I could have done this next Friday, but by then we’ll be up the elbow in World Cup matches so let’s get it done now. Because I want to. Anyway, if you’re not a footy fan, well that’s your problem, but the world’s biggest party begins on Thursday in Russia. After bribing his way into an Olympics in his country’s warmest city, Putin one-upped himself by bribing/threatening/both his way into a World Cup in a country that hates everyone and has a hooligan problem. Really masterful stuff. But if you’re a lout and a layabout like me, there’s nothing better than the World Cup for an excuse to continue to do nothing. So what are we in for?
Group A – Russia, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Uruguay
Good lord does this group suck, and I’m sure it wasn’t in any way rigged for the hosts to proceed. This whole tournament could be some 1978 shit (look it up). This group was god awful before Sergio Ramos gave Mo Salah the Yes Lock, and Salah was about the only thing that made Egypt interesting. Uruguay will go on if Luis Suarez doesn’t try to turn anyone into a snack, which we can’t guarantee. In theory with Atletico Madrid’s defense in theirs, and Edinson Cavani and Suarez in attack, Uruguay should walk this before getting murdered in the round of 16. The thing is Cavani blows when he’s not playing the French league and Suarez is crazy and getting older.
Group B – Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran
They say Spain has reloaded, and looking over the squad you tend to think so. Then again they don’t have a striker, and the defense is still Shithead Ramos and Pique and they’re 109 years old. Then again, they’ve never needed a striker and this midfield is so loaded it’s not fair. There’s also the whole “win for Iniesta” thing I guess. But they were woeful in the last World Cup, and they weren’t much better in Euro ’16, so let’s just have them prove they’re up there with France and Germany and Brazil and Argentina.
Portugal won Euro ’16 by boring the ever-loving shit out of everyone and then winning on penalties when they couldn’t wake back up in time. They’re a little more entertaining now, but that doesn’t mean they’ll be 2000-2004 vintage. Ronaldo will score four against Iran, and then yell at everyone in the other two matches.
Morocco is fine I guess, they’ll probably get a point off one of the Iberian sides, and Iran will try and not give up a touchdown to them.
Group C – France, Australia, Denmark, Peru
France might be the most talented team in this competition, and almost certainly the most talented European squad. Except they’re French, and have spent most every tournament since 2006 fucking it up. You’d think with a front-line of Mbappe, Griezmann, Dembele with Pogba and Kante behind that you couldn’t possibly find a way to fuck it up, and yet there we were two years ago watching a Portugal side that couldn’t cross the halfway line lift the damn trophy. They’ll walk this group, they’ll neuter whoever is second in Group D, but after that they’re going to have to figure their midfield out. Then again, this side is so overloaded with skill it might not matter.
Australia sucks. Peru had protests in the street when their captain was suspended for drug use, which is awesome, and eventually was reinstated. Denmark is one player, but that one player (Christian Eriksen) is probably enough to get second here. And then he’ll fuck off to Madrid and piss off all my Spurs-supporting friends, which I’m very much looking forward to.
Group D – Argentina, Iceland, Croatia, Nigeria
Lionel Messi is going to get the Ovechkin treatment all tournament, because he really does need a World Cup trophy to go with his best-ever resume. But if France has spent this decade fucking it up, Argentina has been fucking it up for an additional 20 years or so. You look at this squad and you think you could manage it by simply saying “go play,” and then they lose on penalties to someone. This has to be the time, unless Messi is going to be the old hand off the bench in Qatar in four years.
Iceland was cute two years ago, qualified for this rather easily, and will make for intriguing viewing with the other two in this group. Croatia always seems to have more talent, and play the most god-awful football in every tournament and you can never figure out why. Croatia-Portugal in Euro ’16 was maybe the worst match I’ve ever seen. Nigeria are going to be tons of fun whichever of two directions they go: Either upsetting the two European teams and throwing a scare into the Albiceleste, or the entire team will quit the night before the opening match.
Group E – Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica, Serbia
After the biggest calamity perhaps in the sport’s history, Brazil apparently has a new defensive steel about them while still boasting Willian, Neymar, Coutinho, Jesus, Firmino and a host of other nutcases going forward. So look for them to look absolutely dynamite until the quarters or semis, but when they run into one of the other big boys to fall apart. Because that’s kind of all they’ve done since ’94, and don’t give me 2002 when they played exactly nobody the whole tournament. That Germany team sucked and should have lost to the US, and even England probably should have beaten them.
The rest of this group is shite. Switzerland seemingly always get to the knockout round, promptly lose a torturous 1-0 match, and then you forget they were even there. Costa Rica is a keeper and nothing else unless they’re playing the US being coached by a moron. Serbia are more likely to get into a team-wide brawl than beat anyone who matters.
Group F – Germany, Mexico, Sweden, South Korea
On paper this is Germany’s, but they’ve been a mess for a while now. Maybe they come good in a tournament setting again, but they were m miles worse than France two years ago and they don’t look any better now. There’s a reason no one holds this trophy.
I won’t hear any “Mexico is good” now horseshit. They just look good compared to the US, and even they should have lost to them at home. Sweden always overachieves and deservedly handed Italy their ass in the playoffs to qualify. South Korea always is a challenge due to their energy and organization, so any one of the three could join Germany in the knockouts. It wouldn’t even be a huge shock if Germany’s malaise sees them crash out here, one big side always does, and Give Me Your Joachim Low really wishes he took the Arsenal job.
Group G – Belgium, Panama, Tunisia, England
Again, if this were just Football Manager, Belgium should win the whole thing. They’re are obscenely talented, boasting a midfield with Hazard, De Bruyne, Mertens, Carrasco, Nainggollan, Dembele all playing behind Lukaku. But like previous tournaments they’re managed by a true chowderhead in Roberto Martinez, so they’re going to let in a boatload of goals. They can outscore that for a while, but not to the Final which they should. And if Lukaku gets hurt or is off the boil, the one place they’re short is forward.
Panama is only here because the US couldn’t get its head out of its ass, and Tunisia are making up the numbers as well. England probably won’t beat Belgium, but they’re solid enough to take second and can definitely beat whoever wins Group H to get to their customary quarterfinal full-body dry heave.
Group H – Poland, Senegal, Colombia, Japan
Who cooked this one up? Poland never go anywhere and Lewandowski can only score against German teams you can’t pronounce now. Senegal are Sadio Mane and a bunch of guys who play or Everton or West Ham. Japan play one good game, get everyone’s hopes up, and then disappear. Colombia were fun four years ago and should have beaten Brazil if Brazil hadn’t decide to just kick them all over the place. But James isn’t in the form he was then. If you’ve got errands to run one day, make it during this group’s games. Nothing that happens here will matter.
Winner: Ronaldo got his two years ago without actually doing anything, it’s gotta be Messi this time by himself. Spain in the quarters likely await, but if they can get through that it’s a dodgy German team or maybe England or Colombia or something equally stupid in the semis. He missed in the last final, he won’t again if presented the chance.