GROUP G

The so-called Group of Death, has now become slightly less deathly with the injury to Drogba (even if he plays, it’s got to disrupt preparation and chemistry).

BRAZIL

FIFA Ranking: 1
World Cup Record: 64 – 14 – 14
World Cups: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

1. Why they can win it

Where do you start? Most World Cups. Most wins. Highest ratio of attractive female war-painted supporters to regular war-painted supporters. Their fans deploying drums and horns in a deliberately nauseating strategy until the opposition fans and players finally lose the will to live. Arrogantly snatched the the one name gimmick from the Greeks, and let’s face it, you need some arrogance to take home the Cup (‘The hand of God’, anyone?). If it weren’t for Pele, Jesus would still be called ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ or ‘Jesus the Nazarean’. Also, do the Beyonce/Nicole Scherzinger (which we defy anybody to be able to spell correctly, without the use of Google suggestion) comparison. Isn’t it possible that she wants to marry Lewis, just so she can reinvent herself as one-named, ‘Hamilton’? Food for thought, anyway.

2. Why they can’t

Weight of expectation. It can be burdensome, if you let it be. This won’t be the 1970 procession all over again. There is some real quality from the likes of Spain, Portugal, Italy, England and the Dutch. Brazil are also a little lite on the creative types this time (no Ronaldinho). Remember, more than any other sport, funny things happen in 90 minutes of Football. Winning a World Cup requires you to be on point as soon as you pass the group stage. It’s like Jon Voight said to De Niro in Heat, ‘This guy can hit or miss. You can’t miss once.’

3. Intriguing bets*

Brazilian fans to take the Vuvuzela (we defy anybody to come up with a better name for a horn) to heights never imagined by its African inventor (1.05). Kind of like how Oppenheimer felt about the H bomb.

4. Potential heroes or villains

Real quality across the park. Julio Cesar, Kaka and Luis Fabiano are the keys. Without them, the engine never gets out of neutral.

5. Crackerjack

So much to like about Brazil. The Football, Jiu Jitsu, Samba, Carnivale not to mention their beaches. In the midst of 12 degree sunny Australian winter days, can we interest you in a 2 minute video dedicated to the sexiest beach in Brazil?

NORTH KOREA

FIFA Ranking: 105
World Cup Record: 1 – 1 – 2
World Cups: 0

Can’t win. Seriously. It ain’t happening. Though their last appearance at the World Cup in 1966 was so interesting they made a documentary about it called The game of our lives. In it, they describe how they knocked out the Azzuri and had Portugal on the ropes 3-0 after 24 minutes, before succumbing 5-3.

Thought it would be a better use of your time to get to know, the dear leader (his term, not ours), the great leader (once again, his term), Kim Jong-Il.

Let’s play a game of True or False factoids about Kim Jong-Il: (**Answers at the bottom of the page)

  • Wears elevator shoes, like the type employed by Tom Cruise.

  • Is a bigger drinker of Hennessy than any American rapper.

  • Shot 38 under par, the very first time he ever picked up a golf club and played (including 5 hole-in-ones).

  • North Koreans believe he has the ability to influence the weather, according to his mood.

  • Died 3 years ago, and is being kept ‘alive’ using a combination of the plot-lines to the movies, ‘Dave’ and ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’

  • Has a song (basically replaced the North Korean anthem) written about him, that is one of the Top 5 all time greatest songs written about a specific person (right there, in the ‘Candle in the Wind’ conversation).

    Don’t believe us on the last one. Here’s the proof. Full screen up this baby.

    The second video is the English translation, sung by William Hung’s 4th cousin, while being Pistol whipped.

    Intriguing bets*

    Kim Jong-Il to make some shady policy announcement, or pull a crazy stunt, on the day of a North Korea game, to attract worldwide media attention and condemnation. Unbackable.

    IVORY COAST

    FIFA Ranking: 27
    World Cup Record: 1 – 0 – 2
    World Cups: 0

    1. Why they can win it

    Awesome team name – The Elephants. Undefeated in African qualifying. Majority of the team play important roles at some of the biggest European clubs. The best contrast of uniform to skin tone in the tournament (according to the fashion guy from Queer eye).

    2. Why they can’t

    Back-to-back World Cup qualifications, back-to-back group of deaths (in ’06 they had Argentina, The Netherlands and Serbia). Drogba broken arm has to adversely affect them, particularly as he may only be fit to play by the last group match.

    3. Intriguing bets*

    3 potent, potent offenses and North Korea. You do the math. 4.80 for Group G to contain the most number of goals. Now that is real value.

    4. Potential heroes or villains

    What they get out of Drogba will be crucial. Broken arm aside, there’s a solid case to be made that he’s clinically insane. Did you see the Champions League semi where Chelsea got robbed? (not an opinion, by the way, a statistical fact).

    Although, it doesn’t seem to have really inhibited from becoming one of the best strikers in the game. Kalou, the Toure brothers and Eboue will make life difficult for the groups more fancied opponents.

    5. Crackerjack

    Had an Ex President, a cool cat (no pun) called Félix Houphouët-Boigny who was:

    a) the longest serving African President of all-time, 33 years (in a continent infamous for coups, that’s a great one in itself)
    b) hailed as largely responsible for their economic development over that period (1960-1993)
    c) holding the country together in his hands (since he left office the country has succumbed to a series of coups, civil unrest, and civil wars)

    You are missed, Sir.

    PORTUGAL

    FIFA Ranking: 3
    World Cup Record: 11 – 1 – 7
    World Cups: 0

    1. Why they can win it

    Though he didn’t play a big role in qualification, one of the best 2 players currently playing (C. Ronaldo) does play for them. They also come loaded with brutal defenders, a goal scoring poacher in Simao and Deco. Plenty of firepower to get the job done.

    2. Why they can’t

    ‘Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.’ Finalists at Euro ’04 and semi-finalists at WC ’06. Yet to win a major trophy. Best performance at their maiden WC back in 1966, when they came 3rd. Also, they never paid enough attention to Jim Morrison, in dealing with these losses, in addressing the pain:

    “People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that’s bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they’re afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they’re wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It’s all in how you carry it. That’s what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you’re letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.”

    3. Intriguing bets*

    C. Ronaldo – most flops leading to free kicks at 1.10 has to be the best value bet of the tournament. Has to be.

    4. Potential heroes or villains

    They are loaded but ultimately it will all come down to Ronaldo. Like Chris Shiherlis (really on a Val Kilmer swing though here) said to De Niro, ‘For me, the sun rises and sets with her, man’. That’s exactly how the Portuguese feel about Ronaldo. By the way, the use of the female pronoun, her, is deliberate. Any sportsman whose on field crying is best characterized by referencing specific Academy Award Best Actress speeches has to have traces of femininity percolating just below the surface. In fact, can’t we have a category at the ESPY’s for best actress (for on-field performance relating to flopping and/or diving)? Isn’t it time?

    5. Crackerjack

    The work that they’ve done, specifically in the Grilled Chicken area, specifically in relation to the Oporto’s norm burger (correction, ‘Bondi burger, no chilli, please’***), is not of this world. Had to be said.

    * Bet with you head, not over it

    ** Answers to Kim Jong-Il True or False quiz.
    True, True, True, True, Maybe, True

    *** Hey, Oporto’s, thanks for making my life harder by making me say 4 words instead of 2. How about we let you have a crack at the Declaration of Independence? When you’re finished with it you’ll probably have turned it into a document longer than ‘War and Peace’, and made everybody’s lives miserable.

    Having said that, you do make one helluva burger.

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