney, I just have a feeling he will go all “Beckham at France ’98” – the heat will not be good for a man as pale and freckled as Wayne and I have weird feeling he could make an epic blunder.
What’s your favourite World Cup memory? My dad shouting at the tv during Italia ’90 while I hid behind the sofa, my earliest football memory.
Who do you think will win the tournament? Brazil. But it would be high comedy if they didn’t, wouldn’t it?
Who do you want to win the tournament? Well, England, obviously. As soon as that is off the table, Belgium.
What’s your prediction for a First Round surprise? England will qualify for the second round
Which player is your one to watch? I know nothing about world football, which is why I am always so excited about the World Cup. Neymar, probably. He plays for Brazil and has daft hair. I’m also excited to see Paul Pogba play for France because people have been talking about him for years and I have never seen him. There’s also a Ghanaian player called Christian Atsu who is meant to be the African Messi, which made me think that Lionel Messi is also long overdue a good World Cup. The wastrel.
Who is your predicted World Cup villain? I cannot forsee any circumstance under which Cristiano Ronaldo would not do something villanous.
What’s your favourite World Cup memory? Cameroon vs. Argentina, 1990. My first ever World Cup match, my first ever World Cup shock and the best ever World Cup foul.
The rest of our team’s predictions will follow tomorrow.
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