Saturday, May 31, 2014

Meet the Team: Switzerland

Nickname: With four languages squeezed into about 16,000 square miles, there's a lot of different ways to say "National Team", but we prefer Rossocratiati (The Red Crosses).

Xherdan practices his Tiger Beat face
Star: There's plenty of people talking about this world cup as a coming out party for Neymar, or the entire Belgian/Colombian teams. But Switzerland has as much young potential as anyone else, particularly starring Bayern Munich's midfield man: Xherdan Shaqiri, whose speed is vital to keep an aging defense protected.

Hip-Star: While Switzerland's youthful midfield is promising, their youthful striking corps is a little more worrying. Though he is the youngest and least capped striker on the squad, Josip Drmić is in the best form--with the third most goals in this year's Bundesliga and a spiffy new contract with Bayer Leverkusen. Plus, like his name shows, he's so over vowels.

X-Factor: The swiss were really stupid, they beat Brazil in a friendly last August. That boosted them to the top 8 of Fifa's rankings, which made them a top seed in the cup. Without that win they might have landed a more manageable group with Colombia, or Belgium and played their familiar role of spoiler. Instead they're "the team to beat" saddled with France and Ecuador in a group that's not impossible, but certainly not their ideal situation.

Omar tells me what I can do
with my questions
Coach: Omar Hitzfield is leading the Swiss Miss-ters to a second consecutive world cup, but has vowed to step down on July 1st--of course, if Switzerland makes the quarter finals, they would play after July 1st...not sure what will happen then.

History: It's been feast or famine for the army knife gang (can you tell I like making up nicknames for them?) Strong showings in the 30s and 50's presaged two decades of inadequacy and no qualification. The current group will play in their third World Cup in a row with a second round in Germany and stunning victory against Spain in South Africa to show for their troubles.

Food: Fondu is totally overkill, and while they're popular world wide, the Swiss are such an international people that I feel entitled to claim quiche and call it good.

Thanks British Press!
Fool: Did you know that Switzerland uses a council of learned elders to rule the single executive but a community. It obviously works for the wealthy and stable nation (though friendly overseas banking laws help). Which means it's back to my old stand by, mock Sepp Blatter. The president of FIFA who rules with an iron grip inside a velvet glove runs the organization like his own personal fiefdom, going so far as to say last month that he would run for a fifth term despite pledging to step down after a sketchy reelection in 2011.

Best Case: The Swiss defense stands pat, the young talents prove their worth and all the criticism and complaint about their seeding is proved ill-founded as they top Group E, best the underwhelming runner-up of Group F, and push Germany all the way to penalty kicks in the Quarterfinals.

Worst Case: The defense's age is exposed and the attacker's youth is exploited, and even the steady hand of Hitzfield can't stymie faster, focused squads from France and Ecuador, with just a draw against Honduras holding them up in third place.

My prediction: While the Swiss stand out as the top-seeded team everyone loves to mock, they've been a top ten team in the world for a reason. While they may be overrated, they can definitely handle Honduras, so a strong showing against Ecuador is crucial. I think they get it and, by proxy, a spot in the Second round.

Added Bonus: Arguably the most influential song in Swiss hip-hop is "Murder By Dialect" by P-27 (f. Black Tiger), shifting from Swiss-German to English and back again is yet another sign of the Swiss cosmopolitan style.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Meet the Team: Spain

Nickname: I actually appreciate the Spanish method of weaving in the jersey color into their nickname: La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) is a fine way to go.

Star: The plethora of options, creators, finishers, defenders and just general talent is embarrassing. Narrowing those options to one star is like identifying the single best peanut M and M's in a pound worth of them. Let's just say Andrés Iniesta and brace for the torrent of angry fans defending their own favorite.

Hip-Star: If you can find an under-the radar Spanish player, you should talk to NORAD, because, your skills shouldn't be wasted on futbol. Since Fernando Torres and David Villa are aging up top, and most recent spotlight stealer Diego Costa is hurt, we'll say the Spanish player who is most important, but most absent from mainstream debate is: Álvaro Negredo.

for the role of "Kind Grampa"
X-Factor: There is no way to ignore it, the road to the trophy goes straight through Spain, which is both a sign of their talent and of the fact that the whole world is plotting against them. Every team that knows it faces Spain, or hopes to face Spain, has been strategizing and plotting specifically for them since they qualified. If everyone uses the Bayern Munich method of socking it in at the back...they may only make the quarter finals.

Coach: While most teams replace managers at the end of a tournament cycle, consistent trophy hoisting has kept Vicente Del Bosque firmly entrenched in Spain's hottest of hot seats. While his Real Madrid squads never bought into the Tiki-Taki passing strategy used to such tremendous effect in the last three major tournaments, he's employed it perfectly with the national side.

History: The years of "underachieving" Spain have finally vanished. The supposed "Quarter-Final Curse" has been busted, and the team's first gold star (a sign of having won the World Cup) adorned the crest after their 2010 triumph in South Africa. The first generation of stars who made that happen are nearing the twilight of their careers now, but they should have something left for one more big run.

Food: Tapas are easy, and since the whole Spanish style was built, refined and maintained at Barcelona in Catalonia it seems best to honor them with a dish for eating: Escalivada--roasted vegetables, the perfect accompaniment to all the other grilled things I'll be making in June.

Fool: The only real blemish on Spain's post-Franco era has been the hideous Property Bubble that prompted a EU bailout in 2012. But rather than foisting the blame on bankers or home buyers or anything else, we'll pick on King Juan Carlos I, because 'merica don't take kindly to kings!

Best Case: Spain is Spain. The World Cup is lifted. Host Brazil bows to them in the final. The earth continues spinning.

Worst Case: Holland holds La Roja, to a 90 minute stale mate (much as they did in the 2010 final), forcing a must win game against a defensively fierce Chile in the second, that ends in another unsatisfying draw. A final win over Australia is nice but goal differential from the more potent Dutch and Chilean attacks creates a stunningly short trip to Brazil for the holders as they exit in third place of their group.

My prediction: The Spanish system is every bit the world beater it has been for the past six years. Unfortunately, they don't have to beat the world, just Brazil. After the confederations cup last year, I fear that's a little too much to ask. Runners-Up

Added Bonus: Hey, here's someone I actuallly used to play during my old college radio days: Mala Rodriguez's "Tengo un Trato"

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Meet the Team: Russia

Nickname: While Wikipedia doesn't give any specific name, some leave it with the simple "national Team" Sbornaya.

Star: As a team built on defense, Russia has lived and died with their keeper. And after topping their group (one that contained Portugal), a lot of it is owed to keeper Igor Akinfeev, the CSKA Moscow man who ceded just 5 goals in all of qualifying. As he follows in the bootsteps of legendary Soviet keeper Lev Yashin, Akinfeev will have to be on point to push Russia ahead in the Cup for the first time since the fall of communism.

Hip-Star: A great many eyes will be on Aleksander Korkorin, the preeminent forward of the team, who led the scoring in qualifying, but someone has to serve him and, given the team's tendency to run on the wings it may need to be Denis Cheryshev, who was gobbled up by Real Madrid's program and has barely sniffed the pitch in the past two years. He may not make the squad, and even if he does, he might not play at all. All the more reason to cite him as you roll up your flannel sleeves and push up your box-framed glasses, that's just how much you know.

X-Factor: In case you don't read the newspapers or listen to the radio or watch the television or look at the internet (which would actually preclude you from reading this), Russia's in the midst of a military incursion excuse me, Russian media says that's inaccurate. I mean they're in the midst of a fascist liberation nope, sorry, Western media says that's inaccurate. I mean a bowl of Cheerios. yeah, that's the ticket...a bowl of Cheerios. Maybe they can focus with a big bowl of cheerios going on in the background...maybe they can't...but one thing's for sure, no team's faced a bowl of Cheerios this big since...well I can't remember there you have it...yeah Cheerios.

Coach: Remember 4 years ago when Fabio Capello seemed to be a genius who was going to save English football? How he had only lost 3 matches when the Cup started...and then promptly oversaw a group of players who looked like a dog's breakfast? Yeah...those were the days; and now he's back in an all new adventure yes it's Capello 2: Russian Boogaloo.

History: The Russians have made an appearance each decade, but they haven't made it past the group stage since 1986 (And that started a long decline from quarter finals to bottom of the barrel). The top highlight was a 4th Place finish in 1966.

Food: I don't trust my pureeing abilities enough to make borsht, and I'm eager for some more breakfast foods so bilinis it is. (I'm aiming for more sweet and less savory, but depending on how long Russia's run goes, I may need to try some thing new.

Sexy/Genius and he knows it...
Fool: It's like someone wrote a casting notice: "Vladmir--40-60, Serious, unflappable former KGB operative who feels that the fall of the Soviet empire is a disaster and that he will create a new world order. Must be willing to work without a shirt." Enter VLADMIR PUTIN.

Best Case: The Great Russian Revival continues, besting Korea, stunning EU darlings Belgium and cruising against Algeria. The stalwart defense and potent offense run up the score against the US in round two, and only a desperation, miracle move from Messi sends them out in the Quarterfinals. Ukraine throws up their hands and beg to be annexed as a whole.

Worst Case: The team arrives with a big fat target on their back, and the inexperienced squad is wrong footed by the faster Koreans and Belgians, while their offense sputters. The team bickers their way, pointing fingers and hanging heads as the Algerians knock them out in last place...again. The US moves on to the quarters with ease, and Putin slips a radioactive mickey in Capello's nightcap.

My prediction: Sweet as it would be to relive Rocky IV on a soccer pitch, I don't see great things ahead for either the Russians or the Yanks. Though it will likely be harder on Russia when Algeria steals a point in the last minutes to deny the ex-Reds a second round spot. 3rd place--2 points

Added Bonus: Yup there's Russian we've at least won on that front, here's Bad Balance.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Meet the Team: Portugal

Nickname: Though they might like to be known as "Selação", Brazil actually has that locked down. So we'll go with Os Navegadores--"The Navigators"

The world's only
unphotoshoppable human
Star: The fourth and final "futbol player everybody knows" is literal golden boy Cristiano Ronaldo, who manages to combine the athletic prowess of a prize fighter/ballet dancer with the absurd good looks of Derek Zoolander/James Bond. He's easy to make fun of, because he is easy to feel jealous of.

Hip-Star: Oh, yeah...Cristiano Ronaldo...ooh, he's so talented, ooh, he's so good looking...oooh...but do you really think he's going to stop the brutally efficient German attack? The speeding Ghanaian wingers? The gritty American scrapiness? No...he's too busy winking and flexing for the cameras. That's okay as long as defensive midfielder Miguel Veloso plays his game, not that you'd notice if you only judge players on how deep their dimples are...silly sheeple.

X-Factor: One of the greatest clichés in futbol is that one man can't win the game on his own. Though Portugal has certainly challenged that philosophy lately, riding Ronaldo and a host of complementary pieces to a number 3 FIFA ranking. A more complete team got fourth place in 2006, a less effective one got to the second round in 2010...will supporting players rise up, or fade away?

Coach: For a former defensive midfielder, Paolo Bento is bedeviled by mediocre defending and giving away goals in heaps, first with Sporting Lisbon and again in qualifying (ceding 4 to North Ireland, and 3 to Israel) as they finished second behind Russia and needed all of Ronaldo's scoring acumen to send them through.

Norwegians don't do this with cod...
History: While the 70s and 80s were a fallow period for Portugal, four straight qualifications and a chunk of European glory has made them far more notable in the past decade particularly their 4th place finish in 2006.

Food: A little breakfast food never went amiss, and it's been far too long since I thought about fish so let's try Bacalhau à Brás. Taking potatoes, scrambled eggs and the ubiquitous treat of Portugal: dried Cod.

Fool: As Portugal tends to be more or less manageable and considerate of one another they don't fit most of our "fool" types. So, it's with nostrils pinched that we point the finger at Pedro Passos Coehlo for being the man in charge at the fall of the Portugese economy. Sorry Pedro.

Best Case: Cristiano Ronaldo does everything Nike and Cristian Dior and Rolex and Gillette could ever want. Single handedly netting game winners in every group match, and then knocking off every rival in the knockout stages (culminating in that other selacao) en route to Portugal's first World Championship.

Worst Case: Ronaldo tweaks something on his first warm up jog around the track and the rest of Portugal collapses around his absence. Getting pummeled into last place by Germany, the US and even Ghana and flying home in tears as Brazilians chant insults at their erstwhile oppressors.

My prediction: Fear not sponsors, super-shiny Christiano Ronaldo will play more than three games--not even a shock upset from the US will derail that dream. But they won't play more than 4, as the super-shiny upset darlings of Belgium pounce on Portugal's main weakness...overconfidence. 2nd Round

Added Bonus: In my (extremely brief) survey of Hip Hop Tuga, it seems that artists rely heavily on intros, hooks and slowly set up the beats. Bear that in mind when you hear Sam the Kid's "Jungle Fever"

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Meet the Team: Nigeria

Nickname: The Super Eagles typify the high flying (and oft swooping) Nigerian style. Capable of great things, capable of stupid things, otherwise utterly unpredictable.

Star: The midfield maestro of Nigeria's hopes and dreams is undoubtably John Obi Mikel. Genius play at the age of 20 made him a highly sought commodity at the top levels in England. His time at Chelsea has been quietly consistent, though never at the levels of staggering brilliance one might have anticipated, he's unquestionably a heart and soul player on a team that needs it.

Hip-Star: Mikel needs men to drive in the goals--and while most eyes up top will tend towards the prolific Emmanuel Emenike and Liverpool's up-and-comer Victor Moses, we think the "real" soccer fan will plump for Ahmed Musa whose under the radar work at CSKA Moscow has steeled him to work against the best in the world (Champions League), and in less than comfortable conditions (Russia). He may not start, he may not see much pitch, but focusing on his performance will be like focusing on the best cinematography in Nollywood movies.

X-Factor: Having landed a group that the other African nations would dearly love to have, the weight of expectations may land rather heavily on Nigeria. Though they seem to have the clearest path through the group stages, one might have said the same thing in 2010, but the Super Eagles got bupkus instead. Lower ambitions made for better results in 1994 and again at the Cup of Nations last February, how much we expect versus how much they can deliver is the biggest question ahead.
Keshi (R) back in the glory days)

Coach: Local boy Stephen Keshi makes for an interesting example. Unlike most other managers he has only ever held positions with national teams, never denigrating himself with a daily grind of League competition. He's had great success in qualification (having pushed Togo through in 2006), but on the big stage his work has yet to be seen.

History: One of the titans of African football, Nigeria's best years were in their back-to-back final sixteen finishes in 1994 and 1998. They even won their group both times, playing a sterling brand of football that's far less common among the green & white these days.

Food: Tempted as I am to try fried ground peanuts (Kuli-Kuli) I'll play it a little healthier with Egusi offers a hearty soup with a mix of beef, shrimp, pumpkin and spinach.

Goodluck getting rid of that smile
Fool: The only president whose name is an implicit offer of support Goodluck Jonathan makes the most of his name to feel well liked even when he's mucking it all up. This is the man who attempted to ban his own team from international competition (before FIFA attempted to do it themselves). And since then the hits have just kept coming: ignoring terrorist cells, sacking independently minded ministers, shrugging off pleas of greater representation from Northern constituents, and playing totally dumb about the abduction of 100 school girls by an aforementioned terror cell. At this point his hat's about the only good thing about him--and that owes more to Pharrell than to Goodluck.

Best Case: Keeper Vincent Enyema thinks they can/should make the semi-finals. Let's see how it happens: Topping Bosnia and Iran gives them second place and a shot at the overconfident French (winnable) and, let's guess, a worn down/overconfident Portugal. That would get them the semi's...but it owes more to the draw than their talent.

Worst Case: A poor showing against Iran incites muslims and enrages President Jonathan, leading to feuds at home. The team continues to fumble chances against Bosnia as the home front burns and a final drubbing 7-0 by Argentina leaves them in utter shambles in every sense of the word.

My prediction: Nigeria was my first favorite from Africa, and they certainly have resources to make themselves a constant threat both on the continent and worldwide. Unfortunately, while the officially biggest GDP on the continent gives them a wealth of resources, this will be the cup, with a poor performance in a manageable group, that sees their sun set, and a chaotic government send them into a tailspin thereafer. 4th Place--0 points

Added Bonus: On their names alone we have to like the stable of artists in the label Chocolate City's loopy crew (particularly Ice Prince, Jesse Jagz and our chosen artists Str8Buttah...). Bravo Chocolate City, keep this going.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Meet the Team: Netherlands

: Whether you call them Holland, or the Dutch, or the Netherlands, you have a similar plethora of choices when it comes to the nickname for the squad: Oranje/Clockwork Orange/Flying Dutchmen--take your pick, it all works well.

Star: Dutch attackers tend to pass the torch from one generation to the next, this time around its Robin Van Persie's to run with. Though he won't have a younger ally to tutor, his pace, speed and scoring acumen have made the Man United man Holland's all time leader in goals scored. Hard not to trust him here.

Hip-Star: For all the fun people have with Total Futbol, and memories of Cruyff, Gullit, Kluivert, Bergkamp, Robben, Sneijder, et al, the Dutch need a defense every bit as much. That's why center back Stefan de Vrij is so vital to the team's chances. Alongside a pair of fellow Feyenoord back liners, he'll have to shut down the dangerous Spanish and Chilean attacks to help the Dutch endure a brutal Group B. While he's at it, he can work on lining his parka hood with artisanal hemp designs that simulate fur without murdering animals.

X-Factor: I know that I put way too much stock into touchy feely categories like "momentum" and "chemistry" but the serious psychological gut shot of losing on the biggest stage again, must have some effect on the Dutch. The perennial bridesmaids of European and now, world futbol (since Spain finally got their gold star last time out), might well be professionals, might well be athletic and well trained...but to face the foe who denied them last time in the very first's do or die time immediately for Holland.

Oh...what? World what now?
Coach: Maybe you've heard the name Louis Van Gaal recently. Maybe you've heard that he's due to take on a job managing the most prolific, historic, media beloved club on the planet after this tournament is over. Maybe you've heard all about his plans and transfer targets, his schemes and short leash from management. But have you heard how he's going to guide the Dutch? You know, the team he currently works for and previously left on the door step of qualifying for the 2002 Cup? Yeah, me neither.

History: The title of "Best Team Never to Win the World Cup" has been handed down from Argentina, to France, to Spain and now (officially) to the Netherlands. Back to back runners up in the glory days of Cruyff and Co. are almost 40 years in the past, before any of the current squad was born, should they break the streak (in Brazil of all places) would be miraculous.

Food: I'm not going to be able to brew any beer, or ferment any cheeses, but I think I can manage Andijviestamppot--endives, mashed potatoes and diced bacon.

Fool: Ahh Geert Wilders the man who compared the Quran with "Mien Kampf", opposes all forms of immigration and looks like a distant, douchy, relative of the Malfoy family (though even they think he's a little over the top).

Best Case: Van Gaal is the genius everyone thinks he is. A well oiled machine of midfield and forwards doesn't miss a beat as they redeem themselves against Spain, trounce Chile and make Australia hide in the dressing room rather than play the second half. The momentum continues through the next two rounds en route to a Semi-against Argentina (another case of sweet sweet revenge) and a final against Brazil. Miraculously, unbelievably, they win the cup while unicorns fly over head and Fernanda Lima declares her undying love for me.

Worst Case: Van Gaal is already out the door by the time Spain dismantles the rookie defenders again, Chile pounces on blood in the water and a bedraggled squad goes through the motions in a draw with Australia dropping Holland to the worst showing at a cup since 1938. Fernanda Lima declares her undying love for Geert Wilders.

My prediction: Coming off a second place finish in 2010, the eternal bridesmaids of World Football won't have to suffer a near miss again, not because they're poised for glory, but because the aging dutch in the knock-down-drag-out Group B will likely have everything to play for in their final match against Chile. When that's the case, in South America, against a team in sterling form, it won't end well. 3rd Place--3 points.

Added Bonus: I know what you really want, a sample of NEDERHOP! Here's Dutch Oldskool group Extince with "Spraakwater"

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Meet the Team: Mexico

Nickname: El Tri is a major brand in North America...but until they fight Ecuador's "La Tri" we will never know which article is the appropriate one.

Star: The first Mexican bred player to star on the most star studded line-up on the planet (Manchester United) Javier Hernandez is a god in Mexico...or rather...he was until the team's abysmal showing in qualifying left his reputation with a black eye and Mexican football in disarray. Add to that a paltry 4 goals in 24 appearances this year and the golden boy of Mexican football is still a star, albeit a diminished one.

Chunky What?
Hip-Star: For all the media's fawning over "Chicharito" he can't do much if he never gets the ball...and that's a task that falls to one of the youngest midfields in the entire cup. Six players with a combined 53 caps will take charge there, and most important of all is Marco Fabián who will need to keep his cool like a Michocana Vanilla and Quince Bar. You have had one of those right? Oh, well...I'm sure regular Ben and Jerry's is good too...I wouldn't know, I think they're too corporate.

X-Factor: In writing these posts I've been surprised at the consistency with which teams have held onto their coaches. Four years ago several teams jettisoned the men who got them to the Cup with mere months to go...not so this year...except for Mexico. Their four coaches in the past year--okay...four coaches in the month of October--have made an extremely unstable squad. Whether they've finally figured it out or falter...again, we'll see soon.

Herrera just heard a twig snap

Coach: The current man of the moment (and I do emphasize moment) is Miguel Herrera. While he has had a long career in Liga MX, so did his predecessors. While pummeling New Zealand punched their ticket, New Zealand won't be around to beat up this who knows what comes next.

History: Mexico has made the World Cup Round of 16 every 4 years like clockwork since 1994. For 20 years it's been tradition...In fact in 14 World Cups they have never finished worse than 16th. While I'm an American and an ardent chanter of dos-a-cero, this does not feel like a clockwork Mexican team.

Food: Okay people, for the last time: Taco Bell does NOT count. Instead, we're going to partake in Xocotal--an Aztec chocolate drink (with green pepper and vanilla to complicate the flavor)

I know it's not flattering...but
neither is her record
Fool: I'm a teacher, and I'm proud to have just received tenure. That said...I don't think I should have tenure for life, or be able to hand pick a friend/family member as successor to my position--regardless of any training they have or ability, nor do I think that my union leaders should be able to embezzle my contributions to buy Jet Skis. So sorry, Elba Esther Gordillo I do not want to work with you.

Best Case: Miguel Herrera has a magic touch and helps to turn around a disastrous qualifying campaign with a sterling World Cup case. Chicharito and Giovanni dos Santos turn in a bushel of goals each, they earn a strong draw with Brazil and almost pull off a stunner against Spain before getting their traditional Round of 16.

Worst Case: Chicarito is rusty, dos Santos gets hurt, the previous gold medalists (including the previously mentioned squadron of midfielders) is so shell shocked they never recover their careers and a lousy cup gets even worse as Mexico spirals into the cellar of CONCACAF behind Panama, El Salvador and even the Carribbean islands.

My prediction: Fears (or rather hopes) of Mexico's destruction are likely a little overblown. But while they've gotten themselves back in shape of late, they haven't had to do it with the pressure of an international tournament on the global stage. Even a strong showing against Cameroon may be undercut by Brazilian dominance in the second match, sending the fragile El Tri to 4th place--1 point

Added Bonus: Continuing our walk down old school lane, here's "Orale" from Johnny Z one of the primogenitures of Chicano hip-hop

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Meet the Team: Korea Republic


 Highlighting the patriotic symbol the Taeguk Warriors are a little misnamed...after all why would there need to be warriors fighting and destroying others in the name of "harmony and peace"?

Star: For all the criticism heaped on Mario Balotelli for being divisive, controversial and potential spoiled, he's never made racist overtones to Japanese players or publicly criticized both fans and coaches of the national team, but Ki Sung-Yueng has. The volatile Ki is the cornerstone of the Korean midfield, and has been instrumental in a range of Premier League successes. He might not have Super Mario's hair or rep, but he's every bit as integral to the team success.

Hip-Star: While every eye in Asia turns westward to the top leagues in Europe, there is talent at home. Like Ulsan Hyundai/national team full back Lee Yong, he might not have the k-pop hair cut or the international pedigree, but he'll fill a vital role to Korea's chances in Brazil, assuming you're smart enough to care about the fine art of defensive/protective soccer.

X-Factor: Korea may have to overcome the absolute worse case of jet lag in the whole field. With a host of players based in the UK, Germany, China and Japan, a friendly against Tunisia in Seoul at the end of the month and another in Miami a week later (v. Ghana in a Secretary General Showdown) and then a trip to Brazil, you'll forgive them if they're pooped. Worse still, not having played much in-squad cohesion can be a problem...because it has been a problem.

The Coach and the greatest moment
Coach: While a host of Asian teams fixate on bringing in an international gun slinger to buoy their hopes, Korea turned to local legend Hong Myung-Bo: Destroyer of Spain in 1994, Captain of the ship en-route to 4th place in 2002, Stalwart of the Defense, Mentor of the Youngsters. Now charged with managing the national team he helped thrust to prominence, Hong must manage bigger egos and even bigger expectations.

History: Bound for their 8th straight World Cup, Korea has quietly become one of the most consistent Asian sides. Though they're a long way from a repeat trip to the Semi-finals, they were one poor game against Switzerland (in 2006) away from being thrice-consecutive top 16 finisher.

Food: Tempting as it is to brine up some kimchi and call it good, I think a lighter, more creative Dasik (or tea snack) seems like a fine munchable for a matchday. Rice flour, honey and a variety of spices or seeds all in a bite sized treat. A fine bit of sophistication after all the fried meats I'm plotting to eat.

Every politician gets one mortifying
photo...this is Ban Ki-Moon's
Fool: Some fools are dastardly, some are stupid and some are just bang out of luck. Ban Ki-Moon has to be the final kind of fool. He seems to be an utterly capable, thoughtful, considerate and well intentioned leader. Unfortunately the world is inept, impulsive, rude and brutish. Sorry Mr. have only your self to blame for this--most ridiculous of jobs.

Best Case: Never doubt the magic touch of Hong Myung-Bo. A cohesive-dedicated month of practice works wonders for the far flung squad as they top the middling Group H before losing on penalties for the second straight cup (this time to a golden boot bound Cristiano Ronaldo)

Worst Case: Exhausted players sleepwalk their way through a loss to Russia, yawn to a goalless draw with Algeria and wake up just in time to see Eden Hazard net the last of his hat trick goals to send them home hopeless in last place.

My prediction: Unlike the Japanese, I was bearish on South Korea at first, and became more optimistic as time wore on, largely because they've got the far more manageable group H--though Belgium will likely knock them down to second place. Beyond that--facing the brutal quartet of Group G (each of whom could easily top the entirety of Group H)--they're up against too much. 2nd Round.

Added Bonus: Hop in the way back for some Classic Korean Hip Hop. Here's the Seo Taji Boys (starting about 1:06)

Friday, May 23, 2014

Meet the Team: Japan

Nickname: The Samuri Blue tie together both a national symbol and the color of the uniforms. If they were just the blue again, I might have lost it.
We're excited too Keisuke

Star: Maybe it's just the name, but I clearly remember friends in Africa fixated on the darting, diving, striking style of Keisuke Honda. The golden-haired golden boy of Japanese football was a darling of fans who dug into CSKA Moscow especially in his various Champions league runs, before being the first Japanese player to merit a move to AC Milan.

Hip-Star: The real strength of Japan's team isn't at the front but in the back, where the solid team structure vaults them above teams with more individual talent (cou*South Korea*gh!). But rather than highlight video game coverboy Mayo Yoshida, we want to plump for more consistent, and versatile right back, Atsuto Uchida. He may not be the threat to score that draws eyeballs around the world, but if you're interested in that, why don't you just watch highlight reels? Philistine.

X-Factor: Japan will boast an unexpected strength in Brazil next month...homefield advantage. The third largest local fan base (outside of Brazil and ex-colonial power Portugal), almost 100,000 fans will be able to cheer on their national side from stadium bleachers rather than living room armchairs

Coach: After 27 years within the Italian leagues and no international experience, Alberto Zaccheroni took his trademark 3-4-3 style to Japan and has spent 4 years reaping the rewards, first with an Asian Cup trophy, then an easy-as-sashimi road to the cup and a trip to the Confederations Cup.

History: Strange but true, Japan first qualified for the cup in 1998 but have been a mainstay ever since, unfortunately alternating trips to the second round (as hosts in 2002 and again in 2010) with bottom feeding showings ('98 and 2006). They're due for disaster in Brazil (and a poor Confed Cup may back that hypothesis up, but it's hard to bet against the top team on a continent.

File:Otsu Tsuruki-soba01st3200.jpgFood: Simplistic as it would be to cut up some raw fish and call myself accomplished, I prefer slightly more of a challenge, like say a quick plate of hot soba noodles with sauce and green onions.

Fool: Hilarious as it was for a few years to watch Japan cycle through prime ministers the way George Clooney cycled through girlfriends, it's nice that Shinzo Abe has brought a steady hand to the economic tiller. It would be nicer still if he could avoid visiting controversial war memorials, but still, he has to rank pretty low on the hierarchy of fools.

Best Case: Buoyed by local support they withstand Colombian, Ivorian and Greek tests unscathed in group C, besting the hard knock rivals in group D is a taller order, and the largely locally based side gives a good showing before bowing out in their second straight, second round.

Worst Case: Due for a bad cup, the Japanese have a terrible one, outgunned by Ivory Coast, out defended by the Greeks and out shouted by a nearby Colombia they wallow in the bottom of the group tables and head home empty handed.

My prediction: I started out before the draw, crazy high on Japan's chances. A great qualifying campaign, the promise of huge local support and I thought that the quarterfinals were manageable. Bad recent results and the threat of a tricky group C leave me to say 3rd Place--3 points

Added Bonus
 Lest we let our cultural stereotypes get in the way, here's Hime with "Yellow Cab", so take your Manga-licious assumptions and shove it.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Meet the Team: Italy

Nickname: Like the rival French, Italy just goes by their color, though Azzuri sounds quite a bit more interesting than Les Bleus.

Super Mario has a lot of good cries
Star: Poster child for bad boy soccer stars (if you believe such a thing exists), is Mario Balotelli: "unmanageable" in the eyes of some managers, "insanely gifted" in the eyes of others, lightning rod for critics of "the right way to play", target of red cards everywhere, idol of those who fixate on "the beautiful game". One of the most famous players in the world, Super Mario will be vital to the Azzuri's chances in Brazil.

Hip-Star: Balotelli gets the goals, Buffon gets the armband, Pirlo gets the Nike ads, Chellini gets responsibility for the whole defense, and somewhere in the midst of all that Riccardo Montolivo quietly does his job as distributor, defender and all around lynchpin. Learn the name, and repeat it frequently so you can say, "I was a fan of Montolivo before it was cool to be a fan of Montolivo".

X-Factor:  Italy's life long philosophy of play is simple: defend, defend, defend and stun them at the end. Sometimes that works like a charm (see Cannavaro, Fabio in 2006), sometimes it works terribly (see Cannavaro, Fabio in 2010). Defense is less a focus than it has been in recent years, whether the shift in style will hold, or pan out, has yet to be seen.

Cesare wondering
about the name sake
Coach: After Marcello Lippi first saved the day, and then ruined the day, Italy turned their attention to Cesare Prandelli who has boosted the squad to strong showings at Euro 2012 and last year's Confederation's Cup. Those accomplishments are impressive, though Italy tends to prefer hardware rather than impressive results.

History: 4 gold stars on the crest mean 4 total championships. There was almost a 44 year gap between the second and third, and a 24 year gap between the third and fourth. In between there's a tale of feast and famine, washing out in group stages as often as they make the semi-finals, whether that's a predictable disaster or just a random coincidence we'll see soon enough.

Food: There's really no shortage of great Italian food, but I'm most excited to try a recipe I learned a few years ago: Budino di Rossi a sweet risotto pudding cooked in amaretto with dried fruits. I know...gourmet and alcoholic!

I do not want to call you Silvio
Fool: Some countries have dictators, some have bigots, and Italy has Silvio Berlusconi, the only man with less impulse control than Charlie Sheen, a man so doofish-ly full of himself that even Mario Balotelli thinks he needs to reevaluate his ego. A man convicted of corrupt dealings, who still thinks he should run the country. God bless you Silvio, you beautiful, beautiful moron.

Best Case: Stinging from the embarrassment four years ago, a motivated Italy comes through with a sterling performance against a tough group (including England and Uruguay), as well as whatever woebegone sucker sneaks out of group C, then stun Spain in the quarters, lock down Messi and get steal the title, getting revenge on Brazil for poor old Roberto Baggio.

Worst Case: Balotelli gets a red card inside of five minutes against England, aging stars Buffon and Pirlo get injured in the first 10, Italy gets bounced in three games and everyone laughs.

My prediction: Just 8 years ago they were the best in the World, just 4 years ago they were the worst in the field. This time they'll be where they belong, just about in the middle. Wins to start their run will get them confidence, and a second round date with underperforming Colombia. Of course, Italian confidence plus Colombian motivation equals an upset, but hey, for at least a week they'll look incredible. Round of Sixteen (Group Winners)

Added Bonus: Having honored a couple of Milan players, it's only right to honor a Milan based group, so here's the shout out to Club Dogo with dude bro party anthem "Michina Boh"

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Meet the Team: Iran

Nickname: Team Melli is not a pro-muppet's the common nickname (meaning just "The National Team"), others like "The Lions of Persia," but Melli almost sounds cute, just the thing for a shockingly strident Iranian squad.

The Gooch
Star: The fastest rising star in the Iranian futbol firmament is easily Reza Goochannejhad. Formerly a Dutch junior international, his swap to the Melli, has paid off with 9 goals in 11 caps. Boosted from the Belgian league up to Charlton Athletic, he's the closest thing to Iranian legend Ali Daei as we're likely to see for a while.

Hip-Star: While the Iranians have mostly given into the fad of foreign bred/based players, there are still those who practice and train year round in the Persian sands. Notably a hard-nosed, veteran, localized defense that allowed just seven goals and did it all without the precious fanfare of international media. The heir to the defensive throne is unquestionable Ehsan Hajsafi, who debuted for the national team at 18 and has been a stalwart since...not that you would know him, obviously.

X-Factor: Famously isolationist you have to wonder just how Iranians will deal with this decidedly foreign-flavored team. Sure there have been moves to globalize Iran's standing in the world, thanks in no small part to president Hassan Rohani, but there's just as much desire to pull away and prove an imperial dominance in the region that a diasporic team can't do. So are players going for the glory of sporting dominance, or the mother land?

They don't seem to isolationist to Carlos
Coach: After some ill advised dalliances as a head man in New York and the UAE, Carlos Quieroz refined his skills under the tutelage of Sir Alex Ferguson. A trip to South Africa with Portugal was unsatisfying for those in Lisbon, but those in Tehran salivated at the chance to sign him up. Who cared if Portugal only scored against North Korea? Iran, needed defense, and Quieroz has provided all that and more. Whether or not it pays off in Brazil has yet to be seen.

History: The team's best glory days (when they dominated Asia from 1968-1976) are long gone, but they have made a habit of being a thorn in the sides of others, drawing with Scotland in 1978, beating the hated US in 1998 and bedeviling Mexico for 45 minutes in 2006. Who they foil this time will depend on just how long they last.

Food: Continuing my quasi-vegetarian kick, I'm curious to try out Kuku, a combination of eggs, greens and herbs...or really, just herbs with a little egg to hold it all together. Persian fritatta, bring it on.

Fool: I'm an American, so what would this post be without a shot at the Ayatollah Ali Khameni who avoids all the hassle of engaging in debate, preferring to "correct" mistakes of elected officials whenever the mood strikes. Good luck selling that one to FIFA refs.

Best Case: The defense is as good as advertised, stifling the entirety of Group F long enough for Goochannejhad to knock in a couple for at least one win and a stunning berth in the second round. That's where they wrong foot an overconfident France and hold Ronaldo scoreless for 60 minutes in the quarterfinals before the golden boy takes his revenge on his old boss.

Worst Case: Both the defense and the counterattacks are left on the Copa Cabana beaches where the newly liberated national team sees thongs as a blessing rather than a curse. Washing out with zero points, no one goes back to Iran, and all of John Kerry's work on a nuclear deal goes *pfft*

My prediction: Call me crazy...[pauses to be called crazy] but having followed Asian qualifying closely, I was impressed at the defense of Iran. As much focus as goal scoring gets, the World Cup is often a war of attrition, and few sides are better suited to that war than Iran. I think Carlos Quieroz's crew won't score much though "Gooch" will help, but they'll let in even less, and with a divided Nigeria and inexperienced Bosnia, I have them as my second shock team in the next round. (France will eat them alive...but's a good run) Round of 16 (2nd in Group--6 points)

Added Bonus: For a group that owes their musical genre to American Hip-Hop, Zedbazi sure does a fine job of admonishing us, here's their offering to the World Cup of Hip Hop "Irooni e LA" (Iranian in LA)

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Meet the Team: Honduras

Nickname: Rather than just going with La H (for the first letter of their name) I'll go with La Garra Catracha or "the Honduran Claw"

Star: There is no one transcendent player for Honduras coming into the cup. Perhaps the most notable is Roger Espinoza whose family moved to the US and started his career in the MLS before rising to the heights of an FA Cup upset when his Wigan side ousted Man City a year ago. It's his creative pace that will give Honduras any chance going forward this year.

Hip-Star: Naturally, only posers focus on the main European leagues. The real competition lies elsewhere, like Poland and China where Osman Chávez plies his trade, defending all comers for Wilsa Kraków and Quingdao Jonoon. Since the squad struggled to keep out goals during qualifying, his play and lessons learned in the rougher, less glamorous leagues will be crucial to unsettling opponents.

A man you never want
to bump into in a dark alley
X-Factor: Did you know that Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world? Whatever else is said about pressure from the press (England and Brazil), few places on earth boast as serious a set of consequences for poor performance, as Honduras.

Coach: Luis Fernando Suarez was the mastermind behind the second round run of Ecuador back at the 2006 World Cup, and despite a poor turn of form with the national side thereafter, has again found success in Latin America. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that he's built like a brick house.

History: In two cups Honduras has only ever been able to salvage draws. In 1982 against Spain and Northern Ireland (at a time when only 4 current national team players were alive) and in 2010 against Switzerland when they didn't score a single goal. Lucky them, the Swiss are on the docket this time around too.

Food: A vegetarian fast food option, perfect for a fast half-time pick me up: the baleada offers a quick flour tortilla with beans, cheese, sour cream and avocado, plantains or scrambled eggs. I would never have thought to make I guess I better.

Fool: Not to pick on people trying to make their local communities better, but it's hard not to give this to the mayor of Murderville, Planet Earth: San Pedro Sula mayor Juan Carlos Zúniga, here's hoping he proves me wrong.

Best Case: Besting an overconfident France (the easiest kind to best) sparks a rush from Honuras that leads them to a stunning second place in the group. Better still, they hold Argentina goalless for the first half of the second round match, then bow out with honor and pride.

Worst Case: Criminals, barons, thieves, dastards, Honduras again fails to score a goal because they never make it to Brazil. (Worse yet, El Salvador sneaks in, pretends to be Honduras and no one notices).

My prediction: The good news for Honduras is that this time they'll score a goal. The bad news is that it still won't mean anything. 4th Place in Group E--0 points

Added Bonus: While I'm trying to learn Spanish, it's not yet good enough to tell if this song from the Hip Hop Honduras project is "Gangsta" in the local sense of the word or not, still I like the beat, so here's Mission Urbana "Frente a Frente" (Face to Face)

Monday, May 19, 2014

Meet the Team: Greece

From Vanity Fair
Nickname: Rather than the blunt "National" or another color-scheme name "sky-blue white", we'd like to call the Greeks Piratiko "The Pirate Ship"

Star: While Konstantinos Mitroglou has risen to prominence (thanks in no small part to 3 goals in the cup playoff against Romania and an ensuing transfer to Fulham), it's still Giorgos Karagounis' team. The midfielder is the Captain of these pirates, and far more reliable Jack Sparrow (though with less guy-liner). Karagounis is a more rough and tumble midfielder, building off of set pieces and serving as a unique link between the current squad, the 2010 one, and the miracle European champs of 2004.

Hip-Star: If Karagounis is the overexposed Captain Jack of the Piratiko, Kostas Fortounis is the too often forgotten swashbuckler Will Turner. Having sliced and diced defenses at age 16, he's still just 21 and could, nay, should be the future of Greek soccer. Unless the powers-that-be assume that the "over exposed" are really the talented ones.

X-Factor: The aging backbone of Greece's defense is as creaky as a hull peppered with cannonballs (wow, I really like that pirate trope don't I?). But it was superb in qualifying allowing six goals in 12 matches...half of them in one game against Edin Dzeko and Bosnia. Of course they won't face Dzeko in Brazil, but are Radamel Falcao, Didier Drogba and Keisuke Honda really an easier squad of opponents?

Coach: Greece's best run at a tournament since 2004 came in a quarterfinal run in 2012 under the eyes of Fernando Santos who seems to be on a ceaseless county fair pirate ship ride swinging between Portuguese and Greek teams, every two or three years. So, get ready Portugal, he's due back soon.

Credit to "The Howler"
History: In two cups the Greeks have one win over Nigeria in 2010. And while the glory of 2004 still shines brightly, it's not much in comparison with the World Cup struggles. But if they can ever find that old map where X marks the spot...well.

Food: I'm grateful that Greek cuisine is often cooking free: yogurt/olives/feta cheese. While Kalamari is tempting (and a little squid might fit nicely with the pirate theme, making my own Tzatziki for pita dipping may be just the thing for lounging, watching and snacking.

Fool: Oh, Greece, if your national team is a pirate ship, your political scene is the Titanic. Bickering, infighting disastrous elections and worst of all: Golden Dawn the Neo Nazi Group led by Nikolaos Michaloliakos. Any credit given to triumphs by the all Greek squad will be coopted...the punks.

Best Case: Somehow the glory days of the old Greek squad come back, plundering Brazil for its ragamuffin riches, getting a miraculous Quarterfinal spot over a bedraggled Group D offering, and Fernando Santos sets up a glorious return to Portugal...perhaps as the new national manager there.

Worst Case: All the underwhelming, worn down, exhausted Greek days of Cups gone by are back in force and they exit meekly in fourth place....the real Greek team having retired 10 years ago, living like Kings in Patagonia.

My prediction: Despite the strong showing in qualifying, The Pirate Ship's days of riding a stalwart defense to victory are ten years gone, and no clear attacking game plan has emerged since for Greece. I can't see them find a strategy that makes a huge difference within a tricky group C. Without a swash to buckle it's sad, but true: 4th Place--0 points

Added Bouns: Less because of what he is and more because it's my chance to spite Golden Dawn, the World Cup of Hip Hop spot goes to Killah P aka Pavlos Fyssas.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Meet the Team: Ghana

Nickname: The national symbol, from the flag to the football squad is The Black Star. All the optimism, hope and aspiration of repatriated Africans, none of the mail-fraud baggage.

Star: The spread of Ghanaian players around the world (not to mention Ghanaian men and women whose children still link to their homeland) gives them a wealth of options for this title. Largely speaking the title flows through the playmaking midfielders that made Ghana "the Brazil of Africa". If that's the case, this year's star ought to be Kwadwo Asamoah who stars for Juventus and the national side--serving as the cohesive glue for the more aged (Michael Essien) and more mercurial (Kevin-Prince Boateng)

Hip-Star: Forget the fixation on Ghanaians born and raised in "traditional" soccer powers. Norweigean born and bred Adam Larsen Kwarasey has even more experience with European standards playing for Strømsgodset, and actually knows where to get the real lutefisk rather than that bland touristy stuff. A good thing too as he needs a strong stomach to face the scoring prowess of Germany, Portugal and the USA.

Worst. Thing. Ever.
X-Factor: If there's one thing to make Ghanaian players and fans go all wobbly it's the ominous threat of penalty kicks. Ever since the Uruguayan equivalent of the "hand of god" by Luis Suarez" Ghana has seem to see their dreams undone by the devilish PK. Asamoah Gyan shanked the shot at the semi's in 2010; this past February, it happened again in a shoot of the finals against Libya at the African Cup of Nations. Mercifully there are no shootouts in the first round, but anytime the ref points to the spot--Ghanaian hearts will go up to their throats

Coach: After relying on a pair of Eastern Europeans to lead them to glory for the previous 8 years, the GFA turned to a local, James Kwesi Appiah to run the show in the run-up to 2014. A move that was hailed far and wide as the next step to African footballing independence paid off as Appiah will be the first African born coach to roam the sideline of a World Cup. He's got a great relationship with his players but far less experience than any of his Group G rivals.

History: While Ghana trails only Egypt in continental titles, success on the World's biggest stage was harder to come by. Despite some legendary squads, they only debuted in 2006, but rapidly rose to prominence, making the second round that year and the quarterfinals in 2010 (whence began the curse of Suarez--see "X-Factor above)

Silver Foxes on the Prowl
Food: It may be a little too hot this summer to enjoy a well seasoned Nkatekwan (peanut soup), but as long as we're outside grilling a pile of sausages I'm going to have some kƆkƆ a y'ato (charcoal roasted sweet plantains)

 I'm a sucker for mocking dictators, the scandal ridden and those who just don't know when to quit. And for that I thank god for Jerry Rawlings, the ex-Air Force commander, ex-coup leader (twice), ex-president (twice) who is Ghana's answer to Bill Clinton only with snarkier comments on current governments and less libido. Of course, he's still a lionized leader in West Africa (and with reason), but his potshots at anyone else who runs the country have to be taken with a coup-sized grain of salt.

Best Case: Ghana goes one better. Ever the optimistic squad, they can top the US with ease and with a result against Portugal stand a great chance of moving on. From there a weak Group H should pose little threat and a stunner against Argentina would be sweet justice for four years ago. A semi-final spot at last, that's the dream.

Worst Case: The aging lions of the golden generation look toothless, just like the babes-in-arms known as the Ayew brothers. Three offensively potent teams exploit an inexperienced defense, and captain/striker Asamoah Gyan misses penalties in every single match.

My prediction: I'm a sucker for Ghana, and in my "In It But Win It" profile, I predicted their run to a semi-final. Once the draw came, I couldn't do it anymore. I think they still own the US, still struggle with Germany and as much as I want them to best Portugal, I just can't see it happening. Please, oh please, let me be wrong. 3rd Place--3 points.

Added Bonus: Fun fact--teaching in a Ghanaian English class there was an adjective worksheet on sounds including this sentence: "The hip-hop concert was too _____". Teachers expected "loud", every sheet I saw said "fun". One of the biggest reasons behind that might be Sarkodie and his song: "Illuminati"--all the swagger of US hip-hop, but the language of the nation

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Meet the Team: Germany

Nickname: Nationalelf (national elevento their countrymen Die Mannschaft (the team) to the rest of the world. The Germans are all business, there's a shock.

Nein, nein, nein!
Star: The Germans are stacked in the midfield, where studs like Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Özil, Thomas Müller, Sami Khedira, and even rising stars André Schürrle, and Mario Götze. Rather than choosing between them all, I'll go the lame route and point out the keeper who ended Iker Casillas' reign as World Keeper of the year: Manuel Neuer who grabbed attention in 2010 and has held on to it ever since.

Hip-Star: With Germany taking only one proven striker (Miroslav Klose) to the cup, distribution and defense have never been more valuable. So we suggest you show off your arcane knowledge of German football by highlighting Mats Hummels, who paces things out of a Left Back position, and will have to hustle back in defense to keep up with speedy attacks from Portugal and Ghana (without the overexposed brother v. brother plotline of the Boateng brothers).

Great coach...better scarf model
X-Factor: The last four years have seen an unprecedented rise in stature for the Bundesliga going from European also ran (behind the Premiership, La Liga and Serie A) to an international force. Munich, Dortmund, Schalke, Leverkusen, every thing's going German of late, the more national team members prep against the world's best on a week in-week out basis, the better prepared they are to face international opponents (as Spain found after La Liga's rise in 2008).

Coach: An oddity in International futbol, Joachim Löw has managed the German national squad since July 13th 2006--making this the 8th year of his reign atop German football. Over that time he's 70-18-15, for a 68% winning percentage. That kind of methodical efficiency seems appropriate for Germany.

History: Since for the 1950 World Cup (when they were banned), Germany has been to 16 straight World Cups, winning 3 times and never finishing worse than 7th. In the last 12 years they've made three straight trips to the Semis and surely expect the same again, no matter how tricky their group draw may be.

What else do you need?
Food: Cased meats + alcohol = fine german dining. Bratwurst, beer, and I'm done.

Fool: Angela Merkel seems to be keeping Europe afloat through sheer force of will at some points (no matter how absurdly fond of Vladmir Putin former chancellors seem to be), so we won't dare dispute her awesomeness...but if we hear one peep out of ultra-nationalist Udo Pastörs calling Mesut Özil or any foreign born player a "semen cannon"...we may have to reinvade.

Best Case: It all unfolds like clockwork--dominance against a difficult group, barely breaking a sweat against whomever Groups H, E and F throw up in the knock outs. And then using focused precision to rattle a Brazilian team worn out by partying before reclaiming their rightful trophy atop Europe from Spain.

Worst Case: A stunner at the hands of some Group G upstart (maybe Portugal in the first match?) unsettles them and forces them to settle for runner's up, despite topping Belgium they can't figure out Argentina and crash out in a humiliating quarterfinal spot that sends confidence in Merkel plummeting and the Euro into total collapse.

My prediction: Die Mannschaft are as methodical and machine like as ever, even in the intimidating Group G. While they'll be the best of a good group, they'll be even better in the knock out stages, where a lighter load of rivals gives them a clear path to the Semifinals before butting heads with Brazil, and--yet again--taking 3rd place (this time from Argentina)

Added Bonus: Just to spite Udo, and to encourage more diversity on the German squad we offer a voice from the Turko-German Hip Hop scene: Eko Fresh with "Der Gerät"