Tuesday, May 18, 2010

World Cup Preview, Group A

*Note: World Cup previews in this blog are written by noted soccer historian Emmanual Cross. He's been covering soccer for more than thirty years for various publications in an around eastern Europe, and is noted worldwide for his historical and cultural approach to the game. We're pleased to welcome Mr. Cross to Seth Curry Saves Duke!, and we hope you enjoy his previews over the coming days.


South Africa

The "Strikin' Boers" are, by far, the tallest team in World Cup 2010. Led by 'Gentle' Anders Anderssen and Franklin DeKamp, each starter stands above 6'9." Unfortunately, what they gain in size, they lose in ability. In forty-seven friendly matches over the past six years, the South Africans have yet to notch a single goal. However, they have assisted on several opponents' goals, and Coach Markus Van Platt would like to see his squad build on this limited success. "It's been right crisp passing!" he screamed at reporters last Thursday, just before firing a pistol at a street lamp. It will be South Africa's first appearance in the World Cup, and many outside observers will be keeping a close eye on the home fans. One of the more pressing questions will be whether local spectators of any color have devised songs or chants that contain fewer than 14 racial epithets. While the home country isn't expected to win a soccer game, they are the favorites in this year's featured sub-competition, 'Dutch Headbutting.'


As the green, navy, and amber colors of the Mexican flag waved over the team's training facilities in Tenochtitlan, drug wars gradually soured national sentiment and led to a creeping sense of danger among the country's top talent. With growing discomfort about their potential safety in a country rife with gambling and crime, and with an eye on the murder of soccer stars in Columbia and Italy following national failures, Mexican players gradually began to quit the roster. The Federacion de Futbol de la Viva Mexicana Para Dias Eternos was forced to turn to youth. Unfortunately, they couldn't obtain a sufficient number of parental permission slips, and the Mexican national team is now composed primarily of American tourists. Leading the attack is my father, who was recruited as a striker while attending a wedding in Guadalajara. He's the only player over 50 years old, and also the only one under 300 pounds, as the rest of the team is composed of Kansans from an adult fat camp based out of Salina. In matches leading up to the World Cup, the team has excelled in sunscreen and duty free liquor, while Mexican media has dubbed them "Los Gordos" due to certain endurance issues. My father, who helped Mexico preserve their undefeated home record against the Americans with a 2-0 victory in Azteca Stadium, guarantees a victory over South Africa.


Coach Juan Sebadoah Villarondo has gained international renown for training his charges in the mountains of Swalondalo, Uruguay, in snowy, oxygen-deprived conditions. The team is able to run for miles at a time at high speeds, but can sometimes appear to be out of sorts on the flat terrain of a soccer pitch. "We are used to las montanas," said captain Lorenzo "Cauliflower" Candobles. "I have rope around my midsection for nothing." He then threw his ice axe to the ground in frustration. Players often stare in puzzlement when confronted with a soccer ball, and have been called for more hand ball penalties than any soccer team in South American history. Despite this, their 'snowball avalanche' strategy helped them earn a 3rd place finish in the CAFADAFEL region (comprising Uruguay, Bolivia, the Falkland Islands, and representatives from former Mayan settlements in eastern Peru) and a World Cup berth. They will likely advance to the round of 16, and if that comes to pass, it could mean a renaissance for the Uruguayan quilt-knitting industry, which has suffered for nearly twenty years from a lack of inspiration.


As the group's only European representative, Team France has the distinct advantage of having each goal count twice. FIFA nearly managed to undo this rule in 1978, following 'Der Debacle Munchen,' when the German national team defeated Japan 10-9 in the World Cup semifinals in a game they would otherwise have lost 9-5, but strong resistance from former French Prime Minister Hollie-Sampson L'Bourgeoisie helped sparked continent-wide riots which claimed the lives of many immigrants and frightened FIFA into rescinding the proposed rule change. Still, the team called "Les Mosquitaires Rouge" ("the red mosquito-men") are not taking anything for granted. "Vee must scahr mahr zen haf zee go-ells of ozzer tea-em," said French head coach Andrew Smith, an American who speaks in a phonetic French accent to win the trust of his players. "Vee shail not be cone-tented vith onny-sing layss zan slightly mahr zan feefty pair-cent of ozzer team's go-ells." Though experts predict the French will play more traditional soccer than in year's past, it's a good bet they won't completely abandon the old gambit so beloved among French fans: waddling around in circles and flapping their arms with comical urgency whenever the ball comes near.

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