The Beautiful Game

The expansion of the World Cup to 32 teams in 1998 also increased the number of competing teams from North and South America to eight. Brazil have won the most World Cups (five) and are the only nation to have appeared at every tournament, a record that will continue in 2014 as they are the next hosts. They have given the sport many of its finest players and probably the best team in the world ever: the 1970 World Cup winners (pictured above). They’ve made it at least as far as the quarter-finals on fifteen occasions since 1938 and there’s no reason to suspect that they won’t make it that far again this time. They shouldn’t have too much trouble getting out of a group that also contains Portugal, the Ivory Coast and North Korea. A good omen for fans of Brazil is that they are the only country that has won the World Cup outside their own continent, a feat they achieved in Sweden in 1958 and again in Japan & South Korea in 2002

Brazil’s great South American rivals are Argentina and they are also amongst the top seeds in South Africa, even though they made hard work of getting there. They are at their fifteenth consecutive finals and won the 1978 tournament as hosts and were also victorious again in Mexico in 1986. They were runners-up at Italia ’90, but haven’t made it past the quarter-final stage since. They shouldn’t have too much trouble topping a group that will see Nigeria, South Korea and Greece battle it out to see who’ll join them in the next round. Their biggest obstacle to making it far this year comes from their manager and whatever tactics and team selection he chooses to employ

Uruguay won the first two tournaments at which they appeared in 1930 and 1950 and progressed to the semi-finals in 1954. They made to the last four again in 1970, but haven’t had much luck since. In fact, they’ve only featured at five of the last ten finals and have failed to make it as far as the quarter-finals each time. They’re in a really tough group this time and any two of Uruguay, South Africa, Mexico or France could conceivably go through

Paraguay are appearing at their eighth tournament and their fourth in a row. They have never made it as far as the quarter-finals, but made it out of their group in 1998 and 2002. They may have a chance of progressing this year as they share a group with Italy, Slovakia and New Zealand

Chile are at their eight finals and the only time they’ve had any real success was when they finished third as hosts in 1962. The only other time they’ve made it out of their group was when they last qualified in 1998. They finished as runners-up to Italy in their group before their South American compatriots Brazil knocked them out. They renew acquaintances with Italy this year and should overcome the challenge of Switzerland and Honduras to get into the next round

Only Brazil, Germany, Italy and Argentina have appeared at more World Cups than Mexico. They failed to make it past the first round at their first six attempts, but were quarter-finalists when they hosted the 1970 and 1986 tournaments. They’ve made it to the Round of 16 in each of the last four competitions, but they face a strong challenge from France, South Africa and Uruguay to progress this time

The United States finished in third place at the first World Cup and caused one of the competition’s biggest shocks when they beat England 1-0 in 1950. They didn’t qualify again until 1990 and are now appearing at their sixth consecutive finals. They made it out of their group in 1994 and to the quarter-finals in 2002 where they were unlucky to lose by a single goal to eventual finalists Germany. This year, they have a chance to shock England again and could progress in a group that also contains Algeria and Slovenia

Honduras are making their second appearance at the World Cup finals. In 1982, they drew with Spain and Northern Ireland before losing by the only goal of the game to Yugoslavia. In South Africa, they look like outsiders in a group that reunites them with Spain and also contains Switzerland and Chile

Over the last week, I got as much pleasure from listening to loads of Brazilian music as I’ve had from watching their national side over the years. The country that has given the football world such players as Pelé, Zico and Rivelino has also produced the samba and Bossa nova styles of music. I’ve always been a big fan of stars from the past such as Astrud Gilberto and Sergio Mendes and I’ve liked what I’ve heard from one of the country’s most recent exports, CSS. However, I was torn between two acts that originally gained popularity in the sixties and I decided to favour the psychedelic Os Mutantes over Caetano Veloso. A Minha Menina appears on their self-titled debut album from 1968 and it compares quite favourably with British and American rock from that time

From Argentina, I’ve gone for a lady with the decidedly un-Argentinian name of Ivana Berenstein, who is also lead singer with a band called Que Tul. She is joined by fellow Argentinian Coiffeur on a catchy little number called Ahora that appears on her album No Te Duermas. La Vela Puerca is the name of a ska/rock band from Uruguay that have been performing and recording for fifteen years. Va a Escampar begins as an acoustic rock song before the drums kick in halfway through and finishes with the full brass treatment. Pipa Para Tabaco are a ska band from Paraguay and their track Todo Biento is a smokin’ reggae tune that breezes along nicely

Despite their name, Chile’s Los Tres are a four-piece who were active throughout the 90s before pursuing solo careers. They reunited a few years ago and the track Bestia from their 2007 album Hagalo Usted Mismo is driven along by some melodic guitar lines. Carlos Santana was born and raised in Mexico before moving to the United States with his family. There he developed his distinctive guitar style and the equally distinctive Latin sounds of his group Santana. Oye Como Va was a hit single and appears on the album Abraxas (1970)

Holiday is one of the standout tracks on the second album by New York’s Vampire Weekend. South Africa 2010 won’t be a holiday for the USA team, but I’m sure that many soccer fans from the States will be taking their vacation there this June. I must admit that I found it as difficult to find decent music from Honduras as I had done from North Korea in an earlier post. Fortunately, I came across a song called El Encarguito by a singer-songwriter named Guillermo Anderson. It seems that he’s quite popular in Honduras and El Encarguito has a nice chorus as well as a Caribbean feel to it. I don’t know what it means, but maybe some of the Honduran players will have it on his iPod during the team’s flights to and from South Africa

A Minha Menina – Os Mutantes (Brazil)

Ahora – Ivana Berenstein (Argentina)

Va a Escampar – La Vela Puerca (Uruguay)

Todo Biento – Pipa Para Tabaco (Paraguay)

Bestia – Los Tres (Chile)

Oye Como Va (Tito Puente cover) – Santana (Mexico)

Holiday – Vampire Weekend (USA)

El Encarguito – Guillermo Anderson (Honduras)

Previously on World Cup 2010

Africa Unite

Top of the World

Give Him a Ball (& a Yard of Grass)

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7 thoughts on “The Beautiful Game

  1. great post, knowing that the music from my country (paraguay) it’s being listened all over the world makes me proud.
    keep blogging

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    • I’ve just got a couple of posts left about the European teams. The first one isn’t great as it focuses on six of the less fancied nations (and the music isn’t so fancy, either). I hope I’m not stepping on your turf …

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