The Russia World Cup part two: Neymar, Harry Kane and Hopefully Shorter Paragraphs

Well that last post was unnecessarily long, so here is another one. Also, these images are really small. I’ve been drawing them this size for years in MS Paint, perhaps it is time to do them larger and use Photoshop? Or maybe resize them. Yeah, too late now. Maybe in Euro 2020. anyway my excitement for the World Cup continues, I just received a few World Cup posters to hang up, and the Panini album is filling up fast. This World Cup had better be good.

GROUP E

BRAZIL

BrazilEveryone loves Brazil. Come on, you don’t want to, but you really do. When they do it right, they do it best. I know Neymar is a bit of a pouty popster, posing in Paris, but that classic canary yellow shirt, when they get going mmm baby, they are the best. I do have to say sometimes we get lost in the glamour; I could put samba music over clips of Grimsby v Southend and it would make it feel more attractive. But no, Brazil are the real deal, five stars for a reason. They have also been at every single World Cup (by the way, has anyone seen Italy? I can’t seem to find them). This year’s effort is a pretty nice one; although a simple version of the new Nike template, it has a real classy Brazil feel about it. The away kit is a beauty alright, blue with details of large stars. Brazil always has stars. I might say that Brazil will win the World Cup this year, but I already predicted Argentina so Brazil will have to go out in the semis. Headline in the newspapers the next day: “No Never, Neymar”. PREDICTION: Top of the group, but Semi-Finalists. KIT: 7/10 home, 9/10 away.

COSTA RICA

Costa RicaRemember the last one? They topped their group! Which makes me think, all these predictions, oh Brazil will top the group, blah blah blah, well we all get it really wrong sometimes because we don’t really know. We think we do but we don’t. Well, Costa Rica won’t win the group. They do have Keylor Navas in goal. He is good. That Ray Hudson commentator bloke on BeInSports thinks he is like a spider or an octopus or something. Costa Rica, that’s where Jurassic Park is, so expect a Raptor-ous welcome for their fans while they Ptera-rize Serbia in the opener, before Brazil Rex their defense and Switzerland leave them feeling very Saur. I do not apologize for any of those. So their kit, it’s made by New Balance and has very fine curved lines  on it which you cannot see in my MS Paint rendition, because it’s tiny and pixels are only so big. Nothing special but not unlikeable. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group. KIT: 5/10 home, 4/10 away.

SERBIA

SerbiaThe U-10 soccer team I coach was designated as ‘Serbia’ in the Davis World Cup, so I know a thing or two about Serbia. I taught all the kids how to write their name in Cyrillic (well I say taught, I definitely showed them, I doubt they really learned or even cared that much). Serbia is the largest exporter of raspberries in the world, and I presume they mean the fruit, they aren’t just standing at the border with their tongues out. More Roman emperors were born in what is now Serbia than anywhere other than Italy. Their kit is a dull Puma template which they got when they switched earlier this year from Umbro. The away kit has a bit of Serbian flag going down the middle, which doesn’t work because of the white edge, so they had to put a gold line around it and, look, lads it looks wrong. Start again, yeah. Puma have some decent designs at this World Cup (Uruguay, Switzerland) but not this. Serbia will go out in the groups, I think despite having a few big names they will come bottom. They just can’t make the Belgrade. Ok look there are a lot better puns than that I know, but I used them all up with Croatia yesterday. “Are You Being Serbed?” would be a good tabloid headline but it needs to be something specific like their defense basically giving Neymar two goals and standing around like John Inman. “Serbs You Right” again is like, one of their players gets one of the Costa Rica players sent off, and is then humiliated when he scores an own goal that loses them the game, it has to be specific like that. “Life’s A Vić”, which is good possible tabloid headline for when they go out, because it can refer to a number of their players whose last names end in -vić. PREDICTION: Bottom of the group. KIT: 2/10 home, 1/10 away. Harsh.

SWITZERLAND

SwitzerlandThe Swiss have a mountain to climb. Well, no they don’t, but British tabloid headline writers love a cliche. If one of their players dive they will write something about a ‘Swiss Roll’. I won’t stoop so low, I will focus on the important things like the football and the kits. Now I think Alain Sutter and Stephane Chapuisat no longer play for them (“see ya later Sutter!”), nor does Hakan Sukur (“see ya later Sukur!”) and I’m pretty sure Roy Hodgson has left the managerial job now, so my knowledge of Swiss football has declined of late. Still, for simple red shirts, I have to say I have always loved Switzerland’s kit. The red works for them in a way it just doesn’t for, say, Serbia, or Austria (those are Johnny-come-latelys in the field of having red shirts anyway). this one is utterly incredible though, it has detailing of a topographical map all over the jersey! That is beautiful. I can hear the cows moo and the clocks cuckoo from here. They will do well in the groups, maybe holding the Brazilians to a draw before Then they will go out to Germany in the next round. PREDICTION: Round of 16. KIT: 8/10 home, 4/10 away.

GROUP F

GERMANY

GermanyGermany – who unlike three-times champions West Germany have won only one World Cup – have gone back to 1990 for inspiration this time around, so presumably you can expect rolling around on the ground and wiping saliva from the perm for the next month, until they inevitably win it. Which this time around they will not. I think Messi will mess up Mesut’s mission, and knock them out in the semis. “Neuer Say Neuer Again” will be the headline, which will not mean anything. “Can You Feel the Löw Tonight?” will be used for when the camera focuses on Elton John watching them from the stands as they beat England in the quarter finals (not even on penalties, but with a penalty nonetheless). (“Goodbye England’s Team” would be a better headline there). By my predictions though this will not happen, because England will go out to Brazil. Germany have a good team, of course they do. They always do. Their kit is really cool though. I loved that 1990 shirt, and while this is a modern reflection it is pure analogue class. Except for the STUPID “World Champions” badge FIFA insist they wear in the middle, ruining the effect entirely. Can’t they wear those on the arms? Dear FIFA, that horrible gold shield is not a Scudetto. Dear FIFA, you have zero class. Keine Klasse. Let this magnificent kit be. In fact I hope they lose on purpose, just so people can buy this beautiful shirt without  that ugly golden stain in the middle. As for the away kit, well it may well be one of Germany’s best ever. I love when they go with green change shirts, but this one references that same 1990 combo when they had the strange turquoise shirt, the one they drew with England in at the semi-finals (it was a draw, legally; a penalty shootout is not a victory under FIFA rules). It makes me think of Gazza crying. Just look at his face. Just. Look. At. His. Face. PREDICTION: Top of the group, situation normal, beat the Swiss and the English, and then Messi comes along with Destiny and gets his rewengeh. KIT: 8/10 home, 9/10 away.

SWEDEN

SwedenAnother retro memory, making us think of those early 90s collars, the days of Brolin, Dahlin and other players whose names sound good when sung in Country songs. It’s a lovely kit. The away kit is blue with one of the current adidas templates as the pattern. It’s all nice overall. Sweden gave us the classic gutter-trash tabloid headline “Swedes 2, Turnips 0” when they beat England in Euro 92. This time around, despite crafting a great side in the post-Zlatan era (his book by the way is now well ahead of mine in the amazon charts, my last one having been ahead of “I Am Zlatan” for ages. Clearly I Am No Zlatan), I think they will come bottom. Zlatan will be up in the stands so the headlines will read “Zlat’s Entertainment” when they lose, and “Life’s a Vic” when they get knocked out, I am sure readers of the Daily Scum or Spews of the World will not remember them using that headline for Serbia hours before. You know what, they won’t use that one, because readers will be confused by the lack of diacritical mark above the c, and not know which pronunciation they are expected to use, so the pun will just be wasted there. Stick to “You’re going Holm, You’re Going Holm…” PREDICTION: Bottom of the group. KIT: 7/10 home, 5/10 away.

SOUTH KOREA

S KoreaI’m not doing a great job at keeping these paragraphs short. So for South Korea (Korea Republic) I will just say, I love Son Heung Min. He plays for Spurs and is the happiest footballer to have ever lived. He is so happy that he could make Mr Happy and Little Miss Sunshine smile even more massive smiles. Also he has now been granted by the loving Spurs fans the honour of having that most historic of Tottenham terrace tunes “Nice One Cyril” renamed for him. “Nice One Sonny, Nice One Son.” I don’t know many of the other players in the Korea team so we will be watching them just for him. Their kit this year is pretty dull, just the red Nike template, with black shorts this time, which I don’t fully understand. The away kit is lovely though and they should just wear that please. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group. KIT: 1/10 home, 6/10 away.

MEXICO

MexicoEl Tri are going for another early 90s themed style, though in the early 90s Mexico had crazy Umbro designs. It’s more, this is what we would have worn if we had been Adidas. The green is darker than usual, I feel. The away kit is reminiscent of old 1960s kits, and the red is very dark; did you know, up until relatively recently Mexico wore dark red as their colour? Even in the 66 World Cup against England. I like Mexico, they are my near-neighbours now, and I do think they will get to their obligatory second round. They still have Giovani Dos Santos, another former Spurs player. Anyway they will get to out of the group behind Germany, then lose to Brazil. Headlines: “Another Fine Mex,” “Kick up the Aztec,” “Tijuana Build A Snowman” (sorry that last one has nothing to do with football, unless Diego Maradona makes a comeback) PREDICTION: 3rd in the group. KIT: 1/10 home, 6/10 away.

GROUP G

ENGLAND

Z EnglandI think this is the best England kit in years. Harry Kane and his legion of Spurs team-mates will looks great in this one. He is One Of Our Own. So, I am from England, but have always only ever reluctantly been an England fan. Too many Years Of Hurt (how many is it now anyway, 52?) My main team growing up was always Ireland. My mum was very into supporting the Irish. Well, my real team is just Spurs really. However I do sometimes get caught up in the drama, and then I find myself really Hoping, and then the quarter finals come and I am in the kitchen unable to watch the penalty shootout which inevitably ends with a ballad soundtrack from whichever indie band is big at the time. Next time lads. Then there are the excuses about the long season (fun fact – Spain has a long season too, and their top teams have been winning European trophies), the amount of foreign stars in the game hurting the England team (fun fact – England were pretty rubbish even when there were no foreigners in the English league), and whether the manager is suitable (he is at least experienced in losing penalty shootouts against the Germans). But there is Harry Kane! And that kit. I think the best England kits are plain and simple with NAVY shorts (none of this white short and red socks nonsense), and when the away kit is red shirts and white shorts (stop with the all red!). This year’s one, albeit from the standard Nike template, is super classy, like the 17-18 Spurs top was. If they win the World Cup, it should be in this shirt. Unfortunately the Years of Hurt will probably continue. PREDICTION: TOP of the group. Sadly out to Brazil in the quarters. KIT: 8/10 home, 5/10 away.

TUNISIA

Z TunisiaRemember that really bonkers kit they wore in France 98 when they played England? It looked like it had been slashed by Wolverine. Tunisia have been to a few World Cups, they have some pretty decent players such as Wahbi Khazri, who used to play for Sunderland. Tunisia is where the original Star Wars was filmed (well, there and Elstree, nearby to where I am from) so I suppose we should have some Tatooine-themed headlines when they win or lose. Unfortunately I cannot think of any. Their kits are made by Uhlsport, who are not very good at making kits, well, not at making them interesting anyway. If there is a bright centre to the kit universe, these kits are on the planet that it’s farthest from. PREDICTION: 3rd in the group.  KIT: 2/10 home, 2/10 away.

PANAMA

PanamaA man a plan a canal Panama. Mr Owl ate my metal worm. A Santa lived as a devil at NASA. Never Eat Shredded Wheat. Ok I can’t remember any more. Panama got to their first World Cup, while fellow CONCACAF strugglers USA missed out this time. Cue endless headlines about hats. I would like to state that any headline writer who references hats in the review of England v Panama should be ashamed. Hang on what am I saying. It will be a 1-0 win to England and they will say “Close but no cigar.” It would work better if playing against Germany’s legendary striker Miroslav Klose. Ok, the kits. Not very interesting. New Balance. PREDICTION: Bottom of the group.  KIT: 3/10 home, 2/10 away.

BELGIUM

BelgiumA cool throwback to the early 1980s. This shirt is lovely, with that retro paisley pattern and the centred badge. Belgium are back in all red, Les Diables Rouges / Rode Duivels, the Red Devils. Fun fact, I lived in Belgium for a year, during Euro 2000, and they love their football there. Their team this year is great, the Golden Generation, full of top stars. Golden Generations do not win anything though (remember Portugal’s one in the early 2000s?) so it’s unlikely Belgium will walk away with the World Cup. But they do have the players. Toby and Super Jan at the back, De Bruyne in midfield, Lukaku up front, Hazard, Dembele, all the Belges. Now as great as they are, I think England will win this group, beating them with an 85th minute winner from Kane, set up by Alli going past Toby and Jan and I will basically be supporting all the Spurs players. The yellow away kit is really smart, I would wear that. Fun fact: I met Kevin Keegan in Belgium! When he was England manager. He signed my diary! He was so cool. He was surrounded by reporters and doing keepy-uppy in a Charleroi sports shop I happened to be in, and he found some time to chat with me. PREDICTION: 2nd in the group. Sadly out to Germany in the quarters, but they’ve got to go to Samara and get a result and I would love it if Belgium beat them, just love it. KIT: 9/10 home, 6/10 away.

GROUP H

JAPAN

Z JapanAnd so into Group H, the Group of Oh Yeah, One More Group. 32 teams is a lot. and in 2026 they will increase it to 48. FORTY-EIGHT!! The Panini album will cost about two grand to complete. Forty-eight. And Scotland still won’t make it. If it means more African and Asian teams though, I am all for it. With Africa we do see some rotation as to who qualifies, it’s not always the same teams getting those few slots, but with Asia, there has been very little change to the usual teams in recent years, making qualification a bit less interesting. In 2026, Asia will get 8 slots (Europe will get 16). Japan are one team that almost always makes it these days. It wasn’t always so; before 1998 they had never qualified, but now it would seem strange to have a World Cup without them (though South Korea are the almost ever-presents). They wear Samurai blue, and this year’s kit is directly inspired by a samurai’s armour. It is definitely different. I’m not entirely sold on it but it is one of the nicest Japan kits in a while. The away kit is really stylish. I like Japan (my oldest friend lives there) and hope they do well but I can’t see them getting out of the groups.  PREDICTION: Bottom of the group. KIT: 7/10 home, 7/10 away.

POLAND

Z PolandI know how to pronounce Lewandowski the right way, but when I see it written I just say it in a kind of New Yorker, Danny DeVito in Taxi kind of way. “Hey Lewan-DOW-ski! Get outta here!” He still scores a lot of goals, doesn’t he? He certainly does. Maybe he will take Poland far. A good bet for top scorer, if they get out of the group. They have quite a few good players. But their kit this year is a bit boring so I am going to say, no, no they won’t. Another red shirt white shirt pairing, which is very original but can’t be helped. Lots of possible headlines. “VAR-saw Pact” for when a Russian fourth official does them a video-assisted favour.”  PREDICTION: 3rd in the group. KIT: 2/10 home, 2/10 away.

SENEGAL

Z SenegalI have fun memories of Senegal’s 2002 World Cup run. They beat France, a world-champion team full of players from outside France, when Senegal were full of players who played for French teams. They were great. I was teaching in Aix-en-Provence, and knew quite a few Senegalese students, speakers of Wolof. This time, they have the star Liverpool player Sadio Mané, and I think they can cause another stir, especially in this group. Their kit is a Puma effort, which has a graphic of a lion’s face, but the kit they had before, made by Romai, was really cool. I’d loved to have seen that there. The national motto is “Un Peuple, Un But, Une Foi”, “One people, one goal, one faith. I am sure they will score more than one goal! Headlines: “The Lion’s Mané” PREDICTION: 2nd in the group…and knocked out by England in the Round of 16. KIT: 2/10 home, 2/10 away.

COLOMBIA

Z ColombiaOk last one until Euro 2020. And it’s great, Colombia’s home kit is one of those ones I would love to wear. I did work with a guy from Colombia back in London, Juan Torrenegra (he used to call himself John Blacktower), he was cool. This kit is based on another from the early 90s. They were brilliant in the 90s weren’t they. Carlos Valderrama and that massive famous hair, Leonel Alvarez and his amazing black curls, Rene Higuita and his huge curly mullet (and scorpion kicks, and other interesting lifestyle choices), and my favourite, Faustino Asprilla. He kept his hair very short. This time James Rodriguez is the main man, but has no huge mane like his forebears. Falcao is another big star. I remember when he was in The Neverending Story teaming up with Atreyu against the Nothing. The away kit is blue and orange and is a reference to the orange and blue kit they wore in the 70s. Why not orange then? Too similar to yellow I assume. FIFA wouldn’t like that. Makes sense. Headline: “And I would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for you Medellin kids!” No idea how hat would be used. Ok, I reckon they will get to the Round of 16 but be knocked out by Belgium in a World Cup classic they will talk about for years to come. Now I must point out that I once predicted Colombia to won the world Cup (in 1994) and that didn’t exactly work out.  PREDICTION: Top of the group, but out in the Round of 16. KIT: 9/10 home, 6/10 away.

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And I haven’t even mentioned the VAR. You know, you just KNOW that if England play Germany and there is a dodgy ‘Russian linesman’ decision tabloid writers will all  scramble to get that headline printed first, “I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it.” I’m sure we’ll hear a lot about VAR being good for Absolutely Nothing, about the long delays being called “Infinity VAR” and with luck there will be a reference to VAR of the Worlds but given that this is a Russian World Cup I think we can only really call it VAR and Peace. Which is referentially a nice nod, but completely unfunny.

Enjoy the World Cup everyone! And now back to posting sketches…

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