By Aaron Callaghan
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Its here folks, the Football World Cup is upon us. Every four years 32 teams gather after only the lucky ones gain entry to the final stage. Who are we kidding? It is usually reserved for those with hefty stacks to buy FIFA votes, qualify through Asia as a non-Asian country and or fly around nefarious back-water FIFA conferences to qualify. The arduous task of qualification now in the rear-view mirror and the football leaders in football-mad countries that failed to qualify have long since been assassinated and paraded through the streets on Roman chariots. A brutal and distinct message that failure to qualify is unacceptable.
Perhaps the most ominous question looming over the whole tournament is a question of construction management, building stadiums and facilities – Will everything be ready Russia? Has the KGB given it the approval? Are the Borsch and Perogi stands plentiful and well equipped? One thing we do know is that riot squad is on call.
The Russian Sports Ministry announced earlier this year that they would take legal action against various construction companies tasked with building out everything required to run a successful football world cup. In Mother Russia, one can only contemplate whether legal action is a euphemism for some staunch cronies setting fire to the head office. The Russian Sports Ministry is seeking 2.9 billion Rubles or 51 million USD in damages, having already spent 13.2 billion USD on the tournament. This sits it at the top of the financial tree, making it the most expensive football competition in history. The Russian Finance Ministry will be praying for a favourable outcome on the legal action, given the federal budget will absorb more than half of the cost.
As final preparations ramp up for all 32 teams, it is time to look ahead to the June 14 kick off.
The Pertinent Information
Good news and bad news for Australian football fans – SBS is airing 25 of the 64 world cup matches live on free-to-air TV. Millenials will be thrilled to know that this includes an option to stream on the SBS World Game website and smart phone app on demand. For the bulk of the tournament, viewers will be forced to buy into the Optus Sport web streaming platforms at $14.99 per month with no locked in contracts giving users the option to pony up $15 for the world cup action and then cut bait with Optus after the cup final. That’s a reasonable price, considering a pint in Australian cities sits around $87.
BeIN sports on Foxtel’s sports package is advertising all the World Cup action live – at the time of writing The Unsportsmen were unable to confirm or deny’s BeIN’s involvement, the wrinkle here is SBS and Optus have the exclusive rights for the football world cup in Australia. I’m not sure who watches BeIN sports anyway?
According to timeanddate.com the mighty communist stronghold of Russia has 11 time zones spanning across the sprawling red state. So please double check all times before setting the alarm to get out of bed for Australia’s games group games and all times listed at AEST.
Kick off – June 14th – Hosts Russia square off against Saudi Arabia
Game / Date and Time AEST
- France v Australia - Saturday 16th June @ 8PM
- Denmark v Australia - Thursday 21st June @ 10PM
- Peru v Australia - Wednesday 27th June @ 12AM
Round / Date
- Round of 16 - July 1st
- Quarter Finals - July 7th
- Semi Finals - 11 and 12th July
- 3rd Place Playoff - 15th July
- World Cup Final - 16th July
Many pundits have decidedly ranked Australia last in group C and it’s easy to see why after stumbling into the world cup finals from the Asian qualifying route. They limped past the likes of Syria, Honduras and Thailand to fall across the finish line and qualify for their 4th consecutive finals. The Socceroos are under the new management of Bert Van Marwijk, who takes over for the world cup and two warm up matches. Earlier this year, he was coaching against them as he guided Saudi Arabia to direct Asian qualification. The Socceroos snuck into third in Asian qualifying group play behind Japan and Saudi Arabia, this left Australia needing to play home and away knock-out legs against Syria and Honduras.
The Socceroos squad is as follows;
- Goalkeepers: Brad Jones, Mat Ryan, Danny Vukovic
- Defenders: Aziz Behich, Milos Degenek, Matt Jurman, Mark Milligan, James Meredith, Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury
- Midfielders: Jackson Irvine, Mile Jedinak, Massimo Luongo, Aaron Mooy, Tom Rogic
- Forwards: Daniel Arzani, Tim Cahill, Tomi Juric, Robbie Kruse, Mat Leckie, Jamie Maclaren, Andrew Nabbout, Dimitri Petratos
Theres no denying it, Australia is facing an uphill battle to survive the nuclear warfare of the group stage. Expect a possession heavy style and perhaps hope to create something from nothing in the final third. Following a 4-0 rout of the Czech Republic, some football analysts are suggesting Australia may have turned the corner under Van Marwijk – time will tell.
Group C – How do we get out alive?
Denmark, Peru and the heavily favoured as group winners – France - stand in square in the Socceroos doorway in their quest out of the Group House. Denmark will be lethal on the counter with Cristian Eriksen, and Peru look better than the Socceroos on paper. These clashes are imperative for all three teams, and the recipe is simple for Denmark and Peru. Beat Australia and then try to steal three points off each other in their clash on match day three.
Les Blues are packed with star players and should have far too much in the wine cellar and cheese wheel for other group C incumbents. Antoine Greizmann vs Matt Leckie? I’m backing the local boy for the chocolates. It will depend on which play style French coach Will Didier adopts, but Paul Pogba should be the centrepiece of Les Blues attack, it is hard to see even France stumbling in group play.
In their first world cup finals since 1982, every Peruvian citizen on the planet will be watching, filled with national pride and the team will be playing on raw emotion and primed for the occasion. The Peruvians are looking as imposing as the thin air of Machu Pichu. Their qualifying run over the previous two years have resulted 16 wins and only two losses including a 13-match winning streak in the always tough South American qualifying. Adding oxygen to the emotion surrounding the national team is the inclusion of briefly excluded former captain Paolo Guerrero following a cocaine ban. Alas, a Peruvian indulging in one of their nations highest quality exports is as surprising as if Aaron Mooy got banned for sinking one too many tins and passing out at a kebab shop. In a stunning development last week, a Switzerland supreme court froze the cocaine ban freeing Guerrero to play in Russia. Team captains from Australia, France and Denmark all penned letters of support for Guerrero that were presented in the hearings.
The final piece of the group C puzzle is Denmark, who came through a European play off with Ireland to book a world cup finals spot. On paper, The Danes have more talent than Peru, starting with Spurs midfielder Christian Eriksen who is primed for a big world cup on the back of Denmark’s decidedly more inspiring football. The Danes play a direct and aggressive style of football now, concocted to maximise Eriksen’s talent, moving away from the Dutch style of possession at all costs football – which still casts its spell over the Australian footballing community.
France should top group C. Denmark should finish in second spot and go through to face Argentina, however Peru is the dark horse in group C. They are the lesser talented South American team with their backs to the wall in a European hosted world cup. It almost feels like a moment for the Los Incas taking. Their first world cup finals appearance in 36 years, Peru comes in to the tournament riding a wave of irrational confidence and inspired football. France and Denmark are marked favourites to progress however the plucky Peruvians advancing would not surprise.
Your World Cup Winner
Many sports-bookies have the same team ahead in betting odds, albeit with some slight variance. Brazil and Germany are co-favourites with Spain and France on the second line of betting, Argentina and Belgium on the third line followed by England and Portugal at 20-1. Let’s get one thing straight, England may as well be paying the same as the Socceroos.
Brazil and Germany look to be undeniable in the world cup, but the difficulty is in how to split them. Germany are close to home in contentinal Europe and Brazil topped the ferociously difficult South American conference. Germany won all 10 of their qualification matches scoring a whopping 4.3 goals on average per game, so with this red-hot form they are this author's pick to hoist the trophy.
Australian’s love an underdog (Anthony Mundine, James Packer, WogBoy) and The Unsportsmen have adopted Colombia as a long-shot outsider. This is in part due to Tom’s experience with wild Colombian fans at the last world cup where they accepted his dodgy dance moves and embraced his tequila consumption. However in some small part it is because they possess three huge weapons – a reasonable back line, a goal creator in Bayern Munich star James Rodriguez and friend of the Unsportsmen Podcast, Shakira. Whilst our hips definitely lie through our teeth, The Unsportsmen have on good authority that Shakira is set to cover Ricky Martin’s 1998 hit ‘Cup of Life’ in a re-release which surely spur the Colombian team to a world cup final victory.
Bring your lucky undies, folks. This might get tasty.
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