World Cup 2014: Comedian Andy Zaltzman presents his neutral's guide to picking a team

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

Whatever your nationality, the World Cup presents enticing challenges for the neutral spectator. Even if your nation is involved, there are still 31 other teams, and between 57 and 61 other matches, to enjoy, suffer, love, loathe, temporarily support or inexplicably resent, as the tournament unfolds.

There is no set formula for pledging your neutral's allegiance. Influencing factors could include incidents or specific players from a nation's footballing past or present that drive to wistful reverie of glories gone by (for example, the 1982 Brazilian team), or frothing incandescence about historic sporting injustices and irritations (likely to be provoked for England fans by a momentary subconscious recollection of Germany's Andreas Möller).

You might back a team based on fond/harrowing memories of an unforgettable/forgettable holiday, or a simple preference for one or more of a country's cuisine, flag, anthem, monarch, economy, human rights record, beer, trousers or World Cup disciplinary record. This group-by-group neutral's guide will help you make these critical emotional commitments that are necessary components of any armchair World Cup.

GROUP A

BRAZIL

If Brazil win the World Cup on home soil, the explosion of joy will, scientists believe, be of sufficient Earth-shaking magnitude to prompt a spontaneous Armageddon. Most people in Brazil would happily accept that trade-off, and several billion others around the globe would probably consider the end of the world to be a price worth paying to see the look on the Brazilian nation's collective football-loving face should Scolari's team triumph.

The 2014 Brazilians may lack the panache of their predecessors, relying on disappointingly monosyllabic forwards such as Fred, Jo, Hulk, Thud, Puke, Goat and Plank, but the mere sight of their yellow shirts can turn even the most functional of footballing pragmatists misty-eyed with recollections of Pelé's 1970 team of genius, and that 1982 side of Zico, Socrates and Eder, whose football made you want to dig up long-dead relatives, blast some strong coffee into their faces, and shout: "What are you doing being dead, you idiot? Wake up now, you do not want to miss this".

Neutral Supportability Rating (NSR): 87%

CROATIA

Eternally in footballing credit for knocking Germany out in the 1998 quarter final, and knocking them out properly, with a 3-0 clomping administered by a stylish team of schemers and artists. They are also likely to keep you very interested in your office's World Cup sweepstake. Assuming that 'Worst Disciplinary Record' is a money-winning category. As it should be. (Alongside: biggest defeat; longest-range goal; biggest managerial tantrum; worst penalty shoot-out. Keep everyone involved. Ignore the winners.)

NSR: 55%

MEXICO

In a world of uncertainty and flux, Mexico offer a comforting blanket of dependability. Some things in life can be unquestioningly relied upon, such as death, taxes, the Queen being immortal, and Vladimir Putin winning Russian state media's Man of the Year award. To this list you can add: Mexico being knocked out in the Round of 16.

It has happened at five consecutive World Cups. Silken passing football, and a last-16 knock-out. They could be drawn in a group with the 1970s Brazilians, Barcelona from 2011, and Genghis Khan's all-conquering Mongolia team of the early 13th century, and they would find a way to get through. Before losing to Bogsworth Primary's Under-9 Bs in the second round.

However, neutral support may be tempered by the failure of the Mexican government to deal adequately with the nation's drug problems, unresolved allegations of cannibalism in the ancient Aztec civilisation, and suspiciously broad-brimmed headgear.

NSR: 62%

CAMEROON

The Indomitable Lions entranced everyone in the largely tedious 1990 World Cup with their athleticism and flair. And with their fouling, which was truly spectacular.

In the dying minutes of their opening match against reigning champions Argentina, as they defended a 1-0 lead, Benjamin Massing executed one of the great World Cup fouls, launching himself at Claudio Caniggia like a combination of an Exocet missile, JPR Williams and a hungry lion taking down an extremely tasty-looking zebra. He missed the ball by approximately 25 yards. Caniggia went into orbit. Boot dislodged, danger averted, mission accomplished. If any football foul has been a work of art, this was it. The referee was so impressed that he showed Massing a red card. And then a yellow card. Suggesting that the foul was worth one-and-a-half sendings off. A conservative estimate.

The Indomitable Lions went on to give England the rogue mother-in-law of all frights in the quarter-final, but have proved disappointingly domitable in subsequent tournaments. A return to their charismatic 1990s pomp would be welcome.

NSR: 70%

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

Andy Zaltzman hosts 'Political  Animal' at the Underbelly, London W1 on 11 June, performs 'Satirist for Hire' in Edinburgh from 13-24 August and tours the show this autumn; @ZaltzCricket

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
ESPN footage showed a split-screen Murray’s partner Kim Sears and Berdych’s partner Ester Satorova 'sporting' their jewellery
tennis
Arts and Entertainment
Cold case: Aaron McCusker and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvReview: Sky Atlantic's ambitious new series Fortitude has begun with a feature-length special
Voices
Three people wearing masks depicting Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg
voicesPolitics is in the gutter – but there is an alternative, says Nigel Farage
Voices
The veterans Mark Hayward, Hugh Thompson and Sean Staines (back) with Grayson Perry (front left) and Evgeny Lebedev
charity appealMaverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
News
i100
News
people
Sport
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
footballThe more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Life and Style
Vote green: Benoit Berenger at The Duke of Cambridge in London's Islington
food + drinkBanishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turn over a new leaf
News
Joel Grey (left) poses next to a poster featuring his character in the film
peopleActor Joel Grey comes out at 82
News
i100
News
business
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

Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

Isis hostage crisis

The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

Cabbage is king again

Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
11 best winter skin treats

Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

Paul Scholes column

The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

Frank Warren's Ringside

No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

Homeless Veterans appeal

MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

Comedians share stories of depression

The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

Has The Archers lost the plot?

A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

14 office buildings added to protected lists

Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee