Quick guide to World Cup 2014

The FIFA World Cup 2014 will be the 20th such tournament and is scheduled to take place in Brazil, from 12 June to 13 July 2014. Involving 32 countries split into eight groups of four teams, each team plays three games in the group and top two progresses to the knockout stages.

Before every World Cup the media always classify one group as the ‘Group of Death’, which usually means there are three or more great teams scheduled to play each other. The Australian media tends to state that Australia is always in a ‘Group of Death’ irrespective of the other teams, however, this year it is correct, as the Socceroos are due to play Spain, Holland and Chile, all of whom could easily win the entire competition. Spain is the defending champion and Chile is South American, which as a stand-alone fact means it is a very good football side. The only potential reprieve is that Holland has a history of imploding during major tournaments.

No one expects Australia to qualify to the next stage, so what will be the measure of success? Being competitive? Scoring at least one goal? Or scraping and holding on to a 0-0 draw? Don’t be surprised if Australia gets beaten three times without scoring a goal.

Every game is on SBS with start times of 2am, 5am and 8am, with highlight shows every night.  The commercial networks will feign strong interest until Australia gets knocked out, so don’t expect to hear anything interesting or factual from those broadcasters.

To generate more interest, you will need to pick at least one other team to follow, as well as Australia. Family history may lead you to a country to support but, for example, if you are Scottish then that creates a difficult choice as Scotland didn’t qualify for the finals. It would, however, be acceptable for Scots to follow Chile (as it gets quite chilly in Scotland). If you are a Kiwi (New Zealand failed as well) then it is unlikely you would barrack for Australia, so maybe supporting Russia is an option, as both share the same national day (6 February). The choice is yours and the more tenuous the link, the better.

For the first time at a World Cup Finals, the matches will use goal-line technology. Goal-line technology is a method used to determine when the ball has completely crossed the goal line. The assistance of electronic devices will help the referee know whether to award a goal or not. However, expect at least one dubious decision during the competition which will cause a furore on the touchline with the manager and assistant referees, as well as endless debate in the media.

Although the prestige of winning the World Cup is sufficient glory, it should be noted that the total prize money on offer for the tournament was confirmed by FIFA as US$576 million. That nearly matches the annual salary of Lionel Messi of Argentina, who is arguably the best player in the world and someone to watch closely (actually he earns nowhere near the prize money; he is on a paltry $50m a year).

Things which will definitely happen

  • A South American country will win the World Cup (no team outside of South America has ever won a world cup staged in South America)
  • There will be penalty shoot-out agony and ecstasy during the knockout stages. 204 penalties have been taken in World Cup shootouts, with one in three being missed. It is indeed high drama!
  • The TV cameras will zoom in on supporters who are either scantily dressed women, cute kids, people wearing garish outfits or anyone dancing on their seats.
  • English media will moan about England’s latest sporting failure
  • Italy will get off to a slow start with either a defeat or struggling to hold on to a draw. Game two will be slightly better and it will do enough as usual to qualify and get into the last eight as a minimum.
  • Germany will be ruthlessly efficient – a good bet to reach the semis in my view
  • Football guru Pele has always predicted that an African nation will win the World Cup. Keep waiting Pele, it won’t happen this year.
  • The official World Cup ball will be rubbish and all the players will have a moan that it’s too light/bouncy/wobbly
  • Broadcasters around the globe will report that big business fears that people will take sick days to watch the matches and therefore the economy loses billions over the four-week period. Yawn!
  • Reporters from England will moan that even though its winter, Brazil is really hot. Especially the really, really hot bit up north.

Enjoy, and remember, if you can’t beat them, join them!