Monday, 31 May 2010

World Cup Guide - Group 1

With the World Cup just over a week away, please enjoy this, the Million Words guide to the tournament. Each day we'll be previewing a different group. Today we start, as we should, with Group A.


Form: Patchy. Qualified only through accidental own goal by Irish defender Vladimir Nkomo who riverdanced the ball into his own net in the mistaken belief the referee had blown for full time. Unbelievably, the squad contains a few survivors from their 1998 World Cup win including Tommy Poirot, Claude Lambada and 63 year old goalkeeper Albert Squierre.

Tactics – Nonchalant as a Gallic shrug, the team literally seem to sigh the ball into the net.

– Didier Douelle (pictured). Mental. In his second spell as French coach, the first having ended after imprisonment for impersonating Charles De Gaulle on Bastille Day, Douelle divides French opinion like no other man. For some, his decision to recall veterans such as Poirot and Lambada reeks of desperation. Literally, in Lambada’s case, as he has been dead since 2001. Others say his use of imported voodoo techniques has worked wonders with the team’s fitness and point to their recent 9-0 win over the entire cast of Les Miserables as proof he’s turned things around.

Star Player – Awopbopalooba Awambambou. The 24 year old Toulouse Argyle striker is rumoured to be off to a bigger club if his explosive form continues in South Africa. Fast, powerful and big in the air he is also a Facebook friend of Nelson Mandela.

: Striker Simon D’aurevoir is nicknamed “Flymo” not because he’s quick on the grass but because he lost his right testicle to one in an unfortunate gardening prank that went wrong.

Odds 14-1


Form: Overcast. Los Gringos, as the team are affectionately known at home, looked like crashing out after a bizarre defeat at home to Belize. However, one of the Belize players, Lord Ashcroft was not a registered international and the game was replayed in a Guadalajara car park with Mexico winning a hotly disputed parking space in the last minute.

: Get the ball to Mel Gibson. Born Sancho Sanchez, the young Aston Tortilla winger was so overcome by Gibson’s Apocalypto that he changed his name to Mel Gibson and began constructing an ancient Aztec temple in his back garden. Gibson’s pace is terrifying especially when he’s wearing full battle gear and threatening to disembowel match officials who displease him.

Manager: At the time of writing, the Mexico coach is forgotten 80s heartthrob Glenn Medeiros. Mexican national coaches last about four days on average, during qualifying the team were under the guidance of no less than 15 different coaches including three during the infamous Battle of San Juan when they lost 22-21 to Costa Rica, a match that was abandoned when Costa Rica’s mum said it was time for tea.

Star Player
: Apart from Sanchez, look out for goalkeeper Little Jose Osmondo. Just eight years old, he is the youngest player in the tournament and his tactic of flinching whenever any striker gets near him has won him a number of admirers as well as sympathetic decisions from homesick linesmen.

Trivia: A lot of fans hope that Medeiros will pick Carlos Doodoodoodoodoodoodoodora. The tiny bearded full back is revered as “Senor Claypole” in Mexico due to his facial resemblance to Mr Claypole from seventies kids show Rentaghost. Rentaghost is the most popular programme on Mexican television, not least because it is marketed as a documentary series on British life.

Odds: 66-1

South Africa

Form: The hosts have not had to go through the hell of qualifying which is probably just as well as pre-tournament friendlies have been disastrous. The indignity of turning up to the opening match at Durban’s new Arthur Fonzarelli Dome only to find that no one had thought to put a pitch down was a particular low point as was the goalless draw with a Vatican City XI.

Tactics: Praying for rain. Home fans are equipped at each match with Christmas crackers filled with such annoyances as indestructible yellow plastic frogs, those blowy things where the paper rolls out into a tongue shape, and appallingly bad jokes. These jokes are read out by the home crowd en masse to disillusion the away supporters and disorientate the team’s opponents.

Manager: Joop Mbonza. Colourful, abrasive, paranoid and passionate – the most popular person in the continent apart from Mandela himself, Mbonza has his skin painted permanently in the stripes of a zebra. This, he says, is “to symbolise the coming together of two tribes in a new nation.” Critics point out that the death of his mother during a zebra stampede on his eighth birthday may also have a fair bit to do with it and point to his 19 years as manager of Pietermaritzburg Mental Hospital FC as proof that he may be more than a little unhinged.

Star Player: Genesis Collins. Now with FC Nigel of Switzerland, the winger is the face of the team. Not a billboard or advertising opportunity is complete without Genesis smiling features. Mbonza calls him Genius but not all are enamoured with him. Team mate Leonardo Rossiter has never forgiven him for sharing a bowl of cheese and chips with his ex-girlfriend’s best friend’s sister and has not played for the national side since.

Trivia: Straw Botha (pictured) is a surprise inclusion in the squad, having only just been released from a ten year jail term imposed for telling a well known joke with the punchline Winnie Mandela on children’s television show Martin Chebe’s Madhouse, before launching into his offensive hit record You Got To Fight For Your Right To Apartheid. Botha, now goalkeeper for Bullingdon Club, says he is a reformed character and broke down on the Oprah Winfrey show before being led off set by security for intruding.

Odds 200-1


Form: The surprise package of the South American qualifying group, Uruguay beat Brazil and Argentina in succession to clinch a spot in South Africa. Foul play was suspected in the latter match, not least because Argentina had been informed that kick off was at 9pm, an hour after Uruguay had taken a one-nil lead in a packed stadium.

Tactics: Physically imposing and masters of the dark arts, Uruguay take tackling to levels beyond cynicism. Such is the culture of Uruguyan football that their Saturday night highlights show is entitled Amputato. Veteran defender Marcos Resplendidos is known as The Cleaver and presents a Sunday afternoon cookery show on national television wherein he kicks things to pieces before cooking them. The fans expect violence and bloodshed in the national cause, Uruguay never fail to deliver either.

Manager: Gustavo Gonzalo Goncalves (pictured). Owner of the most fantastic moustache in football, as well as the writer of several foul-mouthed children’s novels, Goncalves is revered in Uruguay as a thinker, a womaniser and a football genius. Promoted to the national job after winning umpteen titles with FC A Very Old Team With Enormous Wingers, he famously celebrates victories by firing his machine gun into the night air. The destruction of the national stadium roof aside, Goncalves CV is most impressive, nicely spaced and using a sensible Palatino Linotype font.

Star Player: The Felicidad brothers are the only quintuplets in the history of international football. Born to a lowly crop sprayer, they have risen from rural poverty and form an unusual defensive unit. With Gary, Howard, Robbie, Mark and Jason in goal, they take conceding goals personally and although it’s widely accepted that Robbie’s the only one who can play, there is grudging admiration for Gary’s organisational skills.

Trivia: The first verse of Uruguay’s national anthem roughly translates as “For fuck’s sake there’s no need to go on about it/it happened two hundred years ago/ you sound just like your mother/ it will come off with detergent.”

: 80-1

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