World Cup Preview: Group B

With Spain, Netherlands, Chile and Australia, Group B is fun as hell. You’ve got the dominant Spaniards, the wildly unpredictable Dutch, the attack-minded Chileans and, well,  Australia – the Aussies are always a good time, and hey, they won’t win but they’re probably gonna punch a couple people!

Match to Watch: Netherlands vs. Spain: One country that’s full of windmills versus another that worships a fictional character who waged war against them. It’s a rematch of the 2010 World Cup, and…I don’t really need to explain why you should watch this, right?

 

Spain

Spain-National-Team

Official slogan: “Inside our hearts, the passion of a champion.”

Alternative slogan: “We could win this whole thing playing hungover, and we probably will.”

Most popular male porn star: Dong Quixote

Alternative energy: Target of national military campaign since 1615.

National pastime: Cirrhosis

Most popular artist: Pablo Picasso, whose style of modern realism captured the outbreak of mishapen eyes and triangular facial features that plagued mid-20th century Spain.

Exports: The letter S.

Importa: The letters “TH,” financial assistance

Color me shocked that a nation that drinks, eats and sleeps like a pregnant black bear is struggling economically. The average Spanish workday starts at 10:30 sharp; workers then take 18 cigarette breaks, then head out for a two-hour lunch at 1pm, followed by an arduous hour of surfing the internet until company happy hour starts at 4pm. Company happy hour is traditionally followed by several other happy hours, a bar crawl, Tuesday night trivia, wine tasting, a beer pong tournament, cocktail hour then a 9 course small-plate dinner at 11:30pm followed by after-dinner drinks.

Outlook:  There’s a pervading belief that the Spain’s steamroll through international competition is slowing down, based on their 3-0 defeat to Brazil in the 2013 Confederations Cup and Barcelona’s relative struggles over the past two seasons. Spain are showing signs of slowing down in the same sense that an asteroid the size of Greenland will show signs of slowing down as it enters the Earth’s atmosphere and destroys humanity and organic life as we know it. Spain is less of a soccer team, and more of a standing army of otherworldly midfielders who would start for 99.9% of teams that have taken the field since soccer was invented 6,000 years ago by the Israelites (that might not be right).  Underestimate them at your own risk. UPDATE: I AM DUMB.

Tactics: Spain plays a brand of soccer that is paradoxically beautiful and boring for spectators, and it’s the tactical equivalent of Chinese water torture for opponents. They pass and pass and pass and pass, then pass 20 more times, then pass back to the goalie, then start the whole thing over again until the defense is mentally and physically worn down, then they score with one of the 96 world class talents on their roster. On one hand, Spain’s renowned passing and possession abilities are a sight to behold; on the other, their 90-minute long game of intrasquad Pong can get monotonous, especially when the players seem entirely ambivalent about actually attempting to score.  Watching the best players in the world play keep away for interminable stretches is a lesson in potential energy. That is, of course, until the defense breaks down, which it almost always does, and suddenly it becomes kinetic energy, and suddenly the Spanish are up 2-0, because they’re just that good. Spain’s like a serial killer that toys with its victims for hours, bludgeons them to death,  then draws a dick on their forehead because “por que, no?”

 

 

Netherlands

Netherlands v Slovakia: 2010 FIFA World Cup - Round of Sixteen

Official slogan: “Real men wear orange.”

Alternative slogan: “These colors do run. DO NOT WASH WITH WHITES”

Imports: Bachelor parties, college students, the recently divorced, people who just need a fucking break from it all.

Exports: Chlamydia, fictional stories about how you totally visited Anne Frank’s house, horrible music.

Disgusting national cuisine: Herring with raw onions and pickles. Every year, the Dutch consume more than 12 million kilograms, which converts to approximately 3.5 billion tons of pickled herring. That’s way too much pickled herring.

Hilarious national cuisine: Stroopwafles, stamppot, hutspot, bitterballen…the list goes on and on. Every Dutch word sounds like dialogue from “The Sims.”

Munchies-est national cuisine: Hagelslag, otherwise known as buttered bread covered in sprinkles. That is a national snack forged in the mind of a person who has smoked entirely too much legalized marijuana. And yet…I WANT IT. Hagelslag is actually a very common food in the Netherlands, which makes me think that the Dutch’s perception as highly educated, progressive health nuts is way off the mark. Can you imagine sitting down to a business lunch with your boss like, “Oh you’re getting the 8oz porterhouse a glass of Merlot? I’m gonna go with a piece of white bread covered in butter and rainbow sprinkles because I have the palate of a four-year-old and the self-discipline of a cocker spanial.”  Also, the sprinkles themselves are called “hagelslag,” which literally means “hailstorm.” That’s a pretty badass way of referring to a rainbow colored dessert topping marketed exclusively toward children everyone else in the world.

Most popular musical “artists”: DJs Armin van Buuren, Tiësto and Afrojack, who together form the musical Axis of Evil. For decades, house music was just something that happened to be playing in the background while you were doing drugs in an abandoned warehouse. Basically, it was a dog whistle for people who wanted to purchase Ecstasy. But now, sober, grown adult human beings listen to it while driving to work or going to the gym or doing all kinds of things that you don’t do while tripping balls and it’s confusing and weird. House music is a plague and people who listen to it are weirdos and I blame the Dutch for all of this.

Unpopular opinion alert: There’s no reason to root for the Netherlands; in fact, you should hate them. Despite their perception as a fun, creative team, they’re kind of awful. There are at least three reasons for this:

1) Take everything people hate about soccer – the flopping, the whining to referees, the dickish behavior – multiply it by five, and put all those qualities in the body of a 60-year-old man, and *VOILA* you have Arjen Robben. Arjen Robben is the worst.

2) Nigel De Jong, better known as the first player to ever attempt to gore another human being – Xabi Alonso – during a World Cup final. De Jong is like a goon in hockey, only worse because, you know, no one gets to punch him. Fun fact: No matter who your favorite player is, there is a 40 percent chance that De Jong has attempted to end his career by sliding studs up into his ankle. It’s kind of his thing

3) So Robben is repulsive and De Jong is morally bankrupt, but two bad apples don’t spoil the bunch, right? Well, they may not be a whole lot of fun to watch. They’ve got an alarmingly young defense comprised mostly of players from the high-scoring domestic Dutch league, which is like the soccer equivalent of the MAC in college football, so the fun, attacking soccer they played in 2010 may be a thing of the past. If the Dutch team that showed up and got annihilated at Euro 2012 shows up, things could get ugly.

On top of that, their coach, Louis Van Gaal, is set to become the next manager of Manchester United after the World Cup, which isn’t explicitly bad I suppose, if you’re into that sorta thing. Plus, Robin Van Persie and Wesley Sneijder, the other two stars, have a long-running feud and may or may not still hate each other, especially after Van Gaal stripped Sneijder of his captaincy and gave it to Van Persie. So, if the Dutch players don’t even like the Dutch players, why should you? UPDATE: I AM REALLY, REALLY DUMB.

Chile

team-chile_0

Official slogan: “Chi chi chi! Le le le! Go Chile.”

Alternative slogan: “We’re just Dollar Store Argentina, but Argentina’s really good!”

Chile is the country that your social studies teacher never quite had time to cover. It’s a huge country with a rich history that you and I will never know about unless that history happens to get stuck in a mine 4,000 feet under the Earth’s surface. So let’s make some sweeping generalizations based off everything I know about Chile: It is inhabited by several hundred million sea bass and led by dictatorial bassmaster Augusto Pinochet. It has a huge mountain range that’s named after a terrible candy, and it sometimes it has earthquakes. Did I miss anything? No? Great.

Why you should root for Chile part 1:

When life hands you lemons, and you have nothing to eat but lemons while trapped underground for 70 days, make an amazing World Cup video.

Why you should root for Chile part 2:

There’s nothing better than a good chant. It makes everything more fun, and whether watching La Roja play, or pounding Natty Lights in a dimly lit bar, or completing that annoying spreadsheet at work, it’s always a good time to scream CHI! CHI! CHI! LE! LE! LE! VI-VA CHI-LE! Also, their fans are awesome.

Why you should root for Chile part 3:

 

Arturo Vidal. The 27-year-old Juventus midfielder is awesome, and he’s poised to become the breakout star of the World Cup if Chile can advance out of their group. On top of Vidal, they’ve got a fleet of talent from across Europe, led by Barcelona winger Alexis Sanchez, who can be electric with the ball at his feet.

Why you should root for Chile part 4:

Tactics. Chile plays some balls-to-wall, attacking soccer. Whereas teams even great teams like Spain and Netherlands will park the bus and put the offense in neutral if they’re ahead, manager Claudio Bravo is like Dennis Hopper in Speed. Not only is he not parking the bus, he’s blowing the bus up if it goes under 55.

Australia

aus

Official slogan: ”Socceroos: hopping our way into history!”

Alternative slogan: “Socceroos: We taught 11 kangaroos how to play soccer and now you’re all fucked”

Socceroos is dumb nickname. If you’re going to open the animal kingdom up to soccer puns, you can’t settle on Socceroos. For one, replacing “kanga” with “soccer” is unspeakably lazy, and two, Australia is home to like 98 of the 100 deadliest creatures on earth. Give me the SOCCERDILES or SOCC-NADO or 11 HORSEMAN OF THE AUS-SOCCERLYPSE. Nope. They picked Socceroos, which sounds like a show on Sprout.

Have you ever wanted to watch a kangaroo get shot with a rocket launcher? Well here’s your chance. Unfortunately, the Aussies got handed easily the toughest draw in the tournament, so it’s not worth spending a lot of time on them. Australia will honestly be happy to come away from Brazil with a couple goals scored, but that’s not important because Australia’s not here to win the World Cup. The Australians are in Rio for the same reason that Australians are anywhere at any given time: to drink, and to give their countrymen a reason to drink. If you love Spain’s unslakable drinking habits but hate all that culture and sophistication, Australia’s the country for you. Their first match kicks off at 8:00am in Sydney, which is a bit late in the day for them to start drinking, but they’ll persevere, because that’s what Australians do. Australia’s only hope of advancing is if the stadium’s roof collapses onto the field during today’s Spain-Netherlands game, which, coincidentally, already happened once!

Australia’s official World Cup song is all about “owning the night,” which honestly is perfect since they are going to shellacked by the rest of their group during the day, but they’ll have their revenge at the bars come nightfall. When it comes to late-night World Cup carousing, the Aussies are the Brazil of Brazil.

 

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