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10 things to look out for at the World Cup by Stu Montagu

Croatia’s midfield


After a season in which Luka Modric helped himself to a Champions league medal with Real Madrid and Ivan Rakitic got a grip of the Europa League trophy with Sevilla they could well have a shot at being part of one of the delights of the tournament.


Modric is a well known talent to most football fans in Britain but there will be plenty to whom Rakitic is a bit of an unknown quantity, and many will be curious to see whether the supposedly Barcelona-bound schemer justifies the hype. Throw in the highly rated Kovacic from Internazionale and Perisic from Dortmund and Brazil may well be in for a shock in the opening game.


Cameroon doing what they are best at


Ask people which images they conjure up upon hearing the words Cameroon and many a fan will instantly leap to Roger Milla dancing around a corner flag at Italia 90 after scoring another wonderful goal. Romantic an image as that may be, a select minority of people would surely cast their minds back to seeing Claudia Caniggia desperately half-hurdling two scandalous challenges only to have Benjamin Massing attempt to kill him with a third (and lose his boot in the process).


Down the years Cameroon sides have a wonderful heritage of booting the absolute crap out of people and being sent to take early baths for it and it would be a tragedy if they decided not to continue that this time round. Shine on you crazy diamonds.




As much as we might enjoy pictures of this time-defying string-puller sitting around with his magnificent beard and sipping on a nice glass of red, watching him play football in what should be quite a tight group will remind us what’s really special about him.


If the likes of Messi and Ronaldo are box-office entertainment then Pirlo is undoubtedly a subtitled piece of world cinema that you know will wipe the floor at the Sundance film festival. Loads of subtle, interesting, nuanced stuff to enthral a viewer of that persuasion but also containing a brilliant fight scene or a bit of nipple for the more shallow moviegoer. After all what’s more erotic than a Panenka penalty?


The Brazilian defence


They may well offer up some sublime entertainment going forward but the sort of slapstick that could be on offer at the back may just trump it for watchability. David Luiz is always good value for 90 minutes of your time and, if their recent friendly with Serbia is anything to go by, watching Thiago Silva try to give off the appearance of a world class defender whilst playing alongside the footballing equivalent of a child that’s had too many e numbers should be wonderfully entertaining.


If you don’t catch Luiz kicking off with Panama players in a friendly and lick your lips at what could be to come when the real thing gets going then there’s something wrong with you.


Getting the chance to watch Diet Liverpool


After the season Liverpool fans have just had it is probably a good thing that this England side may offer them a watered down substitute to the real thing, saving them from having to go cold turkey this summer; a methadone version of Brendan Rodgers’ Tricky Reds heroin that has been on offer all year. The question is going to be just how tricky are they going to be allowed to be.


How much will the fizzing dynamic brilliance of some of these players be smothered and suffocated in turgid Hodgeyness? If an optimistic outlook turns out to be justified this could genuinely be one of the great tournaments for the England side. They are peacocks Roy, you gotta let them fly.




There will be plenty of these this summer, you can bet on that. Games that are drawn at the end of extra time will not be decided by the ultimate test of a player’s technique and nerve they will, unfortunately for players that are actually good at kicking a ball where they intend to when under pressure, be decided on pure luck.


Reports that during the tournament a list will be being made of the worst culprits in order to kidnap them, tie them up in a dank warehouse and have Jan Molby continuously boot a ball in their idiotic faces from 12 yards are, as yet, unconfirmed.


The French digging in


It would seem that after years selecting some of the most terrible blokes around, all with a penchant for tantrums and elite-level snidery, the French have decided to take another route this time round. No sooner had Samir “You took Evra but I’m too much trouble, are you kidding me?” Nasri been sent packing from the squad than a hint of unity and resolve seemed to emerge.


With a likely central midfield of Pogba, Cabaye and Matuidi this side could have steel, legs and a bit of guile too. They’ll be an interesting side to keep tabs on and could go very far.


Some absolutely dreadful barnets


Fans of atrocious haircuts will have been shedding a tear this week upon hearing that Brazilian rake-magnet David Luiz was having his poor-man’s Valderrama shorn off. Fear not though people, for this World Cup is likely to bring you plenty of efforts that would leave even a young Raheem Sterling wincing in embarrassment.


There are players already trying to work out what Raul Meireles will go with so they can top it. Absolutely top of the list is going to be a young gent from the US squad called DeAndre Yedlin who seems to be a specialist in utterly crap hairdos. Given the amount of television ads and endorsements that Luiz has attracted in the last few years it’s hard to argue with the view a lot of these lads must have: that a laughably bad barnet can sometimes get you a long way in the game.


South American entertainers


With Argentina and Colombia both being drawn in groups that seem completely ill-equipped to deal with the amount of firepower that they have packed in their suitcases it should be the South Americans that bring the goals in this tournament.


Add to that the enticing proposal of Chile not just pressing the life out of Holland and Australia but also testing themselves against the might of Spain and it’s clear to see that the first priority for games to go on the hard drive for repeat viewings should be the those featuring teams on their home continent.


Don’t be surprised if Chile get out of their tough group, Colombia get to at least the quarters and Argentina go all the way to the final.


Gary Lineker


It would seem that once again our cup runneth over with morons when looking at what the BBC and ITV have decided to offer up in the name of punditry. After hearing that ITV had hired pub-ignoramus Ian “We need more passion!” Wright the BBC hastily decided to try and fight fire with fire by getting onboard the man who thinks a white suit is a reasonable replacement for informed analysis: Robbie Savage.


Hastily skipping over the terrible news that we will not be treated to a glowering Roy Keane this summer there will still be genuine gems to emerge. Whilst Lee Dixon is consistently good the most interesting voice will almost certainly be Gary Lineker. Let off his MOTD chain, and with more time and space to engage with the other pundits, we may be given another brief glimpse of what he can offer, especially when it comes to forward play, before he sadly goes back in the attic for another two years.  




Stu Montagu


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