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.



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%


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%


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%


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

Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

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

Career Services

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser