Key Players: Granit Xhaka, the 21-year-old forward for German side Borussia Monchengladbach, compared to German star Bastian Schweinsteiger by the man who has coached them both, Swiss national coach and former Bayern Munich coach Ottmar Hitzfeld; Stephen Lichtsteiner and Philippe Senderos, leaders of the daunting Swiss defence; and La Liga-based (Real Sociedad) striker Haris Seferovic.
Bus Slogan: Final Stop: 07-13-14 Maracana! — playing on the Swiss stereotypes of punctuality and trains, fails to take into account that a large faction of these their stars are of Balkan or Turkish origin.
Where to Watch the World Cup: I would say lakeside in Zurich, Lugano or Montreux, also might be too late for a cable car to a mountaintop lair like the solar-powered Piz Gloria restaurant featured in In Her Majesties Secret Service.
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Key Players: Striker Jefferson Montero, often the knife point of Ecuador’s high octane-and-altitude qualifying attack; Antonio Valencia, a grizzled veteran of Manchester United by now, will handle much of the playmaking duties.
Bus Slogan: One Commitment, One Passion, Only One Heart, This Is For You Ecuador! Another attempt at The Most Interesting Slogan in the World, with an odd addition that could be interpreted as vulnerability or handicap, or conversely as profound sacrifice — in the real life case of Christian “Chucho” Benítez, who died of heart failure while playing in Qatar (!) last July.
Where to Watch the World Cup: If you aren’t already acclimated to the Andes, I might advise against heading to capital Quito. By the time you are able to breathe and cheer (and drink), it may be too late…the swamp-ish climes of Guayaquil wiould be most appropriate, with a ticket on hand for the Galapagos to wash off the corporate overload afterward.
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Key Players: The talented midfield trio of Paris St. Germain’s Yohan Cabeye and Blaise Matiudi with Juventus’ Paul Pogba; elsewhere, other players from Gallic West-Campuses Newcastle United and Arsenal to watch include striker Löic Rémy, shaky defencemen Matthew Debuchy and Laurent Koscielny, and the definition of Le Coq Sportif, striker Olivier Giroud.
Bus Slogan: Impossible Is Not a French Word — actually it is, but ‘easy’ or ‘lucky’ aren’t, although The French must think themselves ‘nous avons vraiment de la chance’ for drawing a group so ‘facile’ on ‘papier’ (and after, for the second time in a row, qualifying for the FIFA tournament due to a dubious refereeing decision against Ukraine). ‘Les Docteurs Jekyll et La Coupe du Monde’ might be the best slogan to reflect the wildly-alternating quality of the teams WC performances over the last 20 years.
Where to Watch the World Cup: A club chain named Belushi’s is making a big play to host viewing parties in Paris as well as London and Berlin; however, more offbeat viewing locations could be Newcastle, due to it’s French club connection, or Geneva for the French opener against Switzerland, which does not promise to be the definition of peaceful.
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Key Players: Striker Andy Najar, winner of the latest Belgian league title with Anderlecht; Victor Bernadez, imposing San Jose Earthquakes defender; Roger Espinoza, a former Sporting Kansas City player and midfielder with the 2013 FA Cup-winning English club Wigan; and Emilio Izaguirre, left back with Glasgow’s Celtic, and exciting touchline to touchline sprinter.
Bus Slogan: We Are One Country, One Nation, Five Stars On The Heart — The ‘Five Stars On The Heart’ bit is a reference to the original five Central American provinces (to which Costa Rica also belonged), but out of context here it has one hoping they weren’t PINNED on the heart. No Absalom/Game of Thrones gore here, thanks.
Where to Watch the World Cup: I might suggest Coxen Hole in Roatán, the Honduran Caribbean island that was the ultimate bane of William Walker, and will provide numerous vacation activities, such as the MesoAmerican Barrier Reef, once the Honduran National Team’s barriers are likely breached.
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