A World Cup Guide, For People Who Watch Football Once Every Four Years
Source: Malay Mail

Every four years, I get excited about a sport I normally do not care about, for reasons that confound even my psychiatrist.

I mean, honestly, how did Canada’s Curling team lose to Sweden during the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics? It’s outrageous. They fielded such a strong squad against relative unknowns.

Also: The Fifa World Cup. The hype is real now that we’ve entered the quarterfinals.

I enjoy watching the World Cup when it appears once every four years like a rare Pokemon. However, my pleasure is severely curtailed by a total lack of knowledge about the sport, which is what happens when you try to eat Fifa’s dessert without first tackling the main course of European club football.

As a result, I often have no idea who to support or what I’m cheering for. All my friends hate me because I interrupt the game with annoying questions that were barely relevant four years ago. Questions like: ‘Where did Mario Balotelli go?’ or ‘Is Cristiano Ronaldo still single?’

If you’re a excitable moron like me, this article is for you. Welcome to our World Cup Guide for People Who Barely Football. With thanks to anyone who had to answer my endless questions.


Suarez at the full moon. Source: The Irish Times
Uruguay is one of those countries that would not exist in anyone’s mental geography if not for football. I tried to think of fun facts about Uruguay but absolutely nothing came to mind except that it is located in South America.

In fact, when you Google Uruguay, the first image that appears is literally a picture of their light-blue-clad national football team, followed by 5 stock images of South America.

On the subject of football, however, Uruguay represents quite a strong side. They have world-class forwards in the form of Luis Suarez, who likes to bite people and looks like a werewolf, and the long-haired Edinson Cavani, who looks like a vampire but does not bite people.

Together, Edward and Jacob form quite a powerful attacking force despite a meh-ish midfield who play mostly in South America’s local leagues. They are also supported by what might politely be called a ‘no-nonsense’ defense, who are not afraid to play rugby if their attempt to soccer should fail.  

Question: Who the fuck ordered their clothes? Uruguay’s jersey seems to be at least 3 sizes too small.


"I am very happy for you." Source: Express.co.uk
You can be forgiven if the last thing you remember about France is Zidane headbutting that Italian guy in 2006.

Not much happened in the decade following Butt-gate except lots of infighting and a massive investment by the usual oil-rich Gulf sheikhs, who seem to buy football clubs the same way I buy Fisherman’s Friend – as an afterthought.

However, the massive cash inflow seems to have paid off somehow because France is now a bookie favourite. The national team has more young talent than they can possibly use, including the 19 year-old Mbappe, who was sold to Paris St Germain for a record sum of 180 million euros.

Overpriced? Hardly. Anyone who can murder Lionel Messi’s dreams of a world cup in cold blood by scoring twice against Argentina should be taken seriously, even if he’s still in diapers.


Russian Goalkeeper's Cyka Blyat moment. Source: The Irish Times
Russia has played really well this time and I’m not saying this because I am scared of Vladimir Putin. No one has anything to fear from Putin, who is a very nice man and not at all fond of assassination.

But to give credit where credit is due, Russia has surprised everyone. Nobody expected them to survive for so long and everyone thought that Spain was surely the final nail. For a team which relies entirely on Russian league players and is utterly devoid of stars from the usual Real Madrid-Man-City-PSG merry-go-round, it’s an A+ effort.

Now, please remove the pistol from my head.


The Agony of St. Neymar, Botticelli, 1472 Source: Mashable
Following their 7-1 defeat by Germany the last time, it’s very hard to feel any confidence in Brazil. After all, footballing pedigree didn’t save Germany themselves from getting Brazil-ed by South Korea just last week.

That being said, there is good reason to be hopeful. The defensive potholes that need to be plugged have been plugged and Brazil has added attacking talent in the form of Willian (massive afro) and Gabriel Jesus (last seen doing home renovation in 2014).

However, they still have not fixed their crippling addiction to Neymar, who remains the star player. He has changed his hair from 2014’s faux-Justin Bieber to a Maggi Goreng-inspired perm but you can spot him easily on the pitch: He is the one on the ground, convulsing in agony after being fouled by a gentle summer breeze.

Brazilian football’s Jesus figure is an expert in suffering for the benefit of a live audience, but it remains to be seen if he can save his country or redeem himself.


Instant Karma. Source: the42
Belgium is famous for beer, chocolate and getting invaded by larger European powers.

It was never very famous for football. All I remember of Belgian football is Vincent Kompany’s massive forehead – an object that must surely make headers very easy because it has its own gravitational field.

Cheap jokes aside, I really want Belgium to win this world cup. Not because I have any special affection for Belgium, but because I just read Lukaku’s harrowing first-hand account of growing up poor in Antwerp. It is the best thing that I’ve read all year and you should seriously go check it out now.

This is a kid who had to SHOW HIS ID to racists who wanted him off the pitch. At one point, his family was so poor, they had to water their milk with water. Lukaku even shared shoes with his dad, also a footballer.

Well, fuck you Belgium, for making me emotionally invested.

Thankfully, it’s not just Lukaku carrying the dreams of a nation plus me on his shoulders. Along with De Bruyne and Hazard, he is part of Belgium’s first ever ‘golden generation’ and they are all hungry for a victory that seems quite plausible if they stop kicking the ball into their own face.


Source: Ikea
I can’t think of anything interesting to say about Sweden because their football is like Ikea furniture – functional but boring. Thankfully Sweden and Switzerland clashed and the latter was eliminated, so we don’t have to watch another 90 minutes of chartered accountancy.

Strangely enough, Sweden is actually playing better without its only superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who is possessed of an ego so massive that England sank 2cm into the North Sea after his arrival at Man U.

Zlatan on Zlatan: ‘I can’t help but laugh at how perfect I am.’

Zlatan on injuries: ‘A injured Zlatan is a serious thing for any team.’

Honestly, we want Sweden to win just to enjoy the post-game Zlatan memes.


It's... coming home? Source: BBC
England is the Arsenal of footballing nations. It is a resolute quarterfinalist who harbours delusions about being Man U because they were briefly Man U 50 years ago, but damned if the BBC will write a SINGLE sports article without alluding to 1966.

But what’s really interesting is their current national mood – which is slowly changing from jaded resignation to cautious optimism.

Having experienced nothing but bitter disappointment for half a century, and after having their feelings cheated by the last ‘Golden Generation’ of Beckham, Owens and Lampard, the English fans are slowly learning to love again after this group stage, not unlike a 60 year old divorcee ‘looking for friends’ on Okcupid.

Their weakness? Most likely youth and inexperience. England skipper Harry Kane is 24, and their striker/winger Sterling is 23. Even the goalkeeper, who is usually a senior citizen in football years, is relatively young.

Team student discount also got really lucky in the brackets. They have yet to face any top-tier opposition on the pitch.



Real men wear checkers. Source: Dezeen
If England is the Arsenal of Footballing nations, then Croatia is surely the England of the Balkans.

Like England, Croatia has a habit of reaching the quarterfinals, feeling jubilant, and then promptly getting their ass kicked by an A-list team.

Unlike England however, Croatia is one of the oldest squads in this World Cup. They are like the Expendables: A group of aging stars making one last grasp at glory before removing their dentures together and fading into non-existence.

In other news, Croatia is the only team bold enough to play in a picnic mat. Everyone is talking about VAR but nobody is talking about the real controversy – Croatia increased the size of its squares on their jersey.


What is VAR?

Ans: Video Assistant Referee. In simple terms, it means that every referee is assisted by three extra referees watching the match on television screens, in a darkened room somewhere. It has been a controversial measure because any change is controversial if there’s the slightest chance of it benefiting a team you bet against.

What is Diving?

Ans: What happens when a team that you like ‘injures’ a team you do not like. For further details, please watch this video.

What is Offside?

Ans: It simply means you can’t camp out beside the goalkeeper permanently like an asshole. If your forward is waiting behind their last defender and he gets the ball, one of those men at the side will raise his tiny flag to stop the game.

Is Fifa Corrupt?

Ans: Fifa has been dogged by allegations of corruption for many years but football fans turn a blind eye because the graft rarely gets in the way of a good game. This theory will be tested by Qatar 2022, the first time a World Cup will take place in summertime weather that prevents football from being ‘physically played.’

Why does Malaysia get to watch for free?

Ans: Singapore Ministers salary so high, how to pay for the Fifa’s rebroadcast rights? Don’t complain because the 70% voted for this. NS for Sinkies, Fifa for Malaysians.

Where can I watch it for free?

Ans: At your local community centre.

( Hesgoal.com also has *cough* some football clips which you might *cough cough* find interesting)

Who will win the world cup?

The official RICE media gut-feeling endorsement is Belgium. We think that Belgium will win because we like Belgium. It is a solid underdog, and the country that invented ‘french’ fries and brews the world’s best beer must surely be capable of other surprises.

(Just kidding. It’s probably Brazil as usual)

RICE media is not responsible for any betting losses sustained as a result of reading this article? But if you do go bankrupt, tell us all about it at community@ricemedia.co.

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