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World Cup 2014 Preview: Take 2

Our second FIFA World Cup 2014 Preview, from blog editor Simon Hill:


Group A
Brazil have little in the way of competition and the fired up hosts will blast Croatia off the pitch 3-0 while Mexico will edge Cameroon 1-0. The Brazilians will beat Mexico in a tighter game 2-1 while Cameroon and Croatia play to a 1-1 draw. The hosts then make it a 3 for 3 by easily disposing of Cameroon 2-0. Finally Mexico will book themselves a somewhat surprising Round of 16 spot by beating the wilting Croatians 1-0.
Brazil (3-0-0; +6; 9pts)
Mexico (2-0-1; +1; 6pts)
Cameroon (0-1-2; -3; 1pt)
Croatia (0-1-2; -4; 1pt)

Group B
Spain comes out on top of a testy, foul-filled duel with the Netherlands 2-1, while Chile edges Australia 1-0. The Dutch bounce back and thump the Aussies 2-0 while the Spaniards take down Chile 2-1 in a tight match. Spain keeps its unbeaten record by thumping Australia 3-0 before Chilean hearts are broken by the Dutch with a 2-2 draw and the Netherlands advancing on goal difference.
Spain (3-0-0; +5; 9pts)
Netherlands (1-1-1; +1; 4pts)
Chile (1-1-1; 0; 4pts)
Australia (0-0-3; 0pt)

Group C
Colombia takes the points with a close 1-0 win over Greece while Cote d’Ivoire and Japan have a shootout ending in a 2-2 draw. The Colombians then edge the Ivorians 3-2 in one of the more entertaining games of the tournament; Japan then plays to another draw 1-1 with the defensive Greeks. The Japanese then make it through with a 2-2 draw against group winners Colombia but Cote d’Ivoire goes home along with Greece after a 1-1 draw.
Colombia (2-1-0; +3; 7pts)
Japan (0-3-0; 0; 3pts)
Cote d’Ivoire (0-2-1; -1; 2pts)
Greece (0-2-1; -1; 2pts)

Group D
Uruguay blasts Costa Rica 3-0 before England and Italy play to an ugly 0-0 draw. The Uruguayans top England 2-1 while the Italians easily dispose of Costa Rica 2-0. Finally, Italy books a place in the next round with a 1-1 draw with group winners Uruguay, while England beat Costa Rica 2-1 but still go home.
Uruguay (2-1-0; +4; 7pts)
Italy (1-2-0; +2; 5pts)
England (1-1-1; 0; 4pts)
Costa Rica (0-0-3; -6; 0pt)

Group E
Switzerland and Ecuador start the group play with a 0-0 draw before France edges a game Honduras 1-0. The Swiss defence again holds as they again draw 0-0 with France, while Ecuador beats Honduras 2-1 in a fun game to watch. Switzerland finally gets on the scoreboard (and into the next round) with a 1-0 win over Honduras, while the French take the group with a 2-1 win over Ecuador.
France (2-1-0; +2; 7pts)
Switzerland (1-2-0; +1; 5pts)
Ecuador (1-1-1; 0; 4pts)
Honduras (0-0-3; -3; 0pt)

Group F
Argentina comes out of the gate strong with a 2-0 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina before Nigeria downs Iran 2-0. The Argentinians crush the Iranians 3-0 while Nigeria tops Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0. Argentina then cruises by Nigeria 2-0 while the plucky Iranians hold Bosnia to a 1-1 draw.
Argentina (3-0-0; +7; 9pts)
Nigeria (2-0-1; +1; 6pts)
Bosnia and Herzegovina (0-1-2;-3; 1pt)
Iran (0-1-2; -5; 1pt)

Group G
In one of the most highly anticipated games of the tournament Germany edges Portugal 2-1, while Ghana one again breaks American hearts with a 1-0 win. Germany then edges Ghana 1-0 while the USA plays its best game holding Portugal 1-1. In the final games, Germany are too much for the USA and win 2-1 while Portugal go through with a 2-0 win over Ghana.
Germany (3-0-0; +3; 9pts)
Portugal (1-1-1; +1; 4pts)
Ghana (1-0-2; -2; 3pts)
USA (0-1-2; -2; 1pt)

Group H
Belgium hold a game Algeria at bay for a 1-0 win before Russia ties South Korea 1-1. The Belgians again keep a clean sheet with a 1-0 win over Russia while Algeria and South Korea play to an entertaining 2-2 draw. The South Koreans worry the Belgians before going down 2-1 before Algeria stuns Russia 1-0 to go through.
Belgium (3-0-0; +3; 9pts)
Algeria (1-1-1; 0; 4pts)
South Korea (0-2-1; -1; 2pts)
Russia (0-1-2; -2; 1pt)


In an enthralling game, hosts Brazil take down the Netherlands 2-1, while Spain easily dispatches Mexico 2-0.
Italy makes hard work of beating Colombia 1-0 while Uruguay have no problems beating Japan 3-1.
France tops Nigeria 2-1 before Argentina sends Switzerland home 2-0.
Germany thrashes Algeria 3-0 before Portugal upends Belgium 2-1.


Brazil marches on with a 2-1 win over Italy.
Spain ends Uruguay’s dreams 1-0 after extra time – or even penalties.
Germany has no problems beating France 2-0.
Argentina cruises by Portugal 2-0.


Brazil takes down Germany 3-2 in the match of the tournament before things get ugly as Argentina beats Spain 2-1 to setup an all-South American final.


Destiny is calling…and Argentina is there to break the collective Brazilian hearts with a last minute winner for a 2-1 victory.



Hammered Parrot

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Words Of Wisdom from Phil Ball

Talking of injustice, the decision not to pick Spain and Portugal for the 2018 World Cup has, of course, gone down here like a lead balloon. The press, as in England, has called for a reform of FIFA and of the process of picking the hosts. One almost forgets, in all the hullabaloo, that the most important thing is to win the World Cup, not host it, but money speaks as loud as trophies these days.

The decisions to elect Russia and Qatar have their virtues, but they seem outweighed by the dysfunction of the whole messy process. It’s hardly rocket science to realise that if you adopt a system of individual, non-accountable secret voting, the process will be susceptible to corruption. And why elect the hosts of 2018 and 2022 at the same time? It seems obvious that decisions made towards the one will condition those made for the other. And so both Spain and England have called for ‘reform’, without specifying exactly what they mean by that word.

Well for starters, Sepp Blatter said that the world was changing. Ok – sure. But how about changing the world instead? I don’t wish to come over like Mother Teresa here, but why not hold the World Cup in Haiti, for example, so that football could actually begin to do some good?

Instead of looking around for rich and powerful countries, and then rewarding them by giving them even more money and power, why not direct the private investment that surrounds a World Cup into a poor country, so that it can begin the process of recovery? Give a country the infrastructure that it needs for the World Cup, but that it needs much more for its own survival. Haiti is just an example. There are plenty of other candidates.

And if we want ‘reform’, then the only way to bring it about is to elect a much wider judgement platform, in the shape of a multi-lobby committee drawn from all sections of society and chosen from a greater range of countries. This committee would then be charged with seeking consensus on about six criteria – six boxes that the candidate countries for a World Cup would have to tick. The committee’s job would be to decide on these criteria, arrive at a consensus, and then invite the candidates to apply. Nobody needs to vote. The whole process would be entirely transparent.

And the criteria? Well – as you know, most of them were ignored anyway by the present committee, since both Russia and Qatar ticked fewer boxes than most of the countries snubbed. But say, for example, that you insisted on some political criteria. Why not? The decisions for hosting have often been politically motivated, but not explicitly.

So why not insist, for example, that the host country have a decent record on human rights, a balanced distribution of wealth, a free press and some sort of political democracy or franchise? Because obviously, given such entirely reasonable criteria, Brazil, Russia and Qatar would have struggled to tick all the boxes. It wouldn’t necessarily exclude them from the prize, but they could then be encouraged to fulfill the criteria, although obviously I’m not suggesting (in the case of Qatar) that an Emirate become a western-style democracy overnight.

But the granting of the right to host a World Cup should always be provisional, and subject to conditions. If you grant a country the right to a bonanza in 12 years’ time, then you have the right to check, every couple of years, that the qualification criteria are being respected, even initiated.

In short, you use football to change things for the better, and exploit its enormous media power to generate wealth and democracy in poorer countries, instead of patting rich governments on the head for consistently interpreting human rights as if they belonged at the bottom of the page, as an optional clause.