Tuesday, May 27, 2014

"My" countries in the World Cup

The World Cup was my entry to football. I liked seeing countries play, learning about them, and also seeing countries play that I had an attachment to. This continues to be the case, surely more than the quality of football, which is generally much lower than even in secondary European leagues.
That said, of course, there are certain countries I will be watching with more interest than others due to personal attachment to those countries (but as you can see, it will not mean I will support them. This is football, and has nothing to do about my view of the country!):
  • Argentina: I lived in Argentina as a child, and my heart is unapologetically Argentine when it comes to national team football. While I will support them, I have many doubts, perhaps because my hope has been shattered so often. Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Gago, Higuain, Mascherano... It appears a strong side, but in my view they lack balance in defense and weight in midfield. I will be celebrating every one of their goals though.
  •  Belgium: I have worked in Brussels, and visit Belgium every year. And even though it is in an international atmosphere where I have been far from Belgian reality, I have always been endeared to the Red Devils. Be sure I will drink a good Belgian beer and support them as their exciting young team may take Brazil with storm!
  • Chile: I was born in Chile. I have not had particular attachment to their national team, and four years ago I was one of the few unimpressed as I thought they needed a bit more cynicism under Marcelo Bielsa. This year Chile are, if anything, better than four years ago, and may be the favourites of neutrals. While everyone has expectations, these can also be shattered, as Chile could easily be eliminated in the first round. Whatever happens I won't celebrate, but I won't cry either.
  •  Colombia: I have Colombian background, and Colombia is finally back in the World Cup with a strong side. Under Jose Pekerman they play a bit old-fashioned Argentine football, but which also goes back to the strong Argentine influence on Colombian football. They have splendid attacking power (not only the doubtful Falcao) but a defense of old men. They will be popular as a team and for their fans, and I will be cheering with the rest of the world.
  • Ghana: Ghana is the first African country I lived in, and was there during the 2006 World Cup, when I became a big fan of the Black Stars. In 2010 I cried with the rest of the world when they did not make the semi-finals. This will be a new test for a side that has nevertheless become more cynical over the years, playing a physical and defensive style that almost seems out of tune with the happiness of Ghanaians. I was almost happy when they were eliminated by Zambia from the 2012 Africa Cup of Nations. While I will wear my Ghana shirt every time they play, I hope that they will play better football.
  • Spain: I have lived in Spain and have Spanish family and there is little not to love about the country. That said, on a football pitch I have always been critical of Spain. While I was happy they won the 2008 Euro, and admit they deserved the titles in 2010 and 2012, I remain critical of the possessive-defensive style and lack of directness. The total dependence on two clubs that annoy me are also a cause of criticism that makes me generally not support the national team. I do believe they are favourites for the title though.
  • USA: I lived in the USA and have visited the country, where I have so many friends, many times. Football (I refuse to call it soccer) has never been the priority but I have followed closely as they get better and better. It will be interesting to see them under Jurgen Klinsmann, who set forward to change US football when he became national coach.
There are of course some countries I will be missing: Denmark, Venezuela, and Liberia!


World Cup Rants said...

I love the list. I'm still trying to come up with my countries, but there are some dark horses that I'm mullling over. I don't know who to pick, but I'm going to go long shot yet again, like I did in 2010.

Anonymous said...

Hi E

Did you "play" the tournament yet?
What are your happy predictions of the group stages etc?

I am looking forward to your predictions - one on the best features of the pre-tournament build up.