Coffee-loving football fans will be shaking their espresso pots for Colombia, who are comfortably the finest coffee producers in Group C. This accolade is highlighted by the fact that humble coffee farmer Juan Valdez is described by Wikipedia as an "icon for Colombia", and has achieved his national hero status despite being (a) a humble coffee farmer, and (b) fictitious. He is, in fact, not so much a humble coffee farmer as an advertising logo.
Once renowned for their flamboyant football, hair and goalkeepers, Colombia is appearing in its first World Cup this millennium, and will be looking to the brilliant but injured Radamel Falcao to guide them to their first-ever quarter-final. The regular 35-goals-a-season striker joined Monaco from Atlético Madrid last summer, entirely for footballing reasons. Monaco's tax laws and an eye-watering, wallet-rupturing, abacus-smashing salary were, of course, incidental.
The real attraction was playing in a small, half-empty stadium in front of around 8,500 fans a week. "I've always loved small, half-empty stadiums," he gushes frequently to anyone who will listen, and recently admitted that he had been on the verge of joining Barnsley, only to be put off by the fact that their average crowd had crept over the crucial 10,000 mark. "That's too much for me," wept the lethal penalty box marksman who could have signed for any club to play in any stadium. "Monaco it is."
Greece, not undeservedly, won the 2004 European Championship with football that was tactically sophisticated/unremittingly negative (delete according to whether or not you are trying to impress someone with your superior understanding of the strategic nuances of the great game). The Greeks may been world-changing pioneers in democracy, the arts, philosophy, and oiled-up naked wrestling, but those achievements pale into insignificance when set against the pall they cast over football with their Grim Grind To Glory campaign 10 years ago. They need no more success.
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group A
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group B
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group C
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group D
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group E
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group F
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group G
Andy Zaltzman’s guide to Group H
Ivory Coast anti-boast the lowest GDP per capita of any of the 32 competing nations, coming a disappointing 148th out of 180 listed countries, according to a combination of The World Bank and Wikipedia (two uneasy factual bedfellows). Economists claim that, without Didier Drogba, the Ivorians would be in the bottom 10. This is a nation that could clearly do with a footballing perk-up, and World Cups always need a team to break the Europeo-South-American hegemony.
Japan are one of the teams who have benefitted most from the expansion to 32 teams in 1998, qualifying for every tournament since, but doing little of interest, to such an extent that legal proceedings are underway to change their national slogan from 'Land of the Rising Sun' to 'Land of the Competent But Unremarkable Football'. Unlikely to attract support from whale-loving neutrals, due to a continuing predilection for hunting the celebrity aquatic megamammals for 'research purposes'. This 'research' is, reportedly, into scientifically imperative questions such as: what happens when you shoot a harpoon at a whale? Can whales still swim after they are dead? If you chase a whale with a large boat, does it become a shark? And how much soy sauce do you need with a perfectly-cooked whale steak?