2010 World Cup Handicapping for the Non-Football Fan

Introducing…the World Cup

Every four years, like clockwork, the non-U.S. portion of the world re-commences their long-standing crusade to teach Americans about football, allegedly the world’s most popular sport. So desperate are our Euro-African-Asians friends to convince us of football’s greatness that they created an international tournament called the World Cup with the sole objective of trying to get Americans to watch their stupid game.

Of course, Americans are already familiar with the sport of football. It’s obviously the greatest sport ever played and it was invented right here in America. You know it as the entertaining game with the touchdowns and the field goals and the Tom Bradys.

(Side note to Europeans: when trying to convince Americans how great your sport is, don’t name it after a better sport that Americans already like.)

In order to distinguish real (pigskin) football from fake (boring) football, we’ve taken to calling the game ‘soccer’ in the U.S. The proper way to use the term ‘soccer’ in a sentence is:

“Sorry man, I can’t drink Bloody Mary’s at brunch with you today. I have to go to my kid’s stupid soccer game at noon.”

Soccer is a difficult game to explain. This is because to all outside appearances the entire game appears to involve watching the one good kid hog the ball while the rest of the kids wander in circles and their parents desperately stare at their watches.

But that’s an unfair characterization of the noble and historic sport of soccer.

Soccer is like hockey, with just a few minor differences: there’s even less scoring, it’s not on ice and there’s no checking or fighting. In other words, soccer is like all of the boring parts of hockey.

The History of Football (Soccer)

Without going into a long history lesson, soccer was invented in England in the 1600s by Lord Borington of Little East Strikerham. The first ball was actually a sheep’s bladder stuffed with pig’s intestines. This ball worked well until the game was exported to Scotland and the Scotsmen started eating the ball mid-game. The familiar black and white checkered ball pattern was soon unveiled to ward off the Scotsmen, as they were frightened by monochrome patterns.

For the next 300+ years the British Empire conquered lands across the globe, setting up low-quality developmental football leagues in their far-flung colonies. Even after declaring independence from the British throne, these colonies kept playing football, which psychologists recognize as the first recorded example of Stockholm Syndrome. The only exception to this rule was in the new land of America. Historians attribute this anomaly to the fact that the pilgrims hooked up with the cool-ass Native Americans and spent their time smoking weed and eating popcorn, forgetting all about the boring kick-ball game.

Our little trip down memory lane proves one thing: soccer only became the most popular sport in the world because the mean British people threatened to shoot you if you didn’t play. However, given better alternatives (i.e. smoking weed, eating popcorn) people would gladly not play soccer.

So, here we are in America 400 years later and soccer is still the 7th most popular sport in the country, even after 18 world cups and 5 failed professional leagues. That’s right – in America soccer is currently less popular than football, baseball, basketball, hockey, auto racing and even lacrosse (which is kind of sad, because lacrosse isn’t even a real sport – it’s just what rich white kids tell their parents they’re doing when they’re really out drinking and scoring roofies.)

But I don’t want to play the part of the ugly American. It would be rude for the whole world to throw a whole big soccer party and for us to not even show up. So here goes nothing…

2010 World Cup Handicapping for the Non-Football Fan

If you’re a soccer fan you probably already know which teams are good and which teams are bad, so you don’t need my help. However, if you’re a degenerate gambler looking for an edge you’ve come to the right place. I’ve analyzed every player on each roster to determine my game by game selections.

Group A:

South Africa (#83): I guess South Africa is an okay place now, but growing up it was all apartheid this and FW DeClerk that and I’m still actively boycotting Sunoco (can I stop yet?) Plus, all of those movies about South Africa are so boring.

Mexico (#17) is a totally awesome country with the best food in the world. Sure, their cervezas are crappy and Mexico is just the sunnier, shootier version of America, but, Sabado Gigante!

France (#9): I’m generally a fan of France, even though their food is totally overrated. They have lots of hot chicks, although I’d personally like to see a little more showering and shaving. Oh, and their star player (Thierry Henry) is even more handsy then Ben Roethlisberger.

Uruguay (#61): I think Uruguay might be the country where the Jonestown Massacre occurred, and even if it wasn’t, there are way too many “U”s in their name. Plus, it’s easily confused with Paraguay.

It’s a close call between Mexico and France in Group A, but I’m going Mexico in the upset.

Group B:

Argentina (#7): You’ve got to respect a South America country that’s famous for steak and has a bunch of Jews in it. Then again, Jews suck at soccer (we rock the hardwood.)

Nigeria (#21): Without going into too many details, my life was forever changed when a young Nigerian Prince enlisted me to help him unlock his fortune. Sure, I had to front him a few bucks, but once he gets his birthright we’re both going to be set for life. Big time.

Good (South) Korea (#47): Poor South Korea. Look, we’ve all lived across the hall from a creepy middle-aged neighbor that locked up his under-aged girlfriend in an apartment building that might have been a crack house. It’s very unnerving. Sure, they could break their lease, but then they’d never get their security deposit back. Damn North Korea and that (now probably deceased) Kim Jong Il.

Greece (#13): Talk about a country resting on its laurels. In the last 2000 years we’ve gotten exactly one bad rom-com movie and lots of gross food from the Aegean contingency. And I hate their NY diners.

It’s a walk in Group B – Argentina takes it.

Group C:

England (#8): Football is their game, they’re good at it and they seem to like it. Haven’t they suffered enough with Sarah Ferguson? Can’t we just let them have this one?

United States (#14): Fourteen is a pretty good seed for a country that isn’t even really trying. I’m sure that soccer will be huge in the next 70-137 years, but it’s not our time yet.

Algeria (#30): Algeria still has to answer for Albert Camus – he of the “novel that sounds really cool but isn’t.” Actually, wasn’t Camus French but he died in Algeria? Damn, I wish there was some free online resource to check out things like that.

Slovenia (#25): Is Solvenia a real country? I swear that this is the first I’m hearing of them. That can’t auger well for their chances.

England takes Group C. (Good for them. I’m secretly still loyal to the Crown.)

Group D:

Germany (#6): There’s a lot to like about Germany, but if they win it’s going to be all lederhosen and oompa-loompa music until death’s sweet embrace finally releases us. We can’t let them win.

Australia (#20): What’s not to love about Australia? Beautiful women and rugged men drinking beer and making fun of New Zealanders. Sure, they’re criminals, but that’s the best part! It’s like a whole country full of dangerous women spies and sexy bad boys.

Serbia (#15): I was a big fan of Slobodan Milosevic – not as a murderous dictator, mind you, but as a court-room entertainer. Could you imagine that dude on Celebrity Apprentice?

Ghana (#32): I once had an intern from Ghana. I was impressed by his too-tight designer clothes and his BMW keychain (I never saw the actual car.) That left me with a very favorable impression of Ghana.

Group D is going to Australia. You just can’t beat giant sexy super spy chicks.

Group E:

Netherlands (#4): Are they the ones with the meatballs and the cheap furniture or the wooden shoes and the windmills? I can never remember.

Denmark (#36): Wait, was I thinking of the Danes? Are they the ones with the chocolate and the cheese?

Japan (#45): Japan is beyond awesome. Think about it – they’re the only Asian culture that features non-disgusting food items. Plus, video games!

Cameroon (#19): I don’t know anything about Cameroon, but I know that macaroons are good maybe once a year, at the Passover Seder, if you’re kind of drunk on Manischewitz.

Big Upset in Group E, with Japan winning. Sorry random Northern Europeans.

Group F:

Italy (#5): Another great, great country full of sexy women and delicious food. Plus, it’s my ancestral homeland – hooray for Jewtalians!

Paraguay (#31): Didn’t we already cover this one, with the massacres and all of the “u”s?

New Zealand (#78): Didn’t we already talk about hillbilly kiwis?

Slovakia (#34): Didn’t we already talk about made-up countries like Slovakia and Slovenia?

No contest here – Group F goes to Italy.

Group G:

Brazil (#1): Brazil has really cultivated a solid reputation over the last few decades. It’s almost like a focus group of drunk frat boys designed the country…”all you can eat steak buffets…endless parties…lots of talk about girls’ pubic hair.”

Bad (North) Korea (#105): How did a 105th seed get into this exclusive tournament of 32 teams? Did Emperor Weekend at Bernie’s II threaten to nuke us if they couldn’t compete?

Cote d’lvoire (#27): Look Ivory Coast, it’s one thing to have a weird name for your country. But it’s quite another thing for you to insist that we pronounce it the Frenchy way. I call you the Cote d’Pretentious.

Portugal (#3): I like your attitude, Portugal. In my mind you’re a part of Spain, yet you still insist on having your own culture and language and all. You’ve got moxie.

Tough call between Brazil and Portugal, but…”all you can eat steak buffets…endless parties…lots of talk about girls’ pubic hair”…can’t be beat. Brazil wins.

Group H:

Spain (#2): I’m going to call bullshit on this whole tapas thing right here. Eating overpriced appetizers at midnight isn’t dinner. Stop charging me entrée prices for mini-mozzarella sticks.

Switzerland (#24): Oh, yes, that’s right – Switzerland is the cheese/chocolate/secret bank country. I have no strong opinions on them either way.

Honduras (#38): I want to like Honduras, I really do. But when everything goes all kablooey in 2012 they’re taking the biggest piece of blame pie. Never kill Mayans, capiche?

Chile (#18): Chile, I find your emphasis on being tall and skinny hurtful. It is not my fault that I’m chubby. I have a hereditary glandular issue and an admitted addiction to snack cakes.

As much as I hate to admit it, Spain is going to roll over Group H.

The 2010 World Cup Winner

It would be too boring to run through all of the possibilities of winners and runners-ups, the round of 16, yadda yadda yadda, so let’s just cut to the quick:

To recap, here are the top 8 teams: Mexico, Argentina, England, Australia, Japan, Italy, Brazil and Spain.

And while just being nominated is an honor in and of itself, I’m going to have to throw my support behind the land of my forefathers, Italy.

(Yes, it is true. One branch of my family comes from Italy. We discovered this when we found an old family tree book while cleaning out my grandmother’s house a few years ago. Apparently back in the 1500s my great-great-whatever was one of the leading Rebbe’s in Italy. Obviously being a great Rabbi doesn’t make you smart because he decided to emigrate to Eastern Europe or Poland or some other lame loser country. Needless to say, I could have been a bad-ass Italian Jewboy (instead of your generic soft-ass American Jewboy) if only Rebbe made better decisions in life. So be it.)

Enjoy the 2010 World Cup, my little soccer friends!

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