Part of the challenge for many Americans itching to dive into this year’s World Cup, is that they’ll be doing it without much so a clue about the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. This is essentially the same reason why NBC creates sappy soap opera story lines to accompany its coverage of athletes in the Olympics, in that their stories and challenges may at least be relatable in sports most of us only pay attention to every few years.
On that note, Cormac Eklof, a sports writer in Ireland, former member of the Irish National Baseball team veteran, and four-time ‘Tommy Bond’ (the Irish Cy Young Award equivalent, named after the first person born in Ireland to play in the major leagues, who had his best year in 1879 when he was 43-19) winner, has once again created a nifty cheat sheet for soccer novices, giving each World Cup entry a U.S. parallel. Brazil, for instance, will be playing the role of the Denver Broncos:
Massive expectations, huge pressure. They may not score an own goal on the first play of the game, as with the Broncos, but you can fully expect Brazil to collapse under the weight of pressure of hosting the tournament. Denver couldn’t handle being Superbowl favourites, to the point where they were literally chucking the rock out the back of the end-zone in the first seconds. This Brazil team is wafer thin, with very little depth to it, a real shadow of former great Brazilian sides. Meanwhile the pressure on them is going to be incredible. Neymar cuts a very Peyton Manning like figure, too many expectations on one man. Not to mention the fact that Neymar has been frankly awful this season for Barcelona. The big difference between Denver and Brazil? The World Cup hosts won’t make the final.
The United States? They get the Boston Bruins treatment.
Work with us on this one. Both teams are big, strong, and physical in their style of play (Jozi Altidore belongs on a gridiron somewhere!). Both teams have a well drilled system that has got them to the latter stages of the Confederations Cup and the Stanley Cup. However, lately in the Bruins case, the lack of a real proven goal-scorer has held them back deep into tournaments. Dempsey and Altidore are not a World Class strike force, an issue exacerbated by the USA leaving the legendary Landon Donavon entirely out of their squad. The USA can progress from a very, very tricky group, but, like the Bruins lately, will falter at the latter stages. Just can’t score enough goals.
England and Wayne Rooney get compared to the New England Patriots and Tom Brady:
They are supposed to be good. They have all the big names. Their local media thinks they are going to win every time they take the field, including Championship games. However, the reality is, neither England nor the Patriots post-2004 have won anything. Wayne Rooney is a massive name, and the English media love drooling sycophantically over him, while the rest of the World laughs at pictures of him in his thong on a beach in Spain. Tom Brady is deified in New England, and mocked almost everywhere else in the United States, as people laugh at pictures of him, be it on water slides or at Brazilian Street Parties.
Italy can be compared to the New York Yankees:
Experienced teams that haven’t won anything for a while (Italy 2006 and the Yankees 2009), both sides are going through the difficult winds of change, as old stars are ushered out and new, younger players join the side in their place. Potential talent drop off? You bet, the Yankees are struggling to dominate as in years of old, and Italy are currently drawing friendlies with teams as pathetic as Luxembourg (Sorry, Luxembourg). Andrea Pirlo is Derek Jeter, playing at the highest level for the very last time.
Eklof uses Boston College’s seedy past as a comparison for Nigeria, which is the ’78 Boston College Eagles:
Yes, we went there. I am sorry but, any country who’s league has score-lines in the 100s probably needs a closer inspection of FIFA’s fraud team. If that even exists. The home of the pyramid scheme is also the home to one of the most corrupt football federations in the World. Point shaving? Small fries for these guys. Sound bad? Sadly it’s entirely true. It might seem like a disservice to Nigeria’s World Cup squad, but it’s hard to ignore a league score-line of 109-0, isn’t it?
Honduras is a squad that could call Cleveland home:
Honduras has never won a World Cup finals game. That is all.
Belgium is the 2014 Pittsburgh Penguins:
Two good teams, with star names littered up and down the rosters. However, the Penguins faltered in the playoffs due to a distinct lack of overall depth. Belgium are a hot topic in World soccer circles, and many fancy them for a run deep into the finals. However, and you can guess where we’re going with this, their ultimate undoing will be tied to, that’s right, a distinct lack of depth.
Australia will play the role of the Chicago Cubs:
Massive appetite, huge following and some big players down the years. However, zero success. Both Australia and The Cubs have wildly passionate fans and indeed a huge fan base. They also share something else in common. They never win. Thanks to a horrific draw, the Australians don’t stand a chance in the World Cup. Much like the Cubs, all the time.
Cameron is the 2014 San Antonio Spurs:
Experienced teams probably just passing their upper level arc, and it’s a steep drop on the other side. The window for winning is probably right about now. It remains to be seen if Cameroon can take that experience and savvy and parlay it into a run like the current Spurs, however once you check their squad out, you can’t help being impressed at the many big names. For Tim Duncan read Samuel Eto’o. It’s now or never for both.
Spain is the 2014 Miami Heat:
Two teams either right at the very tip of their peak, or two teams about to go into an era of uncertainty and change. Miami are poised to spend a long, long summer waiting to see just how many teams LeBron James is linked with. Without James the Heat would sink back miserably into the pack and we would be back to those largely empty Heat stands of the pre-James era. Spain are probably teetering on the brink of change too, however it is a little more unclear what will happen once their all-time greats Xavi and Iniesta, amongst other big names, retire from the International scene. For both Miami and Spain, is this one last final hurrah, or the point where both teams slid back to the pack?
Costa Rica can be compared to the 2008 Detroit Lions:
You can check out all of Eklof’s equivalents here.