Since a semi-final in a goal-packed 1986 campaign, Belgium have left little imprint on international tournaments. Now, however, they have a young team stacked with largely Premier-League-based talent, and have thus become, in some eyes, the latest Country On Whom England Should Be Modelling Themselves Footballingly (following in the footsteps of, among others, Spain, France, Germany, Hungary, the Vikings, Ancient Rome and the dinosaurs). They have pace, they have skill, and they have Marouane Fellaini.
They will be well-supported by democracy sceptics, too. Belgium spent 18 months without a government in 2010 and 2011, and not only did everything seem to bumble along just fine, but it proved to be the catalyst for the football team not only to qualify for a tournament for the first time in 12 years, but also to become 14-1 fifth favourite. Greg Dyke: watch and learn. And then depose the government. Functioning legislative bodies are all that are holding back this country's football.
Algeria still awaits financial and/or footballing reparations for being mercilessly stitched up by West Germany and Austria in 1982. The two played out a 1-0 win for the Germans, a result that took them both through to the second round at Algeria's expense, in a match that had all the intensity and competitiveness of a geriatric tortoise versus stale baguette bowls match, and the believability of a North Korean government press release. Admittedly, it was not the most damaging Germano-Austrian deal in world history, but it was one of the World Cup's greatest embarrassments.
Algeria are still waiting for anything remotely interesting to happen to them at a World Cup. Since 1982, Algeria have qualified for two tournaments, and scored a grand total of one goal in six matches. They have played eight hours of goalless World Cup football since Djamel Zidane's equaliser against Northern Ireland in 1986. Recently voted Team Most Likely To Be Forgotten About In Future Years By Fans Trying To Remember Who Played In The 2014 World Cup by Future Quizzing Monthly magazine.
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
USSR/RUSSIA (Delete according to whether Vladimir Putin has gone the whole hog by 12 June)
Imagine Vladimir Putin's face if Russia win the World Cup.
Imagine Kim Jong-un's face if South Korea win the World Cup.