The "Royal Gentlemen's Briar Pipe Brigade," as Team England likes to be called, has yet to compete in international play due to a refusal to leave their country or allow other teams in. This combination of arrogance and xenophobia has contributed to their lack of success over the past 40 years, a trend they'd like to reverse in South Africa. Though the English managed a World Cup victory in '66 by intimidating other players with such deprecating phrases as "poor form, sport" and "boring play, rather," they haven't come close in the decades since. A large part of their recent failure stems from being the last team in the world to insist that each player must descend from nobility. By strict adherence to this rather class-conscious bylaw, England misses out on a large pool of middle and lower income talent. But they've made an exception of sorts this year; midfielder Lawrence Stein comes from a wealthy Dover family, he is not nobility, and the team's media guide refers to him as "England's first Israelite footballer." Though Stein was poorly received at first, he has endeared himself to the British faithful by expressing a hatred of the poor, immigrants, Catholics, Scots, and "those who would impugn the crown."
From Nebraska to Florida to New Hampshire, the US National team has assembled the very best athletes from the pool of males who were not good enough to play for their high school football team. A ragtag bunch, these soccer stars command very little respect inside or outside their border. Within America, they're known as also-rans, purveyors of a second-tier sport where nobody can score a goal and 90% of matches end in a tie. Outside America, they're known as enthusiastic-yet-feckless bench jockeys on the handful of Premiership teams who annually face relegation. Yet since soccer depends mostly on luck and the caprice of bad referees, Team USA has a 50/50 chance to win any individual match. In an interesting bit of whimsy, team captain Lyle Mansfield once spent ten hours wearing another person's glasses.
After a long and confusing war for independence with France, Algeria is asserting its sovereign status in high style this summer. When they descend on South Africa, each player will be wearing a native headdress made from cormorant feathers painted with Turkish blood, and will be required to keep it on at all hours. Though intimidating, the adornment can become cumbersome during matches, where the 20 pounds of additional weight can lead to fatigue and slothful play. However, it gives the team a crucial sense of identity in a world that does not seem to accept them. The African National Congress, in an official statement, noted that Algeria "is definitely not part of Africa." The European Union, when asked if the nation belongs to their continent, responded with a resounding "fuck no." Even the usually inclusive Mediterranean Sea seemed unenthused: "Eh. Technically, I guess...I mean, I don't know. It's not...I'm not in a rush to hang out, you know?" Several independent atlases confirm that Algeria is located on the Mediterranean in Northern Africa.
When the former Czech Republic broke up near the end of the Vietnam War, two independent countries were formed: Czechoslovakia and Slovenia. Since they could no longer be called 'Czechs,' the people of Slovenia had to choose a new name. After a national poll, 'Slovines' was selected. Unfortunately, they neglected to notice that the name rhymed with 'bovine,' a word which means 'cow-like.' Soon enough, the world was referring pejoratively to the 'bovine Slovines,' who are, unfortunately, one of the more obese nations on Earth. President Armen Basiljian decided that it would look cowardly to change the name, so he ordered the populace to embrace the cow comparison. For that reason, the Slovenian national team will be wearing black and white spotted uniforms, complete with a tail and small udders extending from the underside of their shorts. Though off-putting at first, it allows for a wonderful goal celebration wherein the scorer lifts his leg while teammates pretend to milk him into a bucket. Dear, dear Slovenia. Clever to the last.