What we will see in the 2014 World Cup that we may not have seen before is…
Dr. Goldblatt: “Large-scale riots. We’ve had protests at the World Cup before. In 1938, the Italian fascist team were the champions, and the French leftists were very hot for them. The Italians came by train to Switzerland via Marseille, and 10,000 French leftists showed up to shout at them. They got abused from the stands, and in the quarterfinals against France, the Italian team wore black instead of blue and gave the full fascist salute. In 1974, we saw anti-Pinochet protestors unfurling things in the stadiums, but that aside, there’s been very little at the World Cup compared to anti-Olympic movements who have been doing stuff at various levels since Sydney 2000. This is the first time we’re going to see large-scale riots. What will happen or how it will go, I don’t know, but we will see it. In that respect, the World Cup has become more like the Olympics in its scale, scope and political significance. It was always a much smaller affair, and it certainly wasn’t costing $9 billion, which is more than the Sydney and Barcelona Olympic Games cost together! We’re going to see a kind of scaled up World Cup, in that regard.”
Brazil will win it all this year.
Dr. Goldblatt: “They’re terribly good, they won the Confeds Cup, and the team is virtually unchanged. They have a really solid defense, attacking threats from the likes of Dani Alves, and they’re a really classy team. Will they hold their nerve? Will they freak out? That’s part of the pleasure of the experience. You’ve got to make Brazil favorites, and you can’t write off the Germans, because they’re just always terribly good!”
Other Useful Tidbits, Courtesy of David Goldblatt…
Match Hospitality, which sells hospitality packages, is run by [FIFA President] Sepp Blatter’s nephew.
“It’s a conflict of interest, and what FIFA is very, VERY bad at dealing with are conflicts of interest. It’s indicative of a wider problem.”
Ghana will do well.
“They did great last time.”
Diego Maradona is not the man to be make manager of everything.
(Need we say more?)
According to the American manufacturer, the Brazilian security force helmets were designed to look like Darth Vader.
(We’re not kidding.)
Watch out for Uruguay!
“England is my first club, obviously, but I have no expectations for them. I want Uruguay to beat Brazil in the final. That’s what I’m rooting for, dude!”
Luis Suarez will be scintillating to watch!
“Suarez, man, he’s just been unbelievable this season. He’s my player of the year, to be honest. Liverpool is going to win the Premier League for the first time in 24 years, on the 25th anniversary of Hillsborough! Oh my god! He’s the number one reason!”
The only newcomers to the World Cup this year are Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“But hurrah! That’s a good thing!”
Italy is a bit of a dark horse.
“They know how to play in these tournaments.”
Brazil really does close down for football.
“For all the cynicism about football and the World Cup, it’s still the case that Brazil will close down. The entire calendar of the nation has been shifted, in terms of universities and schools and so on. Businesses will shut, and public transportation will pretty much stop. Busses come to a halt during the World Cup, and don’t finish their run until the game is over. That will still happen, and it will be really interesting to watch!”
Goldblatt on Groups:
Group A – Brazil, Croatia, Mexico and Cameroon
“It’s who comes second in that group, isn’t it? They’re all pretty equivalent – you’ve got a European, a North American and a Central African team, so it’s very balanced…that’s the real World Cup, in terms of the spread and caliber of those teams. You can see any of them beating each other.”
Group B – Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia
“Spain looked old at the Confeds, and Barcelona, from which the core of the team is coming, is looking older and not as good. And yet, you don’t want to quite right them off. They’ve won a World Cup, they’ve won two European championships…they’re bloody good! The World Cup often benefits teams who are poised, measured and pace themselves. Spain lost its opening game in 2010 and still won the World Cup! So I think you’ve got to take Spain very seriously. I think Spain is going to whoop Australia. Chile is also meant to be good.”
Group C – Colombia, Greece, Cote D’Ivoire and Japan
“This is much harder to call – any of those teams could go through, which is nice. That’s a really open group. Greece is probably the weakest team. They’re ranked 10th…how can they be 10th in the world? FIFA world rankings are odd things. I had a very interesting conversation with some dudes at FIFA, and they recognize that the rankings they produce are quite odd, and they’ve spent quite a lot of money on Moneyball-type statistics, trying to work out a better way to rank teams, and it’s proving very, very difficult.”
Group D – Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy
“Italy and England play their opening game in Manaus at noon, so that’s going to be a very slow game…it’s going to be boiling hot. I don’t think England can beat Italy in that context. I think everyone will beat Costa Rica, so it’s going to come down to whether England can beat Uruguay, and whether Italy can beat Uruguay. I think Uruguay will win the group, and then I think it will come down to who beats Costa Rica by more coals. And when it comes to sneaky, last-minute goals, you’ve got to back Italy every time, haven’t you? I’m not very optimistic about England, but I’d be delighted to be proved wrong.”
Group E – Switzerland, Ecuador, France and Honduras
“Honduras…I can’t see it, but any of the other three are possible.”
Group F – Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iran and Nigeria
“It’s just fantastically bonkers, isn’t it? This is the joy of the World Cup, you know? You have a semi-democracy, a miniscule, fragmented multi-ethnic state in the middle of Europe, Iran, and Nigeria, the most bonkers country in the world! I mean, brilliant! And all completely football bonkers…really, really football obsessed countries. This is a great football group filled with bizarre political connections and social contexts. Any of them can win that group, I would say!”
Group G – Germany, Portugal, Ghana and the United States
“The Americans are not pushovers. They’re quite hard to beat, and they have lots of experience on the side. I just don’t think they’re going to be a pushover. It’s obvious who the favorites are, but I think it’s less of a done deal than everywhere else.”
Group H – Belgium, Algeria, Russia and Korea Republic
“Group H is a real mix. Belgium are the strongest team, and the Russians are slightly odd…we don’t know quite who’s going to show, and it’ll be really interesting to see, given Russia in the world at the moment. One thing you will get from South Korea is total, total dedication to the cause in a way that most other teams will not be able to mount. Sometimes that’s enough. The Russians could have a bad day and the Belgians could too…who knows? I don’t think this group is a complete write-off, which is good because you want it to be close. I want upsets, and I don’t mind if the big teams go out early because it’s exciting.”