Posted by: Paul | June 15, 2010

World Cup Minnows

One of the things I enjoy most about the World Cup is the chance to see some of the world’s lesser footballing nations in action.

In theory, there should be no-one you can class as ‘minnows’ in the tournament. Let’s not forget, these are all sides who have played well enough during the two year campaign to qualify. And on the way, they have denied some of the ‘bigger’ nations, particularly in Europe, a place. This year’s high profile absentees include the Czech Republic, Croatia, Canada, Turkey, Egypt, Belgium, Austria…all previously regularly appearing at the finals tournament. OK, maybe not Canada.

So this time around, who are the countries who have broken into the big time for the first, and perhaps only, time?

Serbia:
Serbia are not what they seem. As part of the former Yugoslavia, they have a strong footballing pedigree, a very talented team with 7 Premier League players. They qualified with ease, and should make the knockout rounds, despite narrowly losing a tight game to Ghana in their first match. One of the dark horses of the draw.

Greece:
‘Greece’, you might think, ‘Greece? But they won the European Championships in 2004!?’ Trust me, no-one knows that better than I do – I won £200 betting on them that year. That, my friends, was a fluke. It might surprise you to know that this is only Greece’s second appearance at the World Cup finals. Judging by their performance against South Korea, it may be their last.

New Zealand:
Like Greece, NZ have made the finals on just a single occasion before. They appear as a result of a pathetically easy 8 game qualifying campaign against such giants as New Caledonia and Vanuatu. I think even my old six a side team might have given Vanuatu a run for their money. They have just ten players in their squad who even play outside New Zealand itself, and watching them against Slovakia right now, they look like a pub team who are out of their depth. Only 1-0 down so far, but when they play Italy? Oh dear oh dear.

North Korea:
I think North Korea versus Brazil is the group match I’m most looking forward to. Even thinking about the appearance of North Korea in the tournament makes me break into fits of the giggles. They even have one player whose name is tantalisingly close to Kim Jong Il. Perhaps I shouldn’t laugh. Perhaps Kim Jong Il will nuke us all in a fit of pique when they go out in the first round.

The tournament has yet to catch fire, in my opinion. Might today be the day, with a game which should decide who goes through from Group G, otherwise known as this year’s Group of Death – Portugal v Ivory Coast? That one really is winner takes all…

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