Known and beloved around South America as the region's only musical team, the Argentines are likely to have a "score" of surprises up their collective sleeve come June. Many have speculated that the squad will unleash a series of Michael Jackson medleys throughout their matches, while others insist that the showstopping 11 will be performing adaptations from Andrew Lloyd Webber productions. Whatever the case, it's sure to be an exciting time. In South American qualification, Argentina finished second, scoring big with 16 goals in 6 matches and a flurry of British invasion numbers that wowed fans and opponents alike. Their slow, melancholic version of The Kinks' "Waterloo Sunset" was particularly impressive, and they owe their semifinal victory to a rousing rendition of "Here Comes Your Man" by The Pixies, which resulted in 3 goals. While the team's vocal chops are not to be doubted, some have expressed concern about their dancing, which can be sloppy, uninspiring, and even cliche. Team choreographer Esteban Sanibel nearly lost his life when a molotov cocktail exploded inside his Buenos Aires apartment in the aftermath of the team's loss to Brazil. In South Africa, the country will be looking for much more than the usual pirouettes, scissor hands, and dramatic finger snapping that has defined Sanibel's reign.
Controversy has surrounded Nigeria in the past three months, as international observers claim that several members of the team actually hail from neighboring Niger. While FIFA officials have had difficulty proving the accusations (birth certificates from both countries have notoriously sloppy handwriting, and the players themselves, when confronted, engage in confusing wordplay that only muddles the issue), the stain on the country's reputation has stuck. Still, spirits remain high in the Nigerian camp, where striker Bdele M'Bato leads a group of men determined to overcome the embarrassment of World Cup 2006, when four different players (including M'Bato) became entangled in the net during a match against France. By the time they were extracted by local volunteers, France had scored seven goals and effectively ended Nigeria's hopes. In a gesture of protest, Nigerian fishermen chose not to use nets for the next six months, resulting in widespread starvation. Things promise to be different this time around, as each Nigerian has been outfitted with small scissors that can cut through the white netting to be used in South Africa.
In an effort to avoid confusion among western viewers, Korea Republic's announced last week that their uniforms will feature a caption beneath the team logo that reads "The Good Korea." Frustratingly, the North Koreans responded by adding their own captions that say "Truly the Good Korea." It's reminiscent of the deceptive way the communist North Koreans named their country "The Democratic People's Republic of Korea," while the real democratic part of Korea does not have that word in their country name at all. When you add in the fact that both teams have the same coach, German legend Wolfgang Prock, they become almost impossible to distinguish. But on the field, the South Koreans are a vastly superior squad, having won the Pan-Asian tournament in the run-up to South Africa. The North Koreans, most of whom have never played soccer in their lives, won something called the Pen-Asian tournament, which was fabricated whole cloth by supreme leader Kim-Jong Il, and was only recognized by FIFA due to a clerical error. "It would be much better for my team without the North Koreans," conceded coach Prock. He then quickly changed shirts and continued. "At the same time, I am convinced that the blood of North Korean martyrs will water the streets of Johannesburg!"
It's official: for the first time in history, a national soccer team will be sponsored by a film. Lacking income, the Greeks were forced last month to accept an offer of uniforms, cash, and transportation funds from Nia Vardalos, the writer and star of the woeful "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." As of yesterday, head coach Slavos Panathaikalos was still despondent about the choice. "It is not ideal," he told reporters. "And yet, without her sponsorship, we would not be coming to the World Cup. We were forced to accept." His eyes began to water as he went on. "Still, it is difficult for me to look on these uniforms with anything but disgust." Panathaikalos was referring to the newly unveiled jerseys of the Greek team, which feature a large, hideous photo of Vardalos in a wedding dress, smiling grotesquely and waving her hands as though something hysterical has just befallen her. The numbers on the back of the jerseys have been rendered in a font that looks like wedding cake. "It would not be so bad," said midfielder Adamos Artemis, "if she were not always around the camp, grabbing us in suggestive places and whispering truly revolting things about her...you know." Artemis refused to elaborate, but nodded quickly when a reporter asked if he was referring to the actress' vagina. Later that day, he could be seen hiding in a thicket of cypress while Vardalos rode by on a segway, wearing a transparent white robe that fluttered open in the wind and revealed no trace of undergarments.