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Steve Braunias' World Cup Diary: 1 day to kickoff

Jun 12, 2014 Sport

Day 1: What They Look Like
Day 2: What To Expect From England




I played myself for the school team.

I think soccer is a great game, very accessible to all nations and they pretty much all play it.

There is huge pressure on players at the top levels so I’m not surprised they rip off shirts, fall on knees shouting heavenward, or engage in all sorts of other unusual behaviour.

Who d’you think will win the World Cup? How will England perform?

I’m picking a Germany vs Brazil final, but secretly I wish England would win the World Cup at least once in my lifetime.

My outside pick – and team that reminds me of the Conservative Party – is Portugal. It’s a smaller nation but able to surprise and punch well above their weight. One should not underestimate how well they might do.


Who d’you think will win the World Cup?

Sepp Blatter and his corrupt cronies.

How will England perform?

Slightly better than expected, unless you are expecting them to do well.


Who d’you think will win the World Cup?

Brazil, but look out for France.

How will England perform?

Good if George Best rises from the grave, otherwise, as usual.


I love watching the World Cup and I will watch all of the games of my favourite teams.

My favourite teams are Brazil and Germany. Brazil has the home advantage and the players will give 110% to impress their people. Just like the All Blacks did during the Rugby World Cup in NZ.

Germany is in top form and they have always done well in past World Cups. I would be surprised if they didn’t get into the quarter finals and I actually bet some money on that, so it better happen 😉


Italy play England on Sunday. How much depends on the magical properties of Andreas Pirlo’s magnificent beard?

It’s England, so they’re quite capable of beating themselves. But yes, Italy could win without taking Pirlo out of his protective case. Or England could win. Or it could be a draw. (Let’s face it: it will be a draw.)

Italy play Uruguay next week. Luis Suarez is brilliant, but also an appalling human being; does Italy have a moral duty to defeat Uruguay?

I don’t know who Luis Suarez is.

Italy star striker Mario Balotelli is brilliant, but also perhaps an appalling human being. Discuss.

I won’t hear a bad word about Balotelli, who spent his late teens being hurled racist abuse at by tens of thousands of strangers up and down the country. Were I in his shoes, I would be a lot angrier and still not half as good at football. I wish him well more than I wish Italy well.


My first World Cup memory is of Steve Sumner’s moustache [Spain, 1982], and my last World Cup memories are of watching a match in Victoria, Canada, before getting really ill and ending up in hospital.

Upside was, when the band [Opensouls] had to drive across Canada I was stuck in a hotel in Winnipeg watching all the footy I could handle. #WIN


Naturally it would be great to see the home side win.

I’ll be supporting Australia because I’m Anzac through and through.

England will continue their underachieving World Cup record and bow out in the quarters.

I’m looking forward to watching Portugal and Argentina’s stars come out to play and my dark horse team to maybe make the semis is Japan.


Global television has robbed the world cup of much of the mystery it had for me as a youngster, where every four years yellow or green shirted aliens dropped in from another planet with a version of football light years beyond the hoof it up the wing and chase the shit out of it English model we were taught as children.

Like many a purist I remain enamoured with the legendary 1982 Brazilian team, the last of the Great footballing Romantics whose fantasy football was derailed only by the pragmatism of the Italians and the inescapable truth that fantasy will often be destroyed under the jackboot of a cold hard world or the foot of an Italian fullback.

Still the puff of chalk dust that accompanied Socrates’ shot as it crossed the line for the Brazilian’s opening goal remains, for me, one of the most perfect aesthetic details I’ve seen.

There was something magical, emphatic and dangerous in that small puff of smoke, like the report from a rifle, an exclamation point or full-stop that that great team itself ultimately couldn’t provide.


Who d’you think will win the World Cup?

 Brazil should take it , because they’ll believe in it the most.


I love the World Cup. I love the mania, a month of everybody watching and talking about the same thing. And, ridiculously, I love England.

Even this year, when the best they can hope for is to come third in their pool and most of their players have the bland anonymity of a pro-wrestling jobber, still they are my team.

I don’t know what it is about English football, but both the misery and optimism are contagious.  The final may be on July 14, but for me the most tense, enthralling games will be over by June 25.


Who d’you think will win the World Cup?

Italy, of course.

How will England perform?

England will do well if they play every available Liverpool player.


Who d’you think will win the World Cup?

England. Ask me every four years, and I’ll have exactly the same answer. Loyal to the bitter end.


I attended the 1982 World Cup as a mascot, because my Granddad was team doctor for the All Whites. Had a little kit and everything. Apparently I wore it on the front page of some newspaper for ex-pats in London.


I’m a fan. And a keen member of the Parliamentary indoor football team. (We recently played the Mexican Embassy and got smashed).

I think Brazil is going to be hard to beat at home.

England has a good mix of experience and new blood. They don’t have the easiest group – Italy and Uruguay will be very competitive. But I think they’ll make it through to the knockout stages and then anything is possible.

My wife’s a Pom so it’s compulsory we support them at my house.

Yeah, I’ll watch some games. My Beehive office is running a sweepstake (presumably in compliance with gambling laws) so I’m certain the TV will be on in the background quite a lot.

Of course I won’t let it interfere with all the hard work we do in my portfolios.


I’m praying that Brazil face Uruguay in the final and that Uruguay win…. again, because it would easily be the most dramatically cosmic moment in world sport, ever.

Uruguay has won the World Cup twice, and remains magnificently the only nation below a population of 50 million to have won it at all, and they can only muster a paltry three million inhabitants. They were fourth last time in South Africa. That is outrageous. All other sports included, that must make them the most over-achieving sports nation ever.

Uruguay’s President is Jose Mujica, who has a face like a wino and workman’s hands. He’s a little Left of centre. Described by some decent people as “the last hero of politics”, he is the poorest head of state on the planet with a net personal wealth of $5000, most of which is assessed to be the value of his VW Beetle.

Uruguay is the first nation to legalise, not decriminalise, LEGALISE, marijuana.

The last time Uruguay won The Cup in 1950 they beat Brazil in front of 200,000 disbelieving Brazilians, in Brazil. It was arguably the greatest upset in sporting history, and Brazil has never forgotten it. It sits in their collective gut like a broken bottle to this day. A lovely piece of cosmic irony is that the man who scored the winner that day at the Maracena Stadium is the only man left alive from that World Cup winning Uruguay side, and he’s going to be there to watch… talisman-like.

So, what will happen if Uruguay wins? Brazil may simply invade their upstart neighbours and take the cup by force, or it’ll slip into the sea under the weight of expectation unrelieved. Never, ever, in the history of sport has greater pressure been laid upon a sporting team than Brazil in 2014.


I’ve probably missed your deadline really which is probably just as well as I know absolutely nothing about the World Cup. Which is funny really because I really do like the game of soccer and played it quite a bit as a kid.

I actually will watch some games and will probably get into it. In fact I will have to because we’ll be covering it quite a bit on Morning Report but also because … well it’s a great game isn’t it, when something actually happens. Maybe that’s the great thing about it. 90 minutes and maybe one or two goals … it’s so damned exciting when they actually score. Basketball or even rugby people are scoring all the time right? Soccer – nothing happens for ages and then GOOOAAAALLL!!

I think Brazil will win.


D’you have any thoughts on the World Cup?

Spare a thought for those of us without the coordination for soccer.  The best thing that could happen for us is if somebody picks up the ball and runs with it, straight into a maul.

If Act was a football team at the World Cup, would it more likely be a Japan or Iran (lightweights who have their place), or a Brazil or Spain (superb performers feared by their opponents?)

We would be Brazil, the economists’ choice.


Ask someone about the World Cup in Sao Paulo right now, and you’ll get a grimace in return. People’s frustration with holding the tournament is just as overwhelming to the visitor as the friendliness and humour of the Brazilians.

Their question: why hold this over-expensive tournament – with its numerous white elephant stadiums – while the ghosts of former President Lula’s neo-liberalism reign, broken education and health systems haunt the country?

The walls of Sao Paulo – long the canvas of the people – mock the tournament. “We need FIFA-quality schools and hospitals, not stadiums,” reads one scrawl in the young activist suburb of Villa Madelena.

Separating politics and football seems impossible. But once everything kicks off, there is some hope that, if only for a month, national pride will displace a nation’s anger with its government.

Indeed, each day the A Seleção play, Brazil gets the day off work. Come game day, maybe the engarrafanetos (traffic jams) will be accepted, the Metro strikes will die down – and a nation can crack open a few cold Brahmas, cheer on Neymar and kick-start the party. Só o tempo dirá.

What do the women look like?

Heartbreakingly beautiful. They just glide.


I am greatly looking forward to the World Cup. Timing is everything in the enjoyment of global sporting events. In my head the 1982 World Cup had all NZ games scheduled to fit my morning routine, eat breakfast and get to school. Either that or I wagged school, hard to remember now.

I will take seriously my job of representing the football loving electorate of Wellington Central at the various screenings, pubs and embassies that I will occupy over the next few weeks.
England manager Roy Hodgson looks just the man to lead the old country to an heroic but dour quarter final exit. I will be there for him.

I fancy a South American team. Literally. You have to admit they are a good looking bunch.


In the Uruguay vs England game, Luis Suarez will run half the length of the pitch to kick his Liverpool teammate Stephen Gerrard in the thigh, but England will get the last laugh with a 1-0 victory due to a brilliant goal by another Liverpool player, Daniel Sturridge. Suarez will then attempt to bite his ear.

There will be a major drugs scandal: players from Ghana and Algeria will be caught using banned cough medicine stimulants. Meanwhile, attracting no interest from FIFA, WAGS associated with England, Spain, Brazil and Russia will post Instagram pictures of themselves rolling naked in mountains of blow.

England will do moderately well, advancing from Group D in second place, having beaten Uruguay but lost to Italy and drawn with Costa Rica. It will then have a relatively easy time beating Group C winner Greece in the next round.

By that stage, English supporters will be in a state of hysteria, and the team will succumb to the pressure, going down 1-0 in the quarter finals, in a rematch with Uruguay, in the dullest game imaginable.

The most open game of the tournament will be between Ghana and USA, where a dozen goals will be scored. South Korea, Mexico, Cameroon, Australia, Iran and Algeria will all disgrace themselves by allowing teams to score five or more goals against them in a match, and in several of those countries this will have unfortunate consequences for the players when they get back home. Iran will imprison the captain.

Colombia will host the after-party, but most teams will be too scared to turn up. It will end badly, with knives and assault rifles, and naked WAGS from England and Russia rolling in mountains of blow.

The final will be played between Brazil and Spain, decided by penalty shootout.

Spain will win the 2014 World Cup.


I’ll be watching the World Cup this year as much because of the history as the game.  ESPN played a fabulous documentary this week on Moacir Barbosa, the goalkeeper in the 1950 Brazilian team that lost to neighbouring Uruguay in the final. For the rest of his life Barbosa had to carry the stigma of the loss.

In 2014, will a win avenge what Brazil regard as a national tragedy?  I’ll be rooting for Brazil and wishing a plague on the rest.


Pangs for the Mother Country are few and far between. But every four years, come World Cup time, I do wish I was there. It’s not about the football – my generation, conceived in the afterglow of England’s solitary victory in the late 60s, is long-resigned to failure.

But we do still celebrate. We celebrate seeing the French embarrass themselves, or some brave little African nation telling the world they exist. We celebrate the World Cup anthem written to inspire us to yet another mediocre performance – Fat Les’ chart-topping song, Vindaloo, got us all the way to the last 16 in 1998.

Some celebrate by smashing up expensive German cars, if the old foe evicts us in yet another penalty shoot-out. Others celebrate by launching a hate campaign against the poor sod who missed the penalty.

Most celebrate by wearing, waving and drinking anything with a St George Cross on it.

But the key is that, when failure is accepted before the cup starts, it’s the occasion itself that the English celebrate. I love the World Cup and every frustrating second of it.

Were England to win? I’d probably just go for a curry.

(My picks: Argentina to beat Brazil in the final, with Holland a dark-horse 3rd place. England again makes the last 16 – Fat Les gets a knighthood.)


I find it hard to get excited about Brazil 2014, which is yet another milestone on Scotland’s long and painful road to mediocrity. Still, in Scotland’s absence, there is always the dubious pleasure of watching England go out.

Despite this, I will be doing my best to support England in Brazil. I’ve tried this before. Here’s how it usually works. You reason with yourself. You admit that there’s something puerile and small-minded in wanting England to get beat.

And then you turn on the telly, and the English commentator makes his first patronizing reference to diving Italians or cheating Uruguayans, or mentions 1966, and you think, “the hell with it”, and start rooting for the opposition.

This time, however, I’m determined to support England. With the sound turned off.


I know nothing. Though I would make a good replacement for the late Paul the Psychic Octopus.  Make me choose between two bowls of food.


There will be two games between Uruguay and England – one next week, and one on July 14.

Brazil’s shame.

Spain, Germany, France, Holland – pffft.

The new world order of Iran, Chile, USA, Ghana.

A magic realism kind of tournament, with incredible results, impossible goals, strange melodramatic sub-plots (two players in love with the same woman, a referee who goes missing at half-time), and revelatory performances from players who no one had ever heard of even in their own countries.

I’ll want to watch games at the same time as my daughter wants to watch the Disney Channel. There will be bitter, childish tears, mine.


For a man whose timing was always so chaotically perfect, Rik Mayall picked a crap week to die.

Football – England football especially – was one of his great loves. The idea that he would leave us just as the World Cup approached, was an absurdity. Mind you, he always was a shameless scene-stealer.

Mayall once even released a World Cup song. It soared like a rock.

His “Noble England” single was hardly the high-water mark of British contemporary music – a Henry V figure tuneless and emphatic: “I am the lovechild of Britannia and St George,” – but it was classic Mayall.

Mostly, I’m a football agnostic. Being a Bristol City fan for more than three decades can do that to you. But once every four years I become an unashamed disciple.

The next few weeks will challenge all of us. The early starts, the awful TV graphics, the daily reminders that they’re all in Rio and we are not.

But somehow we’ll muddle through it. Those of you with Anglo-Saxon heritage will (again) nervously negotiate England’s tentative path through the group stages before the inevitable (again) death in a penalty shoot-out.

Few genuine neutrals would argue against a Brazil vs Argentina final, but part of me will remember how I felt when I heard the news of Rik Mayall’s death, and had a boyhood balloon popped.

So if somehow England survives into the knock-out stages, I will accept his challenge and join them with a hearty, if hopeful … “Once more unto the pitch, dear friends … “


They call it the beautiful game. Well beauty is in the eye of the beholder and unfortunately most of those eyes are beholden by thugs and thickos.


I’ve never watched a game in my life.


I don’t even know what shape the ball is.


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