The World Cup is Here (Or Why an Irishman Has Decided to Root for the USA)

06/07/2010 4:00 AM |

Ireland will not be represented at the World Cup finals this time around, upon which no more need be said. Instead I am temporarily turning my garage on the Dublin-Meath border on the eastern most island of America into the unofficial European headquarters for the USA supporters club as we invoke the words of the Pogues, made famous on the TV show The Wire and sing loud the official anthem of the unofficial supporters club, “I’m a free born man of the You Ess Ayy”.

This allegiance to the United States didn’t happen easily. There was much soul searching and an inordinate amount of pacing up and down the hall. I’ve never really identified politically with the USA apart from confessing to being a big fan of President Bartlett; but I identify completely with American music a million times more than its British equivalent, and frankly, I’m enjoying the idea of the USA in the unaccustomed role of rank underdog (it also doesn’t hurt that, theoretically, they could cause the downfall of England).

Required reading before attempting to make sense of the World Cup for the average American Sports fan is Brendan Hunt’s excellent ‘World Cup Translated into American‘. In this piece he very accurately compares the tournament’s clear favorites, Spain, to the Boston Red Sox 2005 team. A team that has played for so long with a monkey on its back, promising so much, and delivering so little, has very recently turned a corner and won the 2008 European Championships. They are clear favorites for the tournament because they A) play the best football and B) have the best players. Barcelona have recently offered 33 million pounds sterling to Arsenal for Cesc Fabregas and he can’t even make the starting 11! But, very rarely does the best team win this rollercoaster tournament.

The Brazilians are underrated, primarily because of poor seasons for Robinho and Kaka, but have a very balanced system under Dunga—much more defensive than previous Brazilian incarnations.

The Argentinians have a crazy demigod as a head coach who left Champions League winners at home in favor of younger local boys, and once the aging supreme passer Juan Veron was named in the squad one can’t help but suspect that their game plan is “get the ball to Messi” and let him wave a magic wand. Not exactly from the FIFA strategy DVD.

The English have a manager this time, but their defense is slower than a week in jail. Especially that Rio Ferdinand is now icing his knee and his partner in crime, John Terry, has been repeatedly exposed when playing higher up the field under Capello than he was sitting on his 18 yard line under Mourinho.

Italy get my vote, because Italian football is undergoing a huge injection of feelgood right now after winning the Champions League, there is also the siege mentality the Italians possess that made my wife plump 100 euro on them in 2006 when they were rank outsiders at 12/1. One penalty shootout and a very nice handbag later she has assumed football bragging rights in this residence for almost four years and it has to stop. She, for anyone interested has plumped for the Spanish this time around.

The Germans, as Kinky Friedman famously said, “Are my second favorite people, my first, is everybody else.” They play the most cumbersome style of football. Like a giant Aryan Borg collective they bore their opponents into submission in wars of attrition and feats of strength. This time around they have no leader though. Michael Ballack was ruled out after a particularly bad tackle in the FA cup final.

You could possibly see potential in the Dutch side, but they always promise so much until the infighting starts and they beat themselves before they even kick a ball. The usual noises are being made about a ‘new’ winner of the tournament, but unless the Dutch or the Spanish go the distance I really can’t see a Serbian or a Mexican or even a preening Portuguese number 7 hoisting the trophy.

3 Comment

  • I am with you on the USA front Derek, Again I wouldnt be the biggest fan of the USA but I think they could be the ones to watch.

    When all irish companies and people are provoking the A.B.F (anybody but france) I think we need to forget about that and leave it behind us and GO TEAM USA

    Barry Dublin

  • Forget your RBI’s , touchdowns and triple doubles this is the Daddy ! Can see a lot of sense in the argument put forward by Derek, but cannot see the USA holding onto the tails of Ing-er-land for the whole match. I fear that the boy wonder Rooney will sprinkle some of his own star spangled magic on the Americian de- fence. I feel that Ing-er-land ( as they shall be known ) through various injuries and enforced withdrawls are being forced into a no nonsense selection policy which will suit the conservative Capello to the backbone. Can see the USA getting through the group though. Algeria, though talented and sharp in the last third are flaky at the back and will be punished at this level. Slovenia hugly over acheived in even getting this far by defeating Russia in a playoff. One wonders if that was the height of their acheivement.
    Outside of USA,s group I have a sneaky feeling that the ever argumentative Oranjie boys of the Netherlands could well go far. Packed with scoring ability they will give anyone a tussle as long as they are allowed to go on the offensive. Their defence this time looks a little more composed than before where they were always likely to implode. Biggest cahllenge for the coach will be the 12 hour plane journey where the in fighting could begin. All those egos in such a small space !
    Top scorer the boy who has it all. The looks the name the talent the trademarks. Ronaldo ! Will be taking everything for Portugal . Free kicks, penalties and against such dodgy defences such as Ivory Coast, North Korea ( !!!! ) and even Brazil I will expect him to look upon this as a target rich enviroment.
    Anyway nuff said, probarly Italy , Germany final then. Here’s hoping that it throws some crazy hairdos, unlikely heroes and the odd moment of brilliance our way. And France to go home before the end of the month..Allez les Verts

  • Really enjoyed this article. A good guide to the feast of football that awaits us this month. I`m sure the whole of Ireland will be rooting for America come Saturday, but for the first time in my memory, Ireland has a new more evil enemy, France, or to be more precise, Thierry Henry. With one movement of his hand, Henry managed to elevate himself to the same level of hatred, in Irish people`s eyes anyway, as England. Good to see an Irishman can write a piece on the World Cup and not mention this. Enjoyable read but here is one Irishman who still says ” Lest We Forget “.