C and D have been locked together and, if England can escape their perilously difficult group, they could find themselves with a fairly kind draw in the next round. Still, this is England I’m talking about – they very rarely make anything appear favourable!
Dad: Top seeds Colombia have been in the doldrums for many years. One of my first World Cup memories is the tragedy in 1994 when Andres Escobar was murdered for scoring an own goal which put paid to their chances of progression in USA. They had a good team back then – Valderrama was a fuzzy-haired hero (almost as good as Tugay), Higuita was the eccentric keeper with a real sting in his personality and Asprilla was tricks, flicks and goals upfront. I was really looking forward to watching Falcao but unfortunately he’s not going to be there. It remains to be seen if they’ll have enough firepower without him.
Still great hair fifteen years on!
Sophie: I’ve not heard of any of their players…who’s next?
Dad: The Ivory Coast have lots of Premier League experience and I remember getting excited about them back in 2006. They always seem to draw the Group of Death so this time an easier looking group might serve them well. I’d love to see Didier Drogba and co get through to the next round (not least because they’re my class’s team on the sweepstake!). As for Greece, long-haired supremo Georgios Samaras doesn’t inspire much confidence as a key striker but they are tough to beat. We watched the young Japanese side in the Olympics – fast, skillful, offensive – and I hope that’s the style that turns up. If so, they could sneak through. My tips?… Ivory Coast and Colombia.
Sophie: All the Greek men in my sticker album have beards which would tickle me (Daddy’s rubbish at growing a beard) so I can’t support them. The Japanese team are speedy and exciting to watch so my vote is for them. As for the Ivory Coast, “Salomon Kalou…all I want in Group C… is you through” – (that’s for you, Rick!).
Dad: Ah, England. To be honest, I find the England football team tiresome, particularly in major tournaments. They have always gone in with such great fanfare and expectation, only to slink back home after yet another disappointing or dejecting defeat. There’s usually some kind of controversy attached (Beckham, Campbell x2, Lampard) which offers ready made excuses but only in the past few years have the media become more realistic about their chances.
But this time I’m actually quite interested in them. Sterling, Barkley, Sturridge, Oxlade-Chamberlain are all very exciting, young players who offer threat, pace and the potential to be good to watch. So different from most of the other tournaments England have been in. There’s been far less of the media circus and that will help them. Who knows…they could make it through without any worries…
Sophie: Mummy once put me in a Union Jack baby gro which made me want to vote for Nigel Farage. But I quickly forgot all about that. I like listening to Steven Gerrard’s voice – it helps me understand my Uncle Simon, so I’d like to hear more of that.
Dad: As for Italy, well they are tournament performers (usually). They bombed at the last World Cup as holders so will need to make amends this time. They will miss Rossi, but Chiellini is a quality defender, Pirlo is sheer class and Balotelli on a good day is unstoppable. They played England off the park at Euro 2012. Uruguay are a formidable outfit too and Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani could really stretch porous defences. You fear for Costa Rica – hopefully they won’t resort to violence like Honduras last Saturday. My tips… Uruguay and England (provided they don’t lose to Italy).
Sophie: Suarez can’t stay on his feet any longer than me so I’m not supporting his team. I like blue (my team Blackburn play in blue) so I would like Italy to go through. As for Costa Rica, my Daddy has told me lots about Paulo Wanchope and his long spindly legs (like Daddy). I’ve got a soft spot for them too. How to decide?