World Cup 2014: Comedian Andy Zaltzman presents his neutral's guide to Group E

Not sure who to back at this summer's footballing festivities? Fear not, Britain's best sporting comic has the answer

SWITZERLAND

There are plenty of reasons why not to support Switzerland, not least their soul-sappingly miserable anti-football in 2010, when they fluked a joyless victory over Spain, and then proceeded to fail to score in their remaining two games and be justifiably, mercifully eliminated. Won 1, drew 1, lost 1, scored 1, conceded 1, entertained 0. They played as if trying to extinguish the concept of hope.

The Swiss are to thrilling, edge-of-the-seat football what Freddy Krueger is to ballet. Moreover, with the highest GDP per capita of any of the 32 qualifying nations, plus a total of 23 grand-slam singles titles in the past 17 years, there is absolutely no need for Switzerland to enjoy even the semblance of a World Cup run to distract them from other hobbies, such as questionable banking practices, looking at mountains, and speaking an unnecessary number of languages.

NSR: 0%

FRANCE

Disappointingly, the often discordant French footballing orchestra is no longer conducted by madcap manager Raymond Domenech, a footballing surrealist who specialised in turning a squad of silk purses into a giant animatronic Frankenstein's sow's ear.

Laurent Blanc's team was on the verge of being knocked out by Ukraine in the play-offs last November, but recovered from a two-goal first-leg deficit, and have been unharshly rewarded with a place in the Group Of Life. Nevertheless, if there is one major team that could make a Horlicks of an apparently simple qualification, it is France, whose group stage flops in 2002 and 2010 were among the most inept campaigns by any organisation in any sphere of activity, sporting or otherwise.

It is also strange to think that, if that play-off game had gone differently, Vladimir Putin would have annexed Corsica instead of Crimea, and would now be claiming that the people of St Tropez had always "felt Russian". At 22-1, France represent a high-value each-way bet, but, as post-war France boss Charlie de Gaulle said: "Can you manage a football team whose nation has 246 varieties of cheese?".

NSR: 24% (100% against Switzerland)

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

HONDURAS

Who or what is Carlo Costly? Is it (a) Roman Abramovich's nickname for Fernando Torres; (b) Oliver Cromwell's nickname for Charles I; (c) a cartoon character developed by George Osborne to educate children about the financial impracticality of the benefits system in an age of austerity and corporate tax-aversion; (d) a proven international striker with a strike rate for Honduras of almost a goal every other game; or (e) a much-travelled club journeyman who has played out a barely-noticed career in eight countries, the highlight of which was netting twice on his debut for Guizhou Zhicheng in the second tier of the Chinese league?

Answer: all of the above.

Especially (d) and (e). If you, as a neutral, cannot bring yourself to support a team containing a player called Carlo Costly, a one-man satirisation of the financial excesses of modern football, you are watching the wrong tournament.

NSR: 94% (100% against Switzerland)

ECUADOR

Ecuador has a squad packed with players who have excelled at a very high level. Literally. They squeaked through to the finals in fourth place in the South American qualifying, with seven wins in 16 games. All of those seven victories (plus one of their four draws) came in home matches, played 2,800 metres above sea level in Quito. It is often said that a supportive home crowd is like a 12th man for the team. Quito's altitude is like a 12th man who doubles up as a psychotic double-agent physio, nobbling the opposition with a home-made lung-squasher.

Ecuador's opening two matches are in relatively low-lying Brasília (1,200 metres, against Switzerland, a team which, you would assume, is not afraid of the odd mountain), and Curitiba, which tips the altimeter at a disappointing 900 metres. Their potentially crucial final game, against France, takes place in Rio de Janeiro, which is, notoriously, by the seaside. If Ecuador need a victory, and Fifa deny them permission either to crank the Maracanã up on a 2,800-metre-high hydraulic platform, or to relocate the match away from Brazil to a specially constructed temporary stadium on the upper slopes of K2, they may struggle.

Not the most obvious recipient of neutral support, unless you have a deep respect for any country that names itself after exactly where it is on the globe, as equator-hugging Ecuador has been honest enough to do.

NSR: 20% (100% against Switzerland)

News
newsAnother week, another dress controversy on the internet
Life and Style
Scientist have developed a test which predicts whether you'll live for another ten years
health
Life and Style
Marie had fake ID, in the name of Johanna Koch, after she evaded capture by the Nazis in wartime Berlin
historyOne woman's secret life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

Poldark star Heida Reed

'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn