Sunday, June 20, 2010

Kati's guide to choosing your underdog

The first round in the Cup has had a few surprises. Almost everyone still has a shot, as the first round is not even half over yet. So come along with me and choose an underdog to cheer for! Here are the rules I'm following-

Rule #1: Any Western European country is automatically to be booed. This is for two simple reasons: European countries almost always win, and Europe has enough money. Many of these countries have tiny populations but always rank in the top of the world. I think it's because they can afford healthy food and soccer camp for European kids. That's just not fair.

Rule #2: It's a good idea to cheer against Argentina. I have no good reason for this, but I follow it anyway.

Rule #3: Don't start out cheering for Brasil, although you probably should silently support them, because it often happens that eventually all countries will have been eliminated except for European countries and Brasil. At this point, to follow rule #1, you will need to cheer for Brasil.

Rule #4: Take a look at what Eastern European and Latin American countries are playing. These would be the middle tier of underdogs. They come from some degree of privilege but not much, and except for Uruguay, Argentina and Brasil, none of them have ever won before. This year, I hear Mexico and Serbia are looking pretty good. (Mexico beat France, and since France is the only country to defeat Brasil in a WC game in the last 20 years, I don't like France very much. Meanwhile, Serbia beat Germany, which is a huge feat, especially since I was hearing lots of cocky talk with regards to Germany.)

If supporting a winner is important to you, then Rule #4 is for you: your team has a real shot at winning but it would definitely be an underdog win.

Rule #5: Consider the Asian nations. Asians playing football... somehow we seem to have a hard time taking it seriously. So when a team does well, it's rather exciting. I was going to root for North Korea this year, because they are a true underdog and I wanted the North Koreans to have something to be proud of, and receive international recognition for, that wasn't politics. But I didn't like their attitude on the field the other day. I think their government told them to act like sissies. Too bad.

Rule #6: AFRICA! How much more so in the year when the Cup is hosted in Africa should we want an African team to win? South Africa is the favourite of the African teams, but there are some real underdog African countries in the mix. Countries whose entire identity and sense of national pride - and, I believe, motivation to build up their country - could be solidified by a World Cup win. It's never happened and I think this is the time. So here are some choices:
  1. Cote d'Ivoire
  2. Cameroon
  3. Ghana
  4. Algeria
  5. Nigeria
These include some quite strong teams. I've heard good things especially about Cote d'Ivoire and Ghana. Others might have other recommendations.

In fact, I really am not the football expert, so any of you reading this who want to add anything, please do! Just don't try to convince me to cheer for Germany, Italy, France, England, the U.S. or Argentina. It's not going to happen. (Please note, I have many dear German, Italian, French, English, American and Argentinian friends. I love you all very much and know you'll understand why I can't support your teams. After all, my heart is in Brasil.)

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