Saturday, June 10, 2006

Quote of the day yesterday

"If there's one consolation to not being England manager, it's avoiding a grilling from Garth 'Paxman' Crooks".

Probably paraphrased slightly, but there's no doubt it was a gem of a jibe from Martin O'Neill.

Poland v Ecuador, ITV1

EDF can fuck off. Budweiser can really fuck off. Kasabian's version of Heroes seems to have been recorded in a cellar miked from the floor above. The titles may well have been made in 1988. Ladies and gentlemen, ITV Sport, where even Gabriel Clarke gets the big build up. Gabby's in charge but remembers the new order of things around here with a spectacularly pointless link to Steve Rider at Silverstone within five minutes, a location where apparently "it became Formula Wanchope". What purpose this serves is never made clear as we have to meet the pundits, "we need to update your memories" Gabby claiming after talking about World Cup memories for what seems an age, Ruud Gullit somewhat spoiling the temporal flow by reminiscing about the 1988 European Championships. Jim Rosenthal gets to introduce Germany's highlights from in front of a crowd watching a screen, getting gazed at admiringly by celebrants after a meagre edit. Sam Allardyce moans about the ball already and recommends not writing the Germans off as if it's a radical new thought. Ruud has "quite a controversial opinion about Wayne Rooney", apparently - yes, he should be humanely put down. Oh, no, it's that Sven's taking a risk with his injury. A sea level line graph breaks new standards in 'because we can' pointlessness. Clive has glasses, Southgate a silly grin and this game is "a bit like an episode of Blind Date - teams that would never normally come together come together". Erm, yeah. It's also another example "the European/Latin American mix that proved so stunning in the first game", which is top notch clutching at straws when on paper your opening game of a tournament looks so unpromising. The score graphic is a great big black and grey thing. Southgate is often barely audible, so much does he drop below the volume of the crowd, and it's not evident yet that he has much to say when you can make it out. Half time seems to take Clive by surprise, and it gives ITV to unveil a 3D diagram of shot position and range that proves little. "I'm very pleased the cameramen have found the pretty lady so early in the tournament" tartly remarks before the first of this year's real clunkers, Ask England, where 'ordinary fans' - not you lot at home, this is all long pre-filmed, ask questions to Beckham and Ashley Cole of little consequence. A quiet second half is enlivened by the staring Ecuador coach at the final whistle. Gabby tries "I don't think we've seen the winner tonight", which Allardyce seems to take as sage comment. Inevitably, we finish on England. No, worse, it's the work of Keith Wilson, the sporting poet whose barely tolerable verse has channel hopped at an alarming regularity. Really looking forward to a summer of Country Girl behind everything, ITV.

What we've learned: Ecuador have the capability to work hard; Poland need to sort out their midfield or they'll be packing for home after the second game; sponsorship break bumpers can fuck off in general

Germany v Costa Rica, BBC1

"The world is at our feet" continuity tells us before a set of titles that are an odd mix of Euro 2004 graphics style and 1996 easygoing classical, incorporating what look like specially filmed segments with Ronaldinho, Robben, Henry and Gerrard. Gary gives it the usual introduction about freshly minuted memories around Berlin while the team that put the music on set their standard high with Bowie's Helden over a Germany montage followed by a proper all-inclusive intro backed by Super Furry Animals' Rings Around The World. An attempted introduction in German - "thanks to Owen Hargreaves for that translation. Useful soul" - leads to an introduction to a set that's a lot more open than its obvious 1998 antecedent, except with a low table in front of the pundits. Martin O'Neill's back and on form straight away, getting digs in at both Alans within minutes. Jonathan Pearce proves himself to be no Barry Davies when it comes to opening ceremonies, despite a reference to "bizarre women with horns coming out of their head". Ray Stubbs gets the ignominious role of stands reporter, meaning he has to shout directly at Alan Ball, who disturbingly is introduced as being "in our team", and later bellowing into Boris Becker's ear, who reciprocates. Garth makes a last ditch attempt to really seal his reputation, casting himself as a casino hustler against a Svenalike, meaning those who had 25 minutes within their toecurling moment spread can cash in. "I'm still hoping his (Rooney's) injury is one of those hilarious Rio Ferdinand hoaxes" Gary chides. An odd 3D zoom in map introduces us properly to Pearce and Lawro, who throughout the game finds Pearce's weak jokes audibly hilarious. He'll have to get used to the mike cut button soon. Way to start with "a minute's silence in memory of the FIFA family", which goes as well as can be expected. The BBC captions trade an even smaller score display with arrows in kit colours pointing to the respective team name with a bloody enormous score caption in gold and black. Pearce sounds genuinely shocked by Philip Lahm's shot, Lawro offering "I was just thinking, Andreas Brehme" for no particular reason. Both are obsessed by the concept of a fifth official, because hold hard, "flag's down, and it's still down, and this is Wanchope, and how about this? How about this?" Apparently we should "start thinking again" about goals spread bets and "remember that one for pub quizzes in the future" when the first yellow card comes out. Man of the people, him. "That's the trouble with these opening games - they're always cautious, dull affairs" is Gary's inevitable offering before he really applies the pun accelerator, suggesting Germany are "pulling the wool over our eyes with Lahm scoring" before claiming it's the earliest opening goal in a tournament "in eight years" in a mangled dig at Hansen for being Scottish. Germany soon take control, Pearce looking forward to seeing the locals "thump the tables and bring up the steins of beer", but he's more interested in how already we seem to have had the goal of the tournament stakes raised. "What a bullet!" "What a joy it would be to see a World Cup full of long range goals like that" he surmises. Gary really goes for it at the end, suggesting "Wanchope became two-chop" and ending on "it was getting Klose by the minute but Frings turned out OK". It's just a goldmine for him sometimes.

What we've learned: Germany have plenty of energy and tempo in midfield and might be slightly scary if Ballack's fit and up for it; their defence will however be sliced open by a strikeforce of more than one creative player; we may not have heard the last of Costa Rica

Friday, June 09, 2006

And they're off!

Well, nearly.

Nice of Blogger to be working, so I thought it might be worth taking advantage of this opportunity and posting something. What to say?

If you think England are going into this tournament under the weight of unreasonable expectations from fans both in Germany and at home, then think again. According to today's BBC gossip column, in a poll Russians have made their country second favourites behind Brazil to lift the World Cup (6% compared to Brazil's 10%). It'd be a major achievement for Russia, given that they didn't even qualify for the tournament...

Thursday, June 08, 2006



Who's the England footballer that all the Asda shoppers are gawping at? They're not showing his head, the teases! Who can it be?

Oh no, it's our very own Michael Owen, prostituting himself in time-honoured fashion and doing so with an absurdly big grin on his face.

Two things that are wrong with this ad:

1. I'm quite sure Michael doesn't do his own shopping.

2. If he patted his arse, you wouldn't be able to hear loose change, just the muffled sound of palm on betting slips and a wad of £50 notes earned from ads like this.

Incidentally, Michael, given your fellow striker's injury problems, do you think it was wise to attempt the difficult looking-round-stretching-backwards-and-patting-your-arse manoeuvre?


At last, the news that we - and a bunch of sweaty, frustrated tabloid hacks hanging around a Manchester hospital - have been waiting for: the BBC are reporting that Cinderella the man Rio Ferdinand calls Wazzer will be going to the ball after all.

A word of advice, Wayne - steer clear of Jermain Defoe when you hook up with the squad, he might be inclined to test out quite how well that metatarsal's healed...

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Second cuckoo of spring

Of course, goalkeepers complaining about the ball is as traditional a part of the World Cup build-up as African sides arguing over bonuses and ITV pundits getting into a froth about offside. However, while it's reassuring to see Paul Robinson getting his excuses in first keeping to his side of this particular bargain - someone will be walking out of the Dutch camp any day now, and then we'll have the full set - something in his comments doesn't seem quite right:

"Every ball is going to move unless you go back to the old-fashioned bricks that we used to play with on frosty school mornings, but this one moves everywhere."

Now, possibly I'm showing my ignorance of life in Yorkshire in the late 80s/early 90s (and if you're better informed, please feel free to roundly abuse me in the comment box below), but... old-fashioned bricks? Really? Did he go on to complain that when you tell young people today they don't beleive you as well?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Group together: H

Saudi Arabia

How they got here: Unbeaten in qualifying
Best player left at home: Who knows, really
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Saudi players don't tend to travel much, although surely a well placed shirt sponsorship would sort that out
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: The same way it always does - they play games in the finals
UK media prefix: Inevitable
Googlism says: Nothing
We reckon: Home before the postcards, as they say


How they got here: Unbeaten but still behind Serbia & Montenegro in their group, then a 5-1 first leg play-off win against Slovakia sealed the deal
Best player left at home: Fernando Morientes and Ruben Baraja were left out, Asier Del Horno has pulled out (Jose again, probably)
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Most of them seem safe where they are, but give Del Horno a year
Likelihood of camp divisions: Medium
Where it could all go wrong: It's Spain. We all know what they do in World Cups
UK media prefix: Perennially underachieving
Googlism says: "fernando torres is the secretary and dr myriam dumas hahn is the treasurer of the society"
We reckon: Again, we know what Spain do - get out of an easy group then fall almost immediately. This might well however be their best chance of actually winning a couple of knockout games for a few years


How they got here: Needed a late equaliser against Morocco to go through
Best player left at home: No-one, really
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Far too big a club for the types of places their players are tempted to
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low to middling
Where it could all go wrong: Have only won their first ever World Cup finals game, got knocked out of the African Cup Of Nations in the quarters and never do well against established countries
UK media prefix: Naive
Googlism says: No chance
We reckon: Roger Lemerre is a canny boss saddled with an unpredictable team. They could get through, they could get no points. Probably the latter more than the former


How they got here: The first Europeans to book their places, despite being in a group with Turkey, Denmark and Greece
Best player left at home: Sergei Fedorov is injured
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Don't want Rebrov back, do they?
Likelihood of camp divisions: Doubtful
Where it could all go wrong: Not much strength in depth
UK media prefix: Stubborn
Googlism says: "andriy shevchenko is known better to someone than all of those people"
We reckon: Obviously there's plenty of potential strike power, which allied with an element of reliability could see them in the last eight at least

Togo party (slight return)

To complement the Group G overview below.

A lot of comment has been made in advance of the tournament as to the weakness of this World Cup’s African representatives. With Tunisia the only regular qualifier among the five and Cameroon, Nigeria and Senegal all missing, many are concerned as to the potential humiliation for Africa as a continent. Even this years African Nations Cup champions, Egypt, will be in absentia.

Indeed, it was this year’s African biennial that alerted those outside the continent, and possibly many within it, to the potential catastrophe this summer. Zaire’s disasterous World Cup campaign of 1974, in Germany as it goes, currently holds the ignominiuous distinction of providing Africa’s nadir on the global stage, and many fear that something similar or worse could follow, particularly when you consider that Zaire went into the ’74 tournament as Cup of Nations holders. The sides participating this year all, with the exception of Ivory Coast, fell by that tournament’s quarter-finals.

Ivory Coast, Tunisia and Ghana look as though they will put up a respectable fight but you can’t help but feel concern for Togo and Angola who were in the same first round grouping in Egypt and neither could escape, despite the presence of the distinctly troubled, and ironically named, Democratic Republic of Congo. For my own blog purposes and because, like my main sporting loves in life (Havant & Waterlooville FC and Hampshire CCC, they are nicknamed the Hawks, I followed Togo’s games in the African Nations Cup and, to give you a glimpse of what we might expect from them this summer, let me take you through what went on.

African football wouldn't be African football without disrupted camps, arrogant high-earners amongst more modest internationals and general chaos. So, Togo might have felt quite relaxed in facing up to one of the more haphazardly organised countries in the Cup of Nations. In the prior months, DR Congo’s boss, le Compte de Frou-Frou (or Claude Le Roy, if you like), had been required to pay for team hotel bills himself while, more than once during training camp trips to France, members of the squad had absconded into asylum, never to be heard of again.

Despite this, in the lead up to their ANC opener, Togo appeared to wish to steal DR Congo's Keystone Kops thunder with a bust-up between coach Stephen Keshi and star man, the Arsenal bound Emmanuel Adebayor. With Adabayor having trained only twice pre-tournament, Keshi decided he wasn’t fit enough to play in the opener, although he eventually gave way to pressure from the Togolese Football Federation and named him in the line-up. Adabayor, however, refused to play, ending up on the sub’s bench where he sat cross-armed and pouting like a golden-goose-less Veruca Salt, having severly denounced his gaffer in the press. This led to team captain Jean-Paul Abalo to describe his team-mate as “unprofessional.” An ideal start then.

Once into the game, the pace and lightness of touch DR Congo showed highlighted why some of their players found it so easy to flee unnoticed in the night, and Togo by comparison looked utterly befuddled half the time and yet 'calm' to the point of chewing a length of straw whilst propped on a stile. They looked agog at LuaLua’s blurred legs as he, frankly, took the piss out of them for DR Congo’s second goal, a gorgeous solo effort that stormed through Kossi Agassa’s catflap fingers.

It was astonishing just how out of touch Togo appeared in comparison to DR Congo who rocked up with few expectations, a full complement (one would hope) of parental permission slips and a starting line-up for this first game that contained 8 strikers. Their extraordinary celebrations on the final whistle with their gaffer (looking like a snooty, foppish poet undergoing sustained tickling), raising him high upon their shoulders as they paired up and held hands for the walk back to the changing rooms, said a great deal about how much the win meant.

It was perhaps an unsurprising loosener for Togo, what with Adebayor mentioning prior to the game that at first the Togo squad "didn't get on, but now we are starting to respect each other". Starting? With their squad coming from 13 leagues on 3 continents, I guess team-bonding is hard to arrange, but DR Congo could clearly manage it despite their cash-issues and the Bermuda Triangle ambience of their French beanos. Indeed, at this stage it appeared that with Adebayor's I'm-a-Premiership-player-now arrogance now in full strut, Togo could well have been performing an elaborate Bowyer/Dyer tribute by the end of the group stages.

After losing to the rank outsiders, the last thing you need is to face a bunch on Indomitables, the wounded Lions of Cameroon, looking to atone for World Cup qualification failure. The summer holiday bound side had a pretty easy time of it during the game, summoning enough strength from coach Artur Jorge’s meaty, talismanic moustache to complete a fairly untroubled victory. It took 2 quality goals, including Samuel Eto’o’s whipped pearler from the edge of the box, to seal it but the manner of Albert Ze Meyong’s 2nd, dragging a pass from Eto’o back beneath his heel and between Kosi Agassi and Emmanuel Matthias, showed how straightforward it was for Cameroon to showboat and this in an international tournament. Thus, Togo became the first side in the tournament to firm up their return flight details.

Yet, they couldn’t relax, as with DR Congo now fighting with Angola for the second place berth that would see them into the next round, Togo owed it to the tournament to put up a decent showing in their final match even though, for them, it was all over. Thankfully, they did just that, but still couldn’t do enough to be able to leave Egypt with points on the board. That said, after very poor displays by the two World Cup qualified teams in the group, Angola and Togo did manage to hammer out a pretty entertaining finale. Flavio's first goal for Angola looked a touch offside, but Togo equalised in the 24th minute, Kader Coubadja scooping the ball over keeper Joao Ricardo. They made things difficult for themselves when Kassim Guyazou, one of the few Togo-based players in the squad, earned himself 2 yellows within the space of half an hour, both for deliverate handball and both stupid, particularly his second tunnel-inducing offence, which occured in the centre-circle with no danger immediately present.

Flavio regained the lead for Angola in the 38th minute, making the most of the shockingly haphazard defending. One of the BBC team remarked incredulously "I can't believe how ordinary Togo look defensively". It was fair comment, as during all the games they had looked like schoolboys picking their noses and flicking it absent-mindedly while a number of opposition players danced around their virtually comatose forms.

However in the 66th minute, Togo levelled again, Kader's quick, bustling run down the right ending in a lovely cross for Cherif Toure Mamam to lift the ball over Ricardo. With Angola needing a win, they induce 2 tremendous saves from Ouro-Nimini Tchangirou, which said a great deal for the integrity of Togo's performance, but in the 87th minute, they got the winner they needed via Maurito, and it finished 3-2 way meaning that they required DR Congo to ship 3 goals to Cameroon.

Despite having conceded twice in three minutes, a spectacular goal from Geremi Njitap and a fortunate one for Eto'o, whose shot hit the post and goes in via Congo keeper Pascal Kalemba's head, it remained 2-0 as the Dr v Cameroon match went into 4 minutes extra time. As this game began it's second half 8 minutes behind, Angola's score was able to filter through early, allowing Cameroon to pass it around their own half knowing that both they and DR Congo were assured of progress if they just pissed about. Not the fairest way to finish up, but Angola only had themselves to blame for their own disappointing performances in the first two games.

So, with these displays in mind, I can’t help but feel that Togo’s performances this summer will be best watched both between fingers and through a pin-hole in a piece of card. However, changes have occurred with the Adebayor bust-up costing Stephen Keshi his job after the tournament, a decision which Keshi apparently found out about via the media just as he picked up the African coach of the year award for turning the country’s footballing fortunes around.

The Togo players campaigned for Keshi’s reinstatement, that is all except Adebayor who slammed his colleagues for interfering with coaching matters. Another quality bonding effort. Togo will now be led to the World Cup by 67 year old German Otto Pfister, a name seemingly destined for ‘‘Allo ‘Allo: Late Night’, should they ever again find the key for the bawdy farce office at the BBC.

Pfister’s main task in the pre-tournament camp and warm-up games (which have seen a one goal win Leichtenstein and a defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia by the same scoreline) will have been to reinforce team unity. It seems to have worked as they, like DR Congo prior to the Cup of Nations, are currently threatening their Federation with a strike if their tournament bonuses are not paid.

This is not a new thing among African sides, Nigeria went through similar fraught negotiations in the build up to France ’98. Mind you, it didn’t seem to do DR Congo any harm so, who knows, perhaps we will see a fully together Togo side ready to overcome their limitations with hard work. Perhaps we should ignore, then, the fact that they had the exact same problem themselves before the Cup of Nations. Ahem.

Mind you, with a subsidised complement of Togo supporters financed by the Federation; the pre-tournament ‘Miss World Cup’ already in the bag and the Togolese chief voodoo priest, Togbui Assiogbo Gnagblondjro III, suggesting that “ancestral spirits say that Togo will go far at the World Cup”, a momentum of confidence may be building and a surprise could be sprung upon France, South Korea or Switzerland. Maybe.

I shall be watching with some fascination. C’mon you Hawks!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Group together: G


How they got here: It looked possible they'd miss out at one stage, round about the home draw with Israel, but a win over Cyprus saw them snatch top spot at the last
Best player left at home: Robert Pires hasn't played for his country since October 2004 after falling out with Raymond Domenech. There's also no Nicolas Anelka and, incredibly, no Ludovic Giuly, uncapped Franck Ribery preferred. Too individual, apparently
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Pascal Chimbonda, obviously
Likelihood of camp divisions: High. There are already widescale beliefs that the squad is riven into divisions led by Zidane and Henry, and of course some of the squad came out of international retirement when this tournament looked to be passing them by
Where it could all go wrong: The current team is caught between two groups anyway, the elder statesmen and a potential new golden generation. The thought is they may not mix well enough over the month
UK media prefix: Va va voom (always go for the blindingly obvious)
Googlism says: "thierry henry is soooooo stunnin"
We reckon: There's a lot of 1998 names still around, some of the critical players being of temperamental form of late. That could well dearly count against them

South Korea

How they got here: After their 2002 heroics they nearly missed out this time, struggling into qualifying from second place
Best player left at home: Lee Dong-Gook's goals were crucial in getting through but he has a cruciate knee injury
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Surely someone will be perceived as wanting to join Lee Young-Pyo. Let's say defender Choi Jin-Cheul
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: It's hard to see where the goals will now come from, and expectations will be at an unreasonably high level
UK media prefix: High aiming
Googlism says: "park ji sung is the one thatz jumpin the highest"
We reckon: Ten of the 2002 squad are left and the rest will be going some to invoke memories of their home triumphs


How they got here: Only just about - beating Turkey on away goals in the play-off after finishing behind France, followed by a fight...
Best player left at home: ...which led FIFA to ban Benjamin Huggel for six official games. Wisely he's been left out, while Hakan Yakin also misses out despite a storming end to the season
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Strikers Marco Streller and Alexander Frei
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: A possible problem with finishing the job off, having been 3-0 up on aggregate against Turkey and ending up drawing 4-4
UK media prefix: Dour
Googlism says: Doesn't know enough
We reckon: The Swiss seem to turn up to every finals and never make any impact. This is a lively team but not one that will pull up many trees


How they got here: Finishing ahead of Senegal
Best player left at home: Who knows?
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Adebayor is the only potentially world beating player on show and he won't move across, but keeper Kossi Agassa is highly regarded
Likelihood of camp divisions: As high as you want. The Togolese FA president, the wonderfully named Rock Gnassingbe, revealed that the team threatened not to play unless awarded substantial bonuses
Where it could all go wrong: Everywhere. They're in a group with France, they performed poorly at the African Cup Of Nations and popular coach Stephen Keshi was sacked two months ago in favour of Otto Pfister, who hadn't seen his men train until the end of May
UK media prefix: Making up the numbers
Googlism says: No idea about any of 'em
We reckon: Togo's chief voodoo priest has predicted they will beat both France and South Korea and he and his spells will be on hand to make it happen. We'll see about that

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Songs sung blue

Just in case you're in town tomorrow, here's all the World Cup-based singles being released on Monday. Don't forget, these are all songs sold on the premise that they "will sound great chanted on the terraces" despite the fact nobody has ever written or adapted a song that has gone on to be chanted anywhere apart from Baddiel, Skinner and Broudie, and they didn't think it'd take off either. When was the last time you joined in with a lusty chorus of World In Motion?

5678s - Woo Hoo
Off the Carling advert, of course, which now comes with extra Geoff Shreeves. He's on more than Carol Vorderman at the moment

Angry Kid & The Flaming Choppers - Handbags
Lesser regarded Aardman animated character takes piss out of football in abrasive way to no great effect

Baddiel & Skinner & The Lightning Seeds - Three Lions
Actually Three Lions '98, the one Frank Skinner says they shouldn't have been tempted to do, and even sillier now with the stuff about dancing in France as well as being the less remembered song

Blind Granny's Taxi Nightmare feat St George - Hi Ho Come On England
Well, original band names are running out fast. A possibly fictional patron saint apparently takes lead vocals on a punk Jeff Beck cover

Crazy Frog - We Are The Champions (Ding A Dang Dong)
But it's Swedish!

Dario G - Carnaval De Paris
A record you only ever hear in football based adverts, and with a title that instantly dates it. Named after Mr Gradi, of course

Dead Poets Society - England My England
It's Mike Read's band! Hopefully Holly Johnson will go onto television somewhere this week and smash up a copy

Embrace - World At Your Feet
Actually, that chorus is kind of anthemic in a non-chanted way, isn't it?

English Pride - Savva Nuvva (The Lions Roar)
You don't even need to hear this, do you?

First Eleven feat John Cleese - Don't Mention The World Cup
Apparently this is Cleese's shot at appeasement after Fawlty Towers, which surely wasn't an international incident by the show's very nature. With Stan Boardman's World Cup song going top twenty this week, we feel that elephant is remaining right in the corner where it stands nevertheless

Joe Fagin - That's England Alright
Because they were all in Germany, see? Clive Langer produces, for his sins. The press release for this claims World At Your Feet is "shoegazing indie", which we'd actually hope it would be

Koopa - Stand Up 4 England
Helpfully they've set up a Myspace special page for this. We lasted to the second line before deciding it sounded like the Ordinary Boys on cheap generic valium.

MC Mickey & DJ Brettski - Now Is The Time England 2006
Amusing MC/DJ combination names were passe in 1992

Talksport Allstars - We're England
The last time we had a Talksport anthem to review one of the band popped by our comments box muttering oaths. This one's based on Tom Hark and probably features no Talksport stars of any kind

Tonedef Allstars - Who Do You Think You Are Kidding Jurgen Klinsmann
Good god. The distressing signals involved in this shit are endless - it's setting itself up as a charity record in aid of the Bobby Moore fund, Geoff Hurst and Martin Peters are on it with Frank Bruno and Bill Pertwee, the Sun and PFA are behind it, yet there's absolutely no getting away from the fact that at a time when everyone wants to be seen to be clamping down on WWII references it's based on the Dad's Army theme

Trinidad & Tobago Tartan Army - Scotland Scotland Jason Scotland
Alright, we get the idea

Group together: F


How they got here: For once they won the traditional stumbling block of the Oceania play-off, beating Uruguay on penalties
Best player left at home: Not sure they have any to leave at home
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Not unless Harry Kewell decides he wants out of Anfield
Likelihood of camp divisions: Low
Where it could all go wrong: Inexperience and quality at the back
UK media prefix: Probably unprintable, in truth
Googlism says: "harry kewell is a dedicated soccer player who i'm sure everyone has learned to love"
We reckon: You wouldn't have thought this journey would last long, but under Hiddinck, if they can beat Japan and get something from Croatia...


How they got here: The first holders to have to qualify, they comprehensively failed to make a mess of it
Best player left at home: Defensive midfielder Edmilson has been released after a training injury. Roque Junior is injured - no, hang on, we were referring to 'best', weren't we - and Real Betis striker Ricardo Oliveira missed out
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Fred of Lyon, just because it sounds right
Likelihood of camp divisions: Medium
Where it could all go wrong: Complacency would seem to be their foremost undoing, having been vulnerable at the back. Plus, sod Jamaica, Brazil's strongest warm up opponents were New Zealand
UK media prefix: Samba stars
Googlism says: "ronaldinho is shot in the face with lightning by ronaldo who seems to have received some sick powers after his unfortunate accident" (we hope that's from a caption competition)
We reckon: Three World Cups out of four? Give someone else a go at least. We know the drill, of course - they won't be as entertaining as the 1970 montages will claim, but they'll be there or thereabouts


How they got here: Finished top of their group with an impressive record
Best player left at home: They all retired
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: The almost amusingly named Jerko Leko controls the midfield
Likelihood of camp divisions: Improving through coach Zlatko Kranjcar's robust defence of his son Niko, booed during their last home game
Where it could all go wrong: Lost to Poland and drew with Iran in their warm-ups, and for a team that don't score often that's not the best sign
UK media prefix: Technically adept
Googlism says: "bosko balaban is shit say croats"
We reckon: This isn't a golden Croatian squad but they may take advantage of the weak group to land second, unless the cross-cultural exchange that could see nine Croats and Australians of the other team's ancestry turning out in their final group game gets in the way


How they got here: Finishing top of their group despite being taken to the last minute by Oman
Best player left at home: After labelling him the country's main striking threat, Zico went and dropped Tatsuhiko Kubo from the squad. There's gratitude
Player most likely to be linked with Spurs: Surely Shinji Ono can be persuaded to join his midfield British-based counterparts Nakamura, Nakata and Inamoto?
Likelihood of camp divisions: Variable
Where it could all go wrong: Bugger all up front and off form
UK media prefix: Cheery
Googlism says: "hidetoshi nakata is more famous than hideo nomo"
We reckon: Their squad hasn't progressed, so they'll be lucky to

Quote of the day

"Obviously, everybody thinks he will come back from Manchester on Wednesday evening and that's what I think. I have no doubts about it - but I can't be sure, of course, until the scan is done".

Sven is absolutely definitely maybe possibly certain that Roonaldo will / won't / may* be fit to take part in the World Cup.

* delete as appropriate