rio group D


Key players: Luis Suarez, the talisman, polarizing for his antics/heroics in the last World Cup and in the EPL since, is highly questionable after apparently undergoing surgery to his knee — however, knowing Uruguay’s history of gamesmanship, I’ll believe his absence when I see it. In his stead, Edinson Cavani of Paris St. Germain will bear the attacking banner, while almost-Champions League winning scorer Diego Godin of Atletico Madrid will again captain the defence.

Bus slogan: ‘Three Million Dreams… Let’s Go Uruguay!’ — pretty straightforward (yawn). Switch ‘dreams’ to ‘nightmares’ if Suarez doesn’t play.

Where to watch the World Cup: Plazas Independencia and Intendencia (City Hall) in Montevideo (I suppose drunkenly slurred speech will get you to one or the other). If they go far, perhaps a screen will be set up in the art deco Centenario Stadium, site of Uruguay’s victory in the first FIFA World Cup in 1930. Liverpool, where Suarez plays his club soccer, will definitely provide some interesting viewer dymanics should he be able to play.

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Costa Rica

Key players: Joel Campbell, the young striker loaned to Greek side Olympiakos by Arsenal, who has garnered recent headlines for buying a box of Panini sticker packets in the ultimately vain hope of finding one of himself. Otherwise, it’s a tale of two Bryans: Bryan Ruiz, the PSV Eindhoven striker on loan from Fulham will be there and in good form; and Bryan Oviedo, the left-back who was having a great season for Everton when he broke his leg in January, attempted to practice with the team, had too much pain and will miss out.

Bus slogan: ‘My Passion Is Football, My Strength Is My People, My Pride is Costa Rica!’ — aka “I Don’t Always Watch Soccer, But When I Do… I Root For Los Ticos.”

Where to watch the World Cup: Montezuma, where you can learn to poi fire dance or do yoga while watching group games (although scuba diving may be difficult). Healing arts may soon come in quite handy.

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Key players: Enigmatic Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, whom cosmologist Stephen Hawking implied was more likely to score due to his inclination towards baldness; captain Steven Gerrard and his Liverpool teammate, snakey forward Daniel Sturridge; and their cross-town rival Everton’s representatives, young phenom midfielder Ross Barkley and mod right-back Leighton Baines.

Bus slogan: ‘The Dream of One Team, The Heartbeat of Millions!’ — Appropriate chit-chat for the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party…

Where to watch the World Cup: Unlike when I went to Glastonbury in 1998, World Cup games will NOT be shown this year. However, the Isle of Wight Festival will be accommodating, setting up among other things a choice between watching The Specials or England vs Italy on June 14th — maybe they’ll allow the use of Vespas on the grounds as shuttles. Time Out London has venues listed for the capital, and as mentioned above Liverpool will have numerous irons in the fire.

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Key players: Star A.C. Milan striker Mario Balotelli, target of racial abuse once again, this time last week at his own national team’s training ground near Florence; Giuseppe Rossi, the American-born striker at Fiorentina; ancient Juventus veterans goalkeeper/captain Gianluigi Buffon and playmaker Andrea Pirlo; and intriguingly named youngster Ciro Immobile, the 2014 Serie A Capocannoniere (top goal scorer) with Torino.

Bus slogan: ‘Let’s Paint the FIFA World Cup Dream Blue’ — Is there a Ironlak color out there called ‘Dream Blue’? Are the Italians seeing themselves as guerrilla graffiti artists?

Where to watch the World Cup: It’s going to be off the hook everywhere in this country. Perhaps try a dreamy northern fortress town like Bergamo, or the hot nighttime parties of The Great Beauty’s Rome. And let’s hope Super Mario scores a big one.

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