World Cup 2014: An ignoramuses guide to Brazil

Julio Cesar, the Brazilian keeper. He came, he saw, he stopped a few penalties

The comedy writer Armando Iannucci had a terrific TV sketch about his utter ignorance of, and lack of interest in, football, and his pathetic attempts to hold his own in laddish conversation when his beery compadres are watching or discussing a match.

I'm the same. The footballing gene passed me by, zoomed past me on the chromosomal highway from my father straight to my son, without taking up residence in my DNA. I never watch football. I don't know my Suarez from my Van Persie. I'm dimly aware there are controversial superstars around called Messi and Ronaldo, but have little clue where they feature in the Grandstand universe. I cannot talk football with confidence to my footie-loving friends, my children, to fellow journalists, blokes in pubs, people on trains or my daughters' prospective suitors. I feel hopelessly out of touch.

There are others like Mr Iannucci and me, however. So, to help other ignoramuses who may have strayed by mistake on to this page, I've trawled through the sporting press since last weekend to bone up on World Cup 2014…

1. Nobody has the faintest clue about how England will do. Roy Hodgson's team is full of World Cup virgins – only five of the squad have played in one before. England are the most inexperienced team in the whole shooting-match. But everyone's fond of Roy, so this fact has been greeted with delight by commentators. "All are united in feeling that we don't know what we're going to get from this England," opined one, "and that is invigorating in itself."

2. The surname of Italy's star midfielder Andrea Pirlo is only one consonant away from pirla, which is idiomatic slang for "dickhead." This is one of those killer facts you can bring up in conversation, along with the news that Uruguay's captain last year played for West Bromwich Albion reserves.

3. Lower-limb-based wisdom abounds. "Roy's picked a positive squad. A squad full of legs, energy. Older players don't like to play against legs and pace – and we've got that in abundance." – Steven Gerrard.

"He is a brilliant striker of the ball with both feet" – David Moyes on the clearly talented Toni Kroos of Germany.

4. World Cup TV commercials: The one for Adidas is apparently set in David Beckham's charming home. He and Zinedine Zidane are chatting in adjacent chairs while Gareth Bale, the Welsh winger with the £15m salary and Paris St-Germain winger Lucas Moura snigger on the sofa over a football videogame. The oldies challenge the young tykes to a proper game, and they kick a ball around the Becks mansion, destroying a trophy cabinet and a chandelier. Carlsberg features an idealised pub where everyone's watching the match. After a handball is disallowed, Ian Wright shouts at the screen in Spanish and the referee changes his mind and awards a penalty. (But don't they speak Portuguese in Brazil?) Easily eclipsing them both is the Argentinian TV channel TyC Sports, which uses footage of the Pope addressing a huge crowd, intercut with footage of the national team, as if his words were aimed squarely at the players. It's clever, effective and rather moving.

5. Oh, and the Chilean TV ad features the 33 miners who were trapped 2,300 feet underground for days, before being winched to safety. The catchline is: "Nothing is Impossible."

6. Players with characterful names, which will amuse Gary Lineker and Adrian Chiles, include:

Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka. Good name for a square-jawed African superhero.

Italy striker Ciro Immobile. Do Italian fans sing a certain aria from Rigoletto whenever he scores?

Julio Cesar, Brazilian goalkeeper. He came, he saw, he stopped a few penalties.

Quincy Promes, Dutch striker. Probably destined to open a chain of slightly precious health-food shops.

7. Shocking behaviour No. 1: Did you know that, in the first World Cup, the Belgian team dropped Raymond Braine, their star forward, because he'd opened a café? They claimed he'd broken "the rules of amateurism," which presumably included not making any money.

8. Shocking behaviour No 2: Liverpool defender Glen Johnson was once spotted at a B&Q, sneakily putting a lavatory seat into a box bearing a cheaper price tag. He was arrested and fined £80. These days, he can presumably afford diamond-and-uranium lavatory seats from Harrods.

9. Sports journalists are oddly keen on posh abstractions beginning with "re-". One writer said Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain "continues his rehabilitation," referring to a strained knee ligament, as if he was in treatment for crack addition. Another wrote about Jürgen Klingsman giving Germans hope – "craving renewal first and performances second." "The downs I've had with the England journey," says Gerrard. "If you're a winner, you want to bounce back and resurrect it." Resurrection, rehabilitation, renewal – is there a theme here?

10. Shocking behaviour No 3. Mario Mandzukic will miss the game with Brazil because, during the play-offs, he deliberately stamped on an Iceland midfielder's left knee. Did you know he's the only player ever to receive a yellow card for lying to the referee? In 2009, on being shown a red card for some infringement, he told the ref he'd been hit by a bottle flung from the stands. The ref didn't believe him. He's also notable for being the only player in Croatian football history to be fined (€100,000) for not trying hard enough.

11. Top Wags: Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, as has Cristiano Ronaldo's Russian babe, Irina Shayk. Diego Maradona's daughter Giannina had a child with Argentine striker Sergio Aguero. But as glamorous companions, they can't compete with Spanish centre-back Gerard Pique's companion (and mother of his son) – the Colombian firecracker Shakira.

Better bring the water cannon to Manaus, boys

On my first visit to Rio, I found myself floundering through the Tijuca rainforest, sweltering in 35C heat, a tad concerned about the 14 varieties of deadly snakes lurking in the trees. So I sympathise with the England team in Manaus. It's a jungle out there (really – it's in the Amazon rainforest) and just as hot: someone's calculated that they'll run the equivalent of seven miles in 90 minutes and sweat five litres of fluid. American "soccer" fans like to exult that the heat is a major factor in the tournament: no European nation, they point out, has ever won a World Cup played in the Americas. It certainly seems to offer an unfair advantage to the already acclimatised, doesn't it? I see Fifa has now ruled that, should the temperature rise above 32C, three-minute water breaks should be introduced, after 30 minutes play in both halves. That hardly addresses the main problem, of humidity, which stops you sweating properly. It's not a little drink that's required every half hour. It's a police water cannon, on full blast.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
Caption competition
Caption competition
  • Get to the point
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.

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?