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2010 World Cup Preview and Guide

2010-world-cup-logo

The World Cup is a worldwide festival of sports fanaticism and media hype that is unparalleled on earth, and most other planets. Imagine a month-long Super Bowl, crossed with March Madness, multiplied by the Olympics, and presented by the United Nations.

This thing is getting so big, even Americans are now starting to pay attention.

But since the World Cup is so big, it can be overwhelming to try to follow it all. So to help you with key factors such as which team is North Korea and which is South Korea, and whether Sovakia and Slovenia are actually two different countries, and what the hell is that crazy noise coming from your TV during the games, here is Sports of Boston’s first annual 2010 World Cup Preview and Guide.

The tournament format:

The tournament will be played by teams from 32 nations, who qualified over the past two years.

The teams are broken into 8 groups of four, for three round-robin games each. The top two finishers in each group advance to the knockout stages. So a team can lose a game in the group stages and still not be eliminated.

In the first knockout round, the winner of Group A plays the runner-up of Group B; the winner of Group B plays the second place team from Group A. The Group C winner plays the runner-up of Group D, while the Group D winner faces the second place team from Group C. Groups E and F are similarly matched up, as are G and H.

The eight teams that win in the knockout round are matched up in the quarterfinals, and from then on in it’s pretty much your normal tournament format that even us Americans can figure out.

Groups, teams, schedules, players, and other World Cup info:

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

(aka, The vuvuzela group– the vuvuzela is that noisemaker horn that South African fans blast during games. It makes a hideous noise that makes you wonder if your TV is infested with angry hornets.)

South Africa

National team nickname: Bafana Bafana (The Boys, The Boys)
Top players: Benni McCarthy (club team: West Ham United. Mmm, ham!) Steven Pienaar (Everton) Aaron Mokena, (Portsmouth)
Players with the coolest names: Macbeth Sibaya; Innocent Mdledle; Siphiwe Tshabalala; Surprise Moriri
Recent international soccer history: South Africa didn’t have a racially integrated squad in international soccer competition till 1992. They qualified for the World Cup in 1998 and 2002, but failed to advance out of the group stage. They also hosted the Confederations Cup last year and did well, advancing out of their group and played tough against Brazil and Spain.
Fun fact: Those vuvuzelas are really annoying.
Approximate current odds to win the Word Cup: 125-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan: “Didn’t they just make a movie about this team starring Matt Damon as Nelson Mandela?”

Mexico

National Team nickname: “El Tri” (the three colors)
Top players:
Rafael Marquez (Barcelona) Carlos Vela (Arsenal) Cuauhtémoc Blanco (37-year-old veteran, formerly of the MLS)
Recent international history:
They have advanced from the group stages in their last five World Cups. This is their fifth consecutive World Cup appearance. Reached the Quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986, as the host nation. In 2006, lost in the second round to Argentina on a goal in extra time.
Players with the coolest names:
Jonny Magallón, Cuauhtémoc Blanco
Fun Fact: They have a huge rivalry with the US, with much mutual loathing amongst players
current odds: 80-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan: “I thought Cuauhtémoc Blanco was that tequila with the worm in the bottle.”

Uruguay

Nickname: La Celeste (The Sky Blue)
Top players:
Goalkeeper and captain Diego Lugano; Diego Forlan (Atletico Madrid)
Players with the coolest names:
For some reason, four of their players are named Diego.
Recent international history:
The last team to qualify for South Africa, this is their 11th World Cup.
Fun Fact:
They have won 2 World Cups, more than many more heralded countries. They won 2 of the first four Cups, in 1930 and 1950. They are the smallest nation to ever win a Cup.
Current odds: 90-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Diego Forlan, he’s that cartoon kid who saves animals with Dora the Explorer, right?”

France

Nickname: Les Blues (The Blues)
Top players:
many, including Thierry Henry (Barcelona) Franck Ribery (Bayern Munich), Nicolas Anelka (Chelsea)
Players with the coolest names:
Sébastien Squillaci, Abou Diaby, Djibril Cissé
Recent international history:
won the World Cup in 1998, were runners-up in 2006.
Fun Fact:
According to Irish people, France is the only soccer team to ever benefit from a bad call in a qualifying match.
Current odds: 18-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I’m pretty sure I had to change planes in Abou Diaby one time.”

Group A schedule:
(All times Eastern)

  • 6/11 10:00 AM: South Africa vs Mexico
  • 6/11 2:30 PM: Uruguay vs France
  • 6/16 2:30 PM: South Africa vs Uruguay
  • 6/17 2:30 PM: Mexico vs France
  • 6/22 10:00 AM: Mexico vs Uruguay, South Africa vs France

Group B: Argentina, Nigeria, Korea Republic, Greece

(The Crazy Maradona Group)

Argentina

Nickname: Albicelestes (White and Sky blue) or La Selección (The selection)
Top players:
Many, including Lionel Messi, generally considered the best player in the world; Diego Milito (Inter Milan) Carlos Tevez (Manchester City)
Players with the coolest names:
Ariel Garce, Lionel Messi
Recent international history:
Won the World Cup in 1978 and 1986, This is the tenth consecutive time they’ve qualified for the tournament, but they haven’t made it past the quarterfinals since 1990.
Fun Fact:
Their coach is Diego Maradona, the leader of their 1986 Cup champions and formerly the consensus greatest player in the world. Now a reformed coke fiend, he has been at the center of controversy for curious statements, strategies, and roster decisions.
Current odds: 7-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I remember Maradona, she had a lot of dance-pop hits in the 80s and 90′s.”

Nigeria

Nickname: Super Eagles
Top players:
Joseph Yobo (Everton) John Obi Mikel (Chelsea) (looks like he’s going to miss the tournament with an injury) Kanu (Portsmouth) Yakubu (Everton)
Players with the coolest names:
Danny Shittu; team manager Lars Lagerback
Recent international history:
Qualified for 1994 Cup and advanced to second round, eliminated in extra time by Italy. Also advanced to second round in 1998, and qualified in 2002, but missed out last time.
Fun Fact:
All three of the goalkeepers on their roster play for club teams in Israel. None of their other players play in Israel.
Current odds: 125-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Hey, why isn’t the USA team called the Super Eagles instead? Do we have to invade these guys too now?”

Korea Republic (South Korea)

Nickname: Taeguk Warriors. Also Tigers of Asia or Red Devils
Top players:
Park Ji-Sung (Manchester United) Lee Chung-Yong (Bolton)
Players with the coolest names:
Lee Dong-Gook, Kang Min-Soo
Recent international history:
They always qualify for the World Cup, but hardly ever win a game, except as hosts. They’ve made it for the 6th straight time, but didn’t win a match until 2002, when as co-hosts they suddenly beat Portugal, Italy and Spain in an amazing run. In 2006, they beat Togo, but couldn’t advance from the group stage.
Fun Fact:
This is South Korea. North Korea is in Group G. An English language announcer’s nightmare, 15 of South Korea’s 23 players have either Kim, Park or Lee in their name.
Current odds: 200-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“They must not be any good, I don’t remember anyone playing soccer on MASH.”

Greece

Nickname: Piratiko (The Pirate Ship) or Galanoleyki (the blue and white)
Top players:
Sotirios Kyrgiakos (Liverpool) Georgios Samaras (Glasgow Celtic)
Players with the coolest names:
Sokratis Papastathopoulos
Recent international history:
Shockingly won the European championship in 2004, beating hosts host team Portugal, Spain, defending champs France, the Czech Republic, and then Portugal again. However, they missed the ’06 World Cup and went winless in the ’08 European championship.
Fun Fact: 8 of their 23 players play for Greek club team Panathinaikos.
Current odds: 175-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Greece is the word that you heard, it’s got groove, it’s got meaning. Greece is the time is the place, is the motion, Greece is the way we are feeling.”

Group B schedule:

  • 6/12 7:30 AM: South Korea vs Greece
  • 6/12 10:00 AM: Argentina vs Nigeria
  • 6/17 7:30 AM: Argentina vs South Korea
  • 6/17 10:00 AM: Greece vs Nigeria
  • 6/22 2:30 PM: Argentina vs Greece, South Korea vs Nigeria

Group C: England, United States, Algeria, Slovenia

(the War of 1812 rematch group)

England

Nickname: The Three Lions (after the three lions on their badge)
top players: David Beckham is still their most famous player, despite being old, overrated and out with an injury. Moon-faced Wayne Rooney is also quite famous, and unlike Beckham, is actually good. Several other team members are the third or fourth best players on their club teams.
Players with the coolest names: Alas, none of Rio Ferdinand, Darren Bent or Gabriel Agbonlahor will play this time. They do have a tall guy named Crouch though.
Recent international history:
since 1990, England have been knocked out of either the World Cup or the European Championships five times on penalty kick shootouts.
Fun Facts: Former team captain John Terry’s had quite a year.
Current odds: 7-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“USA v. England will be a huge match. If England wins, we’ll only be way better than them in baseball, football, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, NASCAR, pro wrestling, and every other sport in the world except cricket.”

United States of America

Nickname: the Yanks, USA, USA, USA! or MNT (Men’s National Team)
Top players: Landon Donovan (Everton/LA Galaxy), Clint Dempsey (Fulham), coach’s son Michael Bradley (Borussia)
Players with the coolest names:
Edson Buddle, Oguchi Onyewu, Herculez Gomez, Jozy Altidore
Recent international history:
Advanced to the knockout round of 1994 World Cup as hosts, and lost 1-0 to eventual champs Brazil. Went winless in 1998, then made the final 8 in 2002. Didn’t advance out of the group stages in 2006.
Fun Fact:
The US defeated England 1-0 the last time the teams met in the World Cup, in 1950. In your face, King George VI!
Current odds: 75-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Americans hate soccer.”

Slovenia

Nickname: Zmajceki (Dragons)
Top players: Captain Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion) Rene Krhin (Inter Milan)
Players with the coolest names: Matej Mavrič, Elvedin Džinič, Zlatan Ljubijankič
Recent international history:
Qualified for the World Cup in 2002, but not 2006
Fun Facts:
Goalkeepers Samir Handanovic and Jasmin Handanovic are cousins. Also, Slovenia have crazy but cool uniforms. Their green shirts make them look like Electro from Spiderman comics.
Current odds: 300-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I haven’t followed events in Slovenia much since they split apart from the rest of Czechoslovenia.”

Algeria

Nickname: The Desert Foxes
Top players: Hassan Yebda, Nadir Belhadj (both with Portsmouth)
Players with the coolest names: Ryad Boudebouz, Abdelkader Ghezzal
Recent international history:
Qualified for the World Cup in 1986, but not again until this time.
Fun Fact: Wikipedia says “Before a qualifying match, the Algerian team bus was attacked by violent Egyptian hooligans, leaving several team members injured. This led to a diplomatic row between the two countries, which resulted in Algeria halting gas exports to Egypt.”
Current odds: 500-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I thought Al-Geria was that Arabic cable news network.”

Group C schedule:

  • 6/12 2:30 PM: USA vs England
  • 6/13 7:30 AM: Algeria vs Slovenia
  • 6/18 10:00 AM: USA vs Slovenia
  • 6/18 2:30 PM: England vs Algeria
  • 6/23 10:00 AM: England vs Slovenia, USA vs Algeria

Group D: Germany, Australia, Serbia, Ghana

(aka Deutchland Uber Alles group)

Germany

Nickname: Mannschaft (the Team), or National Elf (National Eleven)
Top players: Captain Michael Ballack of Chelsea will miss the tournament with an injury. Philip Lahm (Bayern Munich), Miroslav Klose (Bayern Munich), Lukas Podolski (Koln).
Players with the coolest names: Hans-Jorg Butt, Holger Badstuber, Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Recent international history:
Germany has won the Cup three times and finished as runners-up four times. In the last 14 World Cup tournaments, Germany has reached at least the quarterfinals.
Fun Fact: They have forwards named Cacau and Mario Gomez this time, but no one on the team is named Deiter nor Helmut nor Klaus. With Ballack out, every single player on the team plays with a German club.
Current odds: 14-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Huh-huh, you said Mannschaft!”

Serbia

Nickname: Beli Orlovi (White Eagles) – Referring to the white double headed eagle on the Serbia coat of arms.
Top players: Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) Milan Jovanovic (Liverpool)
Players with the coolest names:
Dragan Mrda. (They are very a itchy group, with 18 of 23 players having surnames that end in -ic.)
Recent international history:
Serbia (counting its past as the Yugoslavian national team) is appearing in its 12th World Cup. Yugoslavia finished fourth in 1930 and 1962. In 2006, Serbia went pointless, narrowly losing to Holland and Ivory Coast, while being thrashed 6-0 by Argentina.
Fun Fact: Striker Nikola Zigic is the tallest player in the world, listed at 6’8″. Also,  Serbian fans rioted last week after their team lost an exhibition match to New Zealand: “some of the estimated 10,000 Serbs in the crowd threw flares, bottles and missiles on to the pitch. Some fans invaded the pitch and had to be dragged away by stewards.”
Current odds: 50-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Hard to believe that large groups of people in the former Yugoslavia would ever resort to violence.”

Ghana

Nickname: The Black Stars
Top players: Michael Essien (Chelsea) (will miss the tournament with an injury.) Others: captain Stephen Appiah (Bologna) Sulley Muntari (Inter Milan)
Players with the coolest names: Prince Tagoe. Alas, Junior Agogo will miss the Cup with an injury.
Recent international history:
Advanced to the knockout stages in 2006 Cup, and knocked team USA out of the tournament. Were runners-up in 2010 African Cup of Nations
Fun Fact: Their coach, Milovan Rajevac, is Serbian, and will be trying to knock his homeland team out of the tournament in the group stages.
Current odds: 100-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“They have a player named Sulley? Do they also have one named Fitzy?”

Australia

Nickname: the Socceroos (seriously)
Top players: Tim Cahill (Everton) Mark Schwarzer (Fulham) Brett Emerton (Blackburn) Harry Kewell, Lucas Neill (both Galatasaray)
Players with the coolest names: Nikita Rukavytsya, Scott Chipperfield
Recent international history:
They qualified for the 2006 Cup by winning a shootout, then advanced to the knockout stages, where they lost to eventual champions Italy on a controversial extra-time penalty kick.
Fun Fact: vice-captain Craig Moore currently does not play for any club team, getting booted off his most recent team in Israel for an “off-field incident.”
current odds: 150-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan: “Socceroos sounds like a brand of underwear for little kids.”

Group D schedule:

  • 6/13 10:00AM: Serbia vs Ghana
  • 6/13 2:30 PM: Germany vs Australia
  • 6/18 7:30 AM: Germany vs Serbia
  • 6/19 10:00 AM: Ghana vs Australia
  • 6/23 2:30 PM: Ghana vs Germany, Serbia vs Australia

Group E: Netherlands, Denmark, Japan, Cameroon

(the Indomitable Orange Samurai group)

Netherlands

Nickname: Oranje or Clockwork Orange
Top players: Robin Van Persie (Arsenal), Dirk Kuyt (Liverpool), Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben (both of Bayern Munich)
Players with the coolest names: Rafael van der Vaart (pronounced fanderfart) Klass-Jan Huntelaar, captain Giovanni van Bronckhorst
Recent international history:
Always a contender, they never can get over the hump and win the big one. They were runners-up in 1974 and 1978 World Cups
Fun Fact: Holland was bounced from the 2006 World Cup by Portugal in a match that featured a record 16 yellow cards and set a new World Cup record of four red cards (two for either side) and was nicknamed “the Battle of Nuremberg” by the press.
Current odds: 10-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“What kind of sport has Portugal and Holland as its two most violent, toughest teams?”

Denmark

Nickname: Olsen’s Eleven, in honor of popular head coach Morten Olsen.
Top players: Nicklas Bendtner (Arsenal), Daniel Agger (Liverpool), Jon Dahl Tomasson (Feyenoord)
Players with the coolest names: Per Krøldrup, Jesper Grønkjær, and pretty much anyone with one of those cool o-with-a-line-through it things in their name.
Recent international history:
Made the quarterfinals in 1998 and the knockout stage in 2002 World Cups
Fun Fact: Many Americans believe that Holland and Denmark are the same country.
Current odds: 125-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I doubt that any of these Danes are as annoying as Dane Cook.”

Japan

Nickname: the Blue Samurai, or Soccer Nippon Daihyō, aka サッカー日本代表 Translation: “the Japanese representatives of soccer.”
Top players: Shunsuke Nakamura (Yokohama) Keisuke Honda (CSKA Moscow) (Wolfsburg)
Players with the coolest names: Marcus Tulio Tanaka, Yasuhito Endō
Recent international history:
This is their 4th straight World Cup. In 2002 as co-hosts, they advanced to the knockout stage, losing to eventual third-place finishers Turkey 1-0.
Fun Fact: Apparently they train by smashing clay pots with their shots.
Current odds: 300-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“They have a player named Daisuke Matsui– did Dice-K Matsuzaka and Hideki Matsui have a son together? Too bad they don’t have anyone named Ichiro Fukudome.”

Cameroon

Nickname: Indomitable Lions
Top players:
Samuel Eto’o (Inter Milan) Sebastien Bassong (Tottenham Hotspur) Alex Song (Arsenal)
Players with the coolest names:
Eyong Enoh, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting, Gaeten Bong
Recent international history:
Have qualified for the World Cup six times, more than any other African nation. They made the quarterfinals in 1990.
Fun Fact: in 2002, they wanted to wear sleeveless jerseys in the African Nations Cup, but FIFA denied them. In the 2004 ANC, they wanted to wear one-piece uniforms, but again were denied.
Current odds: 100-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“The Indomitable Lions are way better than all those domitable lions. Also, you know a team has a lot of guys with cool names if Vincent Aboubacar doesn’t even make the list.”

Group E schedule:

  • 6/14 7:30 AM: Netherlands vs Denmark
  • 6/14 10:00 AM: Japan vs Cameroon
  • 6/19 7:30 AM: Netherlands vs Japan
  • 6/19 2:30 PM: Cameroon vs Denmark
  • 6/24 2:30 PM: Denmark vs Japan, Cameroon vs Netherlands

Group F: Italy, Paraguay, New Zealand, Slovakia

(The Paraslovakiwi battle for second place group)

Italy:

Nickname: the Azzurri
Top players: Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Gennaro Gattuso (Milan), Andrea Pirlo (Milan) (Pirlo was injured this weekend and may miss the Cup), Daniele De Rossi (Roma)
Players with the coolest names: Salvatore Bocchetti, Fabio Cannavaro
Recent international history:
defending World Cup champions
Fun Fact: It’s widely known that the Italian team actually practices diving, flopping, and faking injuries.
Current odds: 14-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“It only makes sense that the defending Cup champions attract the best looking streakers.”

Paraguay

Nickname: La Albirroja (The White-Red) or the Guaraní
Top players: Roque Santa Cruz (Manchester City), Oscar Cardozo (Benfica), Paulo da Silva and Cristian Riveros (both Sunderland)
Players with the coolest names: Nestor Ortigoza, Roque Santa Cruz
Recent international history:
Advanced to the knockout round in both 1998 and 2002 World Cups. This is the 4th consecutive time Paraguay has qualified for the World Cup.
Fun Fact: Their longtime goalkeeper Jose Luis Chilavert, who retired in 2003, was known for coming way out of his net and for scoring goals on free kicks.
Current odds: 80-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“I really have to come up with some sort of comment about Paraguay?”

New Zealand:

Nickname: All Whites (that’s racist!)
Top players: Ryan Nelsen (Blackburn), Chris Killen (Middlesborough)
Players with the coolest names: Tony Lochhead, Shane Smeltz. Unfortunately young Steven Old didn’t make the squad.
Recent international history:
They made the World Cup one time previously, in 1982, and went winless.
Fun Fact: Tied with North Korea as longest shots to win the tournament at 2000-1. They have a player, Andy Barron, on their national team who is an amateur, and works full time in the financial industry. That’s like turning on the World Cup and seeing your stock broker running around out there.
Current odds: 2000-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Wait, there’s a new Zealand now?”

Slovakia

Nickname: The Fighting Jondas
Top players: Martin Skrtel (Liverpool) Marek Hamsik (Napoli) Robert Vittek (Lille)
Players with the coolest names: Kornel Salata, Zdeno Strba
Recent international history:
This is their first World Cup
Fun Fact: They might not yet be a soccer power, but Slovakia recently finished third in the world in Underwater Ice Hockey.
Current odds: 225-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“The Fighting Jaundice?”

Group F schedule:

  • 6/14 2:30 PM: Italy vs Paraguay
  • 6/15 7:30 AM: New Zealand vs Slovakia
  • 6/20 7:30 AM: Slovakia vs Paraguay
  • 6/20 10:00 AM: Italy vs New Zealand
  • 6/24 10:00 AM: Italy vs Slovakia, New Zealand vs Paraguay

Group G: Brazil, North Korea, Côte d’Ivoire, Portugal

(the Kim Jong-Il will start a nuclear holocaust because of a soccer match Group)

Brazil

Nickname: Seleção (The Selection)
Top players: Pretty much all of them. Kaka (Real Madrid), Robhino (Santos), Maicon (Inter Milan), Daniel Alves (Barcelona)
Players with the coolest names: Kaka. Unfortunately, Hulk did not make the team. Confusingly, Thiago Silva, Gilberto, and Gilberto Silva are three different players.
Recent international history:
five World Cup championships: 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002.
Fun Fact: You could take the players left off of Brazil’s team and make a top contending squad from them: Ronaldhino, Pato, Hulk and Adriano would be a fantastic set of strikers for any team, but they all got left off Brazil’s squad.
Current odds: 4-1 (co-favorites with Spain)
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Seriously, they have a guy who plays under the name of Hulk because he looks like Lou Ferrigno??”

North Korea

Nickname: Chollima (some sort of mythical horse)
Top players: captain Hong Yong-Jo, Jong Tae-Se
Players with the coolest names: Mun In-Guk. Also, announcers will have a real challenge with Pak Sung-Hyok, Pak Chol-Jin and two guys named Pak Nam-Chol all out there together.
Recent international history:
This is their first World Cup appearance since 1966, when they made the quarterfinal and led Portugal 3-0, but lost 5-3.
Fun Fact: They tried to sneak an extra forward, Kim-Myong Won, onto their roster by listing him as a goalie, but they were caught, with FIFA ruling that he can only play as a goalkeeper. Busted!
Current odds: 2000-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“How can you not root for a Communist country with a crazy dictator who wants to nuke us?”

Cote d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast)

Nickname: The Elephants
Top players: Didier Drogba of Chelsea, perhaps the greatest striker in the world right now, broke his elbow in an exhibition game the other day and is likely out of the tournament. Others: Kolo Toure (Manchester City), Yaya Toure (Barcelona), Emmannuel Eboue (Arsenal), Salomon Kalou (Chelsea)
Players with the coolest names: Boubacar Barry, Sol Bamba, Yaya Toure. Marco Zoro did not make the final squad.
Recent international history:
This is their second World Cup. In 2006, they beat Serbia, but didn’t advance out of the group stage.
Fun Fact: They’ve had five head coaching changes since 2008. Now they’re coached by former England manager Sven-Goran Eriksson.
Current odds: 40-1 (before Drogba’s injury)
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“If there was also an Ebony Coast, could they actually live together in perfect harmony, side by side on Paul McCartney’s piano keyboard?”

Portugal

Nickname: Selecção das Quinas (Team of the Five Shields)
Top players: fancy-lad Crissy Ronaldo (Real Madrid) Deco (Chelsea) Nani (Manchester United) Ricardo Carvalho (Chelsea)
Players with the coolest names: Bruno Alves. (Ze Castro, Makukula and Quim did not make the final squad.)
Recent international history:
Finished third in 1966 World Cup, but qualified only once between 1966 and 2002. Finished 4th in 2006.
Fun Fact: Cristiano Ronaldo has recently been romantically linked to Kim Kardashian: that’s big news, if you’re interested in annoying, bubbleheaded celebrity divas. Or Kim Kardashian.
Current odds: 25-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“On June 21, we finally get to find out which is the greatest country on earth: Portugal or North Korea?”

Group G schedule:

  • 6/15 10:00 AM: Ivory Coast vs Portugal
  • 6/15 2:30 PM: Brazil vs North Korea
  • 6/20 2:30 PM: Brazil vs Ivory Coast
  • 6/21 7:30 AM: North Korea vs Portugal
  • 6/25 10:00AM: Brazil vs Portugal, Ivory Coast vs North Korea

Group H: Spain, Switzerland, Honduras, Chile

(The Spanish Fly Group)

Spain

Nickname: La Furia Roja (Red Fury) La Furia Española (The Spanish Fury)
Top players: Loads of ‘em: Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona) Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) Fernando Torres (Liverpool) Andres Iniesta (Barcelona) Carles Puyol (Barcelona)
Players with the coolest names: Xabi Alonso, Jesus Navas
Recent international history:
lost on penalty kicks to co-hosts South Korea in quarterfinals of 2002 Cup. Lost to eventual runners-up France in round of 16 in 2006. Won the 2008 European championship.
Fun Fact: Cesc Fabregas, Xavi Hernandez and Xabi Alonso all in the same midfield? Not too Xabi!
Current odds: 4-1 (co-favorites with Brazil)
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“The Red Fury, and the Spanish Fury? They’re co-favorites, what are they so furious about?”

Switzerland

Nickname: Schweizer Nati (the national team)
Top players:
Alexander Frei (Basel) Gokhan Inler (Udinese) Valon Behrami (West Ham United)
Players with the coolest names:
Mario Eggimann, Xherdan Shaqiri
Recent international history:
in 2006 World Cup, they advanced to the knockout round, but they lost to Ukraine on penalty kicks.
Fun Fact: Their offense has been decent, but at times their defense had been riddled with holes, like some sort of cheese with holes in it.
Current odds: 200-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Mario Eggimann? Is he also the walrus? Goo-goo-ga-joob.”

Honduras

Nickname: Los Catrachos (which is apparently how other Central Americans refer to Hondurans.)
Top players:
Wilson Palacios (Tottenham Hotspur) Hendry Thomas and Maynor Figueroa (both with Wigan Athletic) Amado Guevara (Motagua)
Players with the coolest names: Georgie Welcome
Recent international history:
This is their second World Cup. They qualified in 1982, but didn’t advance out of their group.
Fun Fact: Four Palacios brothers have played for the national team but only two, Wilson and Johnny, made the World Cup roster.
Current odds: 1000-1

Comment from an American non-soccer fan: “All I know about Honduras is that it’s in a Warren Zevon song: I’m hiding in Honduras, I’m a desperate man, send lawyers, guns, and money, the shit has hit the fan.”

Chile

Nickname: La Roja (the Red One) El Equipo de Todos (Everybody’s Team)
Top players:
Alexis Sanchez (Udinese) Mark Gonzalez (Moscow)
Players with the coolest names: Waldo Ponce
Recent international history:
This is their 8th World Cup appearance, but first since 1998. Chile finished third in 1962.
Fun Fact: Some colorful Chilean player nicknames: Fabian Orellana (“The Poet”) or (“The Historic One.”) Mark “Speedy” Gonzalez. Alexis Sanchez (“The Wonder Boy.”) Jean Beausejour (“The Paddle.”) Matias Fernandez (“Fuzz.”) Claudio Bravo (“The Baby Condor.”) Rodrigo Millar (“The Clown.”) Gonzalo Fierro (“The Young Sniper.”)
Current odds: 70-1
Comment from an American non-soccer fan:
“Mmm, Chile.”

Group H schedule:

  • 6/16 7:30 AM: Honduras vs Chile
  • 6/16 10:00 AM: Spain vs Switzerland
  • 6/21 10:00 AM: Chile vs Switzerland
  • 6/21 2:30 PM: Honduras vs Spain
  • 6/25 2:30 PM: Switzerland vs Honduras, Chile vs Spain

So there you have it. Sports of Boston will have more World Cup coverage in the coming days.

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