So the carnival of football is almost upon us. Roy Hodgson has told us which players are on the plane and who has been left in the departure lounge, and they carry the hopes of a nation on their shoulders. The stage is set, it’s a party atmosphere, and the whole world is watching.
Brazil 2014 gives commentators, pundits, players and managers the opportunity to dust off a whole host of traditional World Cup clichés to add to their already burgeoning repertoire of time-worn football phraseology. Many a drinking game has been based on the by-the-numbers patter of the half-time experts, the ex-players and the tactical analysts, and here are just a few of the delicious sound bites to listen out for (or drink to) over the coming weeks:
The best World Cup clichés, the ones we all know and love, are those which are reserved for each individual country. With the knowing nod of experience we’ll be told to underestimate the Germans at our peril, and after a slow start we’ll quickly be reminded that the Italians are notorious slow starters. A nonchalant shrug of the shoulders will be enough to tell us that it’s anyone’s guess which French side will turn up, and it will surely just be a matter of time before the Dutch blow their chances by in-fighting.
The Argentines will be up to their usual dirty tricks again, the Mexicans will enjoy the heat, the Belgians will be everyone’s dark horse, and the pundits will stop within a hairs breadth of accusing Uruguay of out-and-out cheating. Unless of course, they cheat against England; in which case a whole new can of clichés will be opened. England meanwhile, will be doing their level best to avoid the lottery of a penalty shootout.
Japan and South Korea will be labelled quick and hard-working but vulnerable to the high ball, and at one point or another most of the African nations will be branded big, strong and athletic, but defensively naïve. This will be uttered without a hint of irony, despite the fact that many of their players now ply their trade in the top European leagues. The likes of Iran, Honduras and Algeria won’t be there just to make up the numbers, although in reality, they’ll probably end up doing just that. While Australia will never give up because it’s not in their sporting DNA, and their colourful, vibrant fans will light up the tournament while being ‘just happy to be here’; or drunk.
Every German display will be one of ruthless efficiency, Spain will play football the right way (as opposed to the wrong way) but will still try to pass the ball into the net too much, and the Brazilians’ samba football will hail straight from the beaches of the Copacabana. The Dutch will play with a typical Dutch swagger, The Italians will defend, defend, defend, and the Greeks will go one better by parking the bus. In the meantime, us English will be consumed by fear of the dreaded penalty shootout.
Despite the potential banana skins and the ‘David and Goliath’ clashes, the pundits will remind us that there are no easy games in international football. The formbook will be thrown out of several windows throughout the tournament, and although some matches will look easy on paper, we all know that football isn’t played on paper.
The more astute commentators will take advantage of the interchangeable continental cliché to inform us that the South Americans/Europeans will cope/struggle with the heat/altitude, and at least two different groups will be referred to as the group of death.
The headline ‘England Expects’ will make its way onto at least one back page, and the debate of whether Lampard and Gerrard can play together in midfield will be debated once again. Probably just moments before another 90 minutes in which they prove that they can’t.
After dreading the lottery of penalties throughout the tournament, it will be branded a cruel way to go out when we inevitably lose on spot-kicks again, and the headline ‘Woy oh Woy’ will find its way onto at least one front page. Any perceived failure will be blamed on a lack of investment at grass roots level, and a good performance from one of our young players will see him christened as the latest saviour of English football.
And that’s the beauty of a football cliché. Within a few short words, an entire backstory can be conveyed to your average football fan, and we understand exactly what the pundit means. So roll on the summer feast of football; there’s a long way to go, we’ll take one game at a time, and as long as England give 110%, they’ll be sure to give the fans something to cheer about.
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