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Scott Wilson Column: Let's play World Cup draw bingo.....
THIS EVENING, the draw for next summer's World Cup finals takes place in the Brazilian resort of Bahia.
As anyone who has watched previous draws can attest, and apologies in advance for the pun, it tends to be a long, drawn-out affair.
So in order to make the BBC's live coverage bearable, we've come up with a handy game of World Cup bingo to spice things up a bit.
Settle down in your armchair, get the remote control ready to turn down the volume whenever Mark Lawrenson comes on screen, and make sure you've got a pen to start keeping score.
BANKERS (1pt each)
Hey, we're in Brazil. What do people like doing in Brazil? That's right, Samba dancing. Whether it's in a football stadium or what looks like a giant aircraft hangar, but is actually the venue for the draw ceremony, what better way to celebrate Brazilian culture than to dress up some women in feathery costumes and get them to dance around to the tune from the 1998 Nike advert where Brazilian footballers kicked a ball through an airport? And as FIFA boss Sepp Blatter will have had a hand in all of this, clearly the shorter the skirts, the better.
How long will we have to wait for a first glimpse of the great man? I'm guessing there'll be at least three of his goals in the opening montage of the BBC's coverage. In fairness, Pele remains a Brazilian icon, but it's a safe bet that by the start of the tournament next summer, we're all going to be sick of the sight of his cheesy grin. Oh, and given his previous advertisements linked to erectile dysfunction, Gary Lineker had better be careful if he's going to make jokes about him handling his balls.
Group Of Death
One for when the draw process actually begins, but we can all be pretty confident it's going to be there. Let's be honest, with 32 of the best teams in the world in attendance, it's statistically pretty likely that some of them are going to have to play each other. But we'll still have a sharp intake of breath when Germany, Ivory Coast and Portugal are all drawn together. If England end up in the 'Group of Death' we'll all bemoan our luck, conveniently forgetting of course that we couldn't even beat Algeria last time around.
Overblown Build Up
It's worth bearing in mind that, ultimately, this is all about drawing 32 names out of a hat and sticking them in eight groups of four. It shouldn't be that hard. But thanks to the introduction of giant fish bowls and a process so complicated you need a maths degree to understand it, FIFA have managed to transform the World Cup Draw into something unfathomable. Watch out for the golden moment when an uncomfortable FIFA executive in a suit tries to explain it all, while accompanied, for no apparent reason, by a six-foot Brazilian supermodel.
SAFE BETS (2pts each)
Another staple of the World Cup lexicon, the Dark Horses are present at each and every tournament. They used to be Portugal or Mexico, then for a brief period they became the Ivory Coast. This time around, though, common consent seems to agree that the mantle has passed to Belgium, mainly because the Belgian squad contains a few Premier League players that people have heard of. Expect an impressive group-stage performance before a second-round exit on penalties to Chile.
No easy games at a World Cup anymore
One for the television pundits this, and effectively shorthand for, 'I've spent the last two days nursing a monumental hangover from a 24-hour bender in Rio – how on earth do you expect me to have done any research on Iran or Bosnia-Herzegovina?' It'll definitely be uttered if England end up in a group that looks simple on paper, and conveniently ignores the fact that, actually, there are more easy games in a World Cup than in most European Championships.
Pictures of Rio de Janeiro and the Rainforest
Right, what do people back at home know about Brazil? Rio of course, so expect plenty of shots of Sugarloaf Mountain, the statue of Christ The Redeemer and Copacabana beach. When England qualified for the finals, just about every paper ran with “Rooney's off to Rio” headlines. Well, he might be, but Brazil is a bloody big country and there's plenty of other cities than are staging games. Manaus is one of them, and it's situated in the north. Hence, another cliché. Expect “Rooney's off to the Rainforest” if England have to play there.
Barefoot football on the beach
This one ties in to the previous section as if you're going to show pictures of the Copacabana, it's obligatory to make sure they feature a load of kids running around with no shoes on their feet. One suspects there's a BBC executive over in Rio as we speak stealing childrens' shoes just to ensure their shots aren't spoiled. The images will no doubt be accompanied by a comment about Brazilian youngsters being “born with a ball at their feet”. I haven't seen the inside of any maternity wards personally, but I strongly suspect they're not.
PROBABLES (3pts each)
They'll be dropped in casually as the draw progresses, probably by Alan Shearer, accompanied by a knowing nod of the head. Germany? Good tournament team. France? Emotionally unstable. Russia? Tough to break down. Japan? Technically proficient, but lack a big man up front. United States? Still don't really understand the game. Nonsense, but nonsense we've heard so often it's still pretty easy to believe.
Roy Hodgson looking worried
In fairness, this isn't confined to the World Cup draw as it could probably have been witnessed at any of England's qualifying games in the last couple of years, but there's every chance Hodgson will be looking more perplexed than ever this evening. In part, that'll probably be because, like the rest of us, he doesn't have a clue what's going on. But it'll also reflect the fact that of the 31 countries taking part with England, there are precisely 31 that we can no longer be certain that we'll beat.
Carlos Alberto's goal from 1970
Having exceeded their Pele quota at an early stage of proceedings – probably with a goal from 1958, the Gordon Banks save and the iconic picture of the Brazilian swapping shirts with Bobby Moore - the BBC will have to go elsewhere to find video clips to pad out their coverage. What better then that yet another look at Carlos Alberto's flourishing finish to round off arguably the best attacking move of all time? As the commentary will no doubt say, “Oh, that was sheer delightful football.”
A smug Sepp Blatter
Is there any other kind? Now you might think that with street protests escalating, infrastructure projects being cancelled and construction workers tragically losing their lives as part of a half-built stadium collapses, the FIFA president might acknowledge there have been a few teething troubles. Not a bit of it. Expect plenty of thanks to the wider 'FIFA family', a load of pats on the back for the World Cup sponsors and a platitude or two about Brazil being the 'spiritual home of the game'. Then it'll be back to FIFA headquarters to count the profits.
UNLIKELY (5pts each)
If you think England and Germany have a bit of footballing history, then that's nothing compared to Brazil and Argentina. The two South American superpowers have been locked in a battle for continental supremacy for the best part of a century, and Brazil aren't about to let Argentina steal any of their limelight. Perhaps Maradona will be invited to the ceremony as a VIP? If he is, expect him to be sitting on the back row alongside the ambassador from Iran.
References to protests and controversy
Given that they need to make a shed-load of money out of the World Cup, it's easy to understand why FIFA will be keen to gloss over the mounting controversy over the amount of Brazilian government investment into new stadia, even if that doesn't make it morally right. If this year's Confederations Cup is anything to go by, however, the BBC will also be turning something of a blind eye to the popular protests that continue to flood the streets of a number of Brazilian cities. Why focus on that when you can whack on another clip of Pele?
Celebration of Brazilian cultural icons
Away from football, Brazilian culture has plenty to commend it. Might we see a reference to the Baroque artists Manuel da Costa Ataide and Aleijadinho, who made a global impact in the 18th Century? Maybe we could concentrate on Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, whose work in Brasilia won a host of global awards? Or how about celebrating poet Alvares de Azevedo, whose work is known by every Brazilian schoolchild? Nah, I tell you what, whack Shakira on the stage and get her to do a couple of songs. What, she's Colombian? Well, that's nearly Brazil isn't it?
England tipped as likely winners
In years gone by, someone would have put their head above the parapet and said, “We can win this”. Even if it was just Harry Redknapp. Nowadays, though, triumphalism is out and grim reality has sunk in. “Getting out of the group would be a decent achievement”. “We don't have enough world-class players”. “England will struggle with the South American conditions”. Might someone break rank? It's unlikely, although the BBC could push the nuclear button and engage the services of Ian Wright.
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