World Cup preview


Key Players, in a very balanced, intriguing team, with numerous EPL and La Liga performers: Chelsea’s midfield playmaker Eden Hazard; Everton attackers Romelu Lukaku and Kevin Mirallas; Atletico Madrid defenders Toby Alderweireld and Thibault Curtois; the Afro-headed midfielders Axel Witsel and Marouane Fellaini; and Manchester United wunderkind Adnan Januaz, just to name a few.

Bus Slogan: Expect the Impossible! — I don’t know if the Belgians were watching what was selected for France before they went for their slogan, but this seems obviously a dig, albeit one that may have ambivalent karma, as they have progressed beyond ‘Dark Horse’ status to being one of 2014’s favored teams, including winning over the international hipster contingent.

Where to Watch The World Cup: Not near Belgium’s universities — a study showed that 10% fewer Belgian students passed their exams during World Cup years, and Belgium hasn’t even participated in the last two. Better to find a good bowling alley in Antwerp that has jumped on the sports bar complex bandwagon, or get your saisson on in one of Brussels myriad Trappist taps. King Baudoin Stadium will have the big screen for atl the Rode Duivels games, semis and final.

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Key Players: This insular, all-Russia-based squad picked by former England coach Fabio Capello features numerous multi-tournament veterans such as goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev, midfielder Yuri Zhirkov and captain Krasnodar midfielder Roman Shirokov, although this will also mark Russia’s first appearance at the World Cup since Japan/Korea in 2002 (where they also were in the last group, with Belgium!).

Bus Slogan: No One Can Catch Us — much has already been said about the in-your-face brazenness of this slogan in light of recent geo-political events. We’ll have to also see if this leads to getting pulled over on Brazilian freeways.

Where To Watch The World Cup: This is a tough one within the country, for many reasons not least the time of the games…Sochi will likely be breaking out the projectors…St. Petersberg might still have daylight for the early games… Outside, Brighton Beach in Brooklyn may be the most appropriate (and perhaps safest)

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Key Players: Young Parisian-born striker Sofiane Feghouli, who plays for La Liga side Valencia; Tottenham midfielder Nabil Bentaleb, coming off a breakthrough season with the London EPL side; and goalkeeper Rais Mbolhi, who was iconically heroic when he stepped into the #1 position due to injury during the 2010 World Cup, almost eliminating the US in the process.

Bus Slogan: Desert Warriors In Brazil — ok, conjures the image of an 80’s indie film, something like Baghdad Café, perhaps directed by Aki Kurismaki or Jim Jarmusch…

Where To Watch The World Cup: if not in in the madness of Algiers or Oran, perhaps within the funky Belleville neighborhood of Paris.

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South Korea

Key Players: a few previous World Cup/EPL veterans (Ki Sung-yeung of Sunderland, Kim Bo-Kyung of Cardiff City and Park Chu-young of Arsenal) and a lot of intangibles such as Ji Dong-won, subject of a dodgy transfer from Sunderland to German side FC Augsburg (he’s now moved up to Borussia Dortmund), spotlighted as one of the ‘sexiest’ footballers at the tournament but also notorious for once avoiding taking a ‘header’…and then there’s the coach, Hong Myung-Bo, who hasn’t coached the team in a non-‘friendly’ game yet.

Bus Slogan: Enjoy It, Reds! — this could be interpreted in so many ways…from the hyper-drug references to paranoia-inducement amongst Liverpool fans to snide taunting of their Northern neighbors (after a rare qualification for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, North Korea again fell short this time). Of course it could mean ‘enjoy Brazil while you can, as it likely won’t be long.’

Where To Watch the World Cup: the wonderfully named Yaletown in Seoul, listed as a ‘Burger Joint,’ down by the Han, has poutine as well as beer pong; and then to the south, in Busan, there’s the equally wonderful Starface Pub…finally, Dan Sung Sa, in Oakland, California, formerly called Porno Palace, is a personal favorite, and as it is pretty crazy normally, I don’t see why it will change for the tournament. Head in for a lunchtime Taeguk Warriors game if you’re in Northern California, say June 17th, 22nd, or 28th.

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