Monday, 10 May 2010

THE WORLD CUP, TRANSLATED INTO AMERICAN



(DISCLAIMER - I'm new to this site and I'm having a hard time getting the formatting to be consistent. Apologies for sudden changes in font size, and thanks for your patience.)

If you're American, soccer probably isn't your cuppa tea. But, due to ESPN's admirably relentless promotion (they'll be unleashing their three Big B's: Bob Ley, Bill Simmons and Bono), you're probably at least a little curious about the World Cup, if you're a sports fan anyway. But when it comes to going the extra mile and actually learning about all the teams, perhaps that sounds like something for which you can't be bothered.

I'm here to help.

What follows is a list of every one of the World Cup's 32 teams, alongside the American sports team it most parallels. Some of these analogies are slightly better than tenuous. Some of them are dead-on. All of them are at least a decent starting point to give you a frame of reference.


(This next bit is the part where I explain the process and criteria. It's skippable if you're already too curious.)


First of all, at all times I used the soccer teams themselves as a starting point, so as to assure that I was going off of their qualities and not just what I want them to be. For example, I didn't just ask “Who is the most like the Vancouver Canucks?” This would have been the wrong way to go.


In that vein, I also eschewed trying to fill out US rivalries. For example, if I'd equated someone to the Chicago Cubs (I didn't) I wouldn't have then tried to find that team’s rival and make them the St. Louis Cardinals. That would have been a most unsavory shoehorning.

Another criterion was to look at how good the given team was, both on a World Cup scale, as well as in their respective regions and their given confederation tournaments. More weight was given to having won Europe or South America, slightly less was given to titles in CONCACAF and the rest.


Another question was "are they good?" and also "when were they good?" This would help to give a historical frame of reference for the team and their fan base.


The general personality of the team and their fans over the years was also a consideration; do they have a recognized playing style, for example? Are their fans particularly insufferable?


So overall, I tended to look at the historical totality of a team or a franchise, and not try to make them immediate match-ups for this exact moment in time.


Then, when in doubt, I just went with the color of their unis.


And that’s about it. The descriptions of the teams are also intentionally vague, so as to keep them applicable to both teams in the equation.

I welcome your constructive suggestions where I could get this one or that one even more perfect.


And with that, here we go
.
 


1. ALGERIA


They are not good. At all. And they’re obsessed with their more-successful neighbors. Not to say that they don't have some degree of history to hang their hat on, but... that was a while ago. And no one, outside of their fans, remembers anymore. This team is easily underestimated. Too easily, I fear.

ALGERIA =

THE NEW JERSEY NETS

2. ARGENTINA



They've been good for about as long as the game has been played. They have so much history that your default expectation is for them to always be good, even great. But the reality doesn't support that: they haven't won anything in around twenty years. They haven't been horrible (usually), but they have not at all lived up to the greatness of their traditions. Supposedly, this will be the year when they restore the luster. But we've been hearing that for a loooooooooooong time.




ARGENTINA =

THE WASHINGTON REDSKINS

3. AUSTRALIA



This team used to be almost completely insignificant, and were shown a thorough lack of respect. But then they moved*, and since then they have taken on an unshakable legitimacy, evolving into an opponent that must be taken very seriously indeed. Their fans are vocal, though most people in the area prefer (their) football.

AUSTRALIA =

THE MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
(* In 2005 Australia switched allegiances, leaving the ineffectual Oceania region for the more competitive Asian confederation.)

4. BRAZIL



If we were to go strictly in terms of dominance, we would have to go with the Yankees, or even the Canadiens. But Brazil is more than dominance, they are also glamor, style and exuberance. They are known for their amazing offensive displays, but this overshadows a history of champions who have relied on defense to kick-start those attacks. Plus they have yellow shirts. I mean... there's only one choice here, right?

BRAZIL =

THE LOS ANGELES LAKERS


5. CAMEROON



A powerhouse from a medium conference who are making noise that they are ready to finally step up into the championship picture. No one knows for sure until they do it, of course, but they’ve been around the block enough that it’s no longer a crazy idea. They're fun to watch and easy to root for. (They're also innovative with the external trappings of the game, so to speak.)

CAMEROON =

THE BOISE STATE BRONCOS


6. CHILE



A team for whom recent natural disasters overshadow the trivialities of sport. A fan base for whom their team means more now than it ever did before. A team that has never won anything at all from a land with a distinctive physical shape. A high-octane offense. For the rest of us, a sentimental favorite, a team we wouldn't mind seeing rise above. (And one of only two entries that will have a specific time period attached to them).

CHILE =

THE NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
(POST-KATRINA/PRE-SUPER BOWL)

7. DENMARK



A respected team with a tradition of consistently making the big tournaments, where you always have to take them seriously. Occasionally throws a truly great team together, though even then they usually fall short. Finally won (a) big one in the ‘90s, and that probably wasn’t even their best-ever team. Generally associated with one long-serving head coach named Olsen. Or Olson.

DENMARK =

ARIZONA WILDCATS BASKETBALL


8. ENGLAND



Man oh man do their fans talk a lotta shit. A LOTTA shit. Not so much in praise of themselves as raggin’ on other squads. Way too much for a team that’s won it all exactly one time, and that was way back in the '60s. Since then, they haven’t even finished second. Yet they talk and talk and deify the main man behind that '60s win. As opposed to their local tabloids, who take every chance they can to tear the team apart one day, while predicting impending championships the next. This team will almost always fall before the final hurdle, but… their current coach might just be the perfect man for this team. He has them playing better than they’ve played in decades, behind a mix of veterans and one gifted youngster whose performance will be the primary determining factor of where they finish. Still, you generally have to assume that they will buckle under the double burdens of incredible media pressure and inescapable history.

ENGLAND =
THE NEW YORK JETS


9. FRANCE



Some undeniably great players have been on this blue-clad team, a team that has provided the sport with some of its defining matches and greatest plays. But something about them drives the neutral fan crazy. Almost nobody who’s not from there roots for them, which they bring on themselves for being a little snooty, and by so often being the recipient of grossly questionable calls by the refs.

FRANCE =

THE DUKE BLUE DEVILS
(I mean, come on. The dude even looks French.)

10. GERMANY




They may not have won the big game the most times, but they’re close. And no one’s been to that game more than them. They’re hard to root for if you’re not from there, moreso than France, even. That’s partly cultural, sure, but it’s mostly because they do so much damn winning (especially in the '70s and '90s). The team is always made up of a combination of straight-laced leaders and absolute looney-tunes. It’s dysfunctional but seems to work. One of the all-time great squads, like ‘em or not.

GERMANY =
 
THE DALLAS COWBOYS

11. GHANA




Sadly there is no American sports entity that matches the gravitas of Ghana’s nickname, The Black Stars. So, as we shall do with another African team, let’s just try to define them by their on-field situation.

They have a longer history of being good than people give them credit for and, while they haven’t won anything lately, their current team might be the baddest, deepest squad they’ve ever had, man-for-man. They play fast and physical and on their day they can beat anybody.

GHANA =

THE ATLANTA HAWKS


12. GREECE




A team of no importance until they came out of nowhere to win a title, early in the 21st century, that was won almost entirely on defense. Before that, they sucked. Now they suck again. Still dangerous D though.

GREECE =

THE TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS


13. HOLLAND


From a land of free spirits comes a team who will never be able to completely let slip of the long-hair hippie image their greatest sides exuded. They’re not in the list of never-wons, but they’re not quite among the all-time greats either, as they’ve fallen victim to a) some of the greatest performances ever, b) some gut-wrenching choke jobs and c) some horrible injuries to players who could have been all-time greats. Still, this is a widely admired team, respected for the way they play the game and their amazing fans.

HOLLAND =
THE PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS

14. HONDURAS




They were really good in 1981. Haven’t really made noise since, until now. They’re adorable! Who would root against these irascible underdogs!?!

HONDURAS =

THE MILWAUKEE BREWERS

15. ITALY



Italy are a tough one. At first I wanted to go New York Giants. Both have won titles sporadically since the '30s. Both wear blue. Both are built on a commitment to defense. Both won the big one in the '80s and in this decade. But in the end I had to go with a team that better fits their current personality and identity.

A team that has had tremendous success this decade, despite constant underestimation from the media, who always seem to think this squad is too old and not talented enough. But the thing is: they don’t give a fuck what the media says. When their opponent makes a mistake they pounce, with a surgical accuracy and unspeakable togetherness. They’re not afraid of a well-timed flop and not one of their players has ever, EVER committed a foul. They focus on D and do whatever it takes to win. Whatever it takes.

ITALY =

THE SAN ANTONIO SPURS

16. IVORY COAST




Y’know, in the '80s, they were okay for a little while. Since then they haven’t done much, which is a shame, since they’re from a depressed region that could use the pick-me-up. But this current team might be special. I say “might” because, though people love to watch them and talk them up like they’ve already won something… they haven’t. The thing is… they’ve got this one dude… and this dude is a freak. I mean, he’s big and strong, but also fast and nimble. Everything they do runs through him. When he turns it on, you can see it in his eyes; he’s unstoppable. You do not want to be a defender looking up to see this dude bearing down on you. That would be truly scary. If it happened to me, I would poop.

IVORY COAST =

THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS   
(NOTE - I am NOT saying Drogba is the Soccer LeBron. But their teams do depend on each of them in a similar way. And they're both bad-ass dudes.)

17. JAPAN




A team that has come to dominate its humble region the last couple decades or so. But they don’t make a dent in the big dance, despite amazing hair.

JAPAN =

GONZAGA

18. MEXICO



This side is a big player in a small conference. In fact they have basically owned their conference since the damn thing started. But when it comes to matching up with the big boys, they fall wayyyyy short, almost every time. Also, they have a tendency to employ combustible coaches who try to assault the other team. Finally, their logo prominently features a winged bird of displeasure.

MEXICO =

TEMPLE BASKETBALL

19. NEW ZEALAND



A bunch of squirrelly, over-matched, mostly white guys with dodgy haircuts, who play with so much heart that they just might cause some trouble for a big team. But overall, these irrepressible scamps are basically just happy to be there.

NEW ZEALAND =

NORTHERN IOWA

20. NIGERIA




This team has a degree of success that any reasonable fan base would be happy to have. But this team’s fans are tired of disappointment, tired of seeing generation after generation of great players fail the final hurdle. This of course just compounds the problem, putting undue pressure on a very talented group of players who should be appreciated more for what they have accomplished than derided for what they have not.

NIGERIA =

THE PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
(Nigeria's team is also nicknamed the Super Eagles, which helps.)

21. NORTH KOREA



Isolated. Military. Probably not very honest with their fans about their chances. Will not be around the tournament long.

NORTH KOREA =

THE CITADEL BASKETBALL

22. PARAGUAY




An unassuming team from an unassuming (and not heavily populated) part of the world. Not a huge threat, but no pushover, either.

PARAGUAY =

IOWA HAWKEYES FOOTBALL

23. PORTUGAL




I’m not quite a journalist, I don’t have to be that impartial, so let me just confess that Portugal are probably my least favorite team in the world. Not just in soccer- in all of sports. I might hate them as much as I hate the Packers and Vikings combined. They are classless crybabies and divers, and have been so since at least Euro 2000. They prance and preen, but they’ve never won a damn thing, which is problematic since they are HORRIBLE losers. Their best player comes off as a Hall of Fame douchebag, despite his exemplary skills. Their coach is an outmatched drone. Despite all this, they are in the upper echelon right now, always a legitimate threat. But be sure: no one likes them. This one was easy.

PORTUGAL =

THE SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

24. SERBIA




Fast. Strong. High-scoring. Well-organized. Always dominant on the way to tournament, always likely to fall apart once they get there.

SERBIA =

THE SAN JOSE SHARKS

25. SLOVAKIA

SLOVAKIA =
THE FLORIDA PANTHERS


Ummmm… Both were founded in 1993. Yes. Yes, that will do.

26. SLOVENIA




There used to be a different team here, a much better one, but they’re gone now. They do have tradition, but expectations are low for this expansion team in green and white.

SLOVENIA =

THE MINNESOTA WILD
(NOTE -Those different teams were Yugoslavia and the Minnesota North Stars, who don't get mentioned in the same sentence often, so enjoy it.)


27. SOUTH AFRICA



Obviously, it is pretty impossible to equate South Africa and everything going on there with a mere American sports team. So let’s just say that, in strictly sporting terms, they are a team that isn’t very strong, from a less than dominant conference, on an ongoing journey of releasing themselves of a tragic history. The sort of team for whom you can’t help but cheer, though victory will likely elude them.

SOUTH AFRICA =

THE MARSHALL UNIVERSITY THUNDERING HERD


28. SOUTH KOREA




Haven’t been around all that long. Amazing fans. Incredibly fast-paced offense. Tireless. Relentless. But on D? Can’t stop anybody. Won’t stop anybody. Side note: local government is very concerned about border control.

SOUTH KOREA =

THE PHOENIX SUNS

(NOTE – At time of writing, the Suns are inconveniently ripping through the NBA playoffs. If they win the title, I will revise this. But not before.)

29. SPAIN


After decades of torturing their fans with mind-boggling losses and historical disappointments, they finally got their shit together last time out and brought home a trophy. All the tortured ghosts are now banished. They still basically have that same side together and had another dominant regular season. What now? Can they keep it going? Will the removal of their back-monkey set them forever free, or was it a blip, with more harrowing failure waiting around the corner? We're gonna find out, starting now. La maldición ha sido invertida!

SPAIN = 
 
THE 2005 BOSTON RED SOX

30. SWITZERLAND




Not a great team, but they’ll beat you if you’re not careful. Fundamentally sound, if lacking great athleticism. Also, they all probably have rich parents.

SWITZERLAND =

CORNELL BIG RED BASKETBALL

31. URUGUAY



They were the first great team. They’ve been winning it all since the earliest days. But now they haven't won anything in years, and despite this fact, they (and their fans) carry with them an almost revolting haughtiness, allowing a nostalgia-distorted self-image to fuel utterly unrealistic expectations. Maybe it's because of all the Catholicism.

URUGUAY =
NOTRE DAME

32. USA



A place with more tradition in the sport than people remember. Still, a fairly recent addition to the big scene. Haven’t yet gotten over the hump to be a real contender, despite considerable resources. Their fans, being new to this, expect too much. But their enthusiasm is somewhat justified- this team has been slowly stockpiling sneaky-good young talent, with a stable, patient organization running the show. It’s quite possible that their ascendancy, when and if it comes, will come before anyone but them expects it. All in all this is a solid but flawed team, one that absolutely can beat the big boys… but probably won’t.

USA =
 
THE HOUSTON TEXANS


EPILOGUE

So now that we have that, let’s take a look at how this lays out this summer. Perhaps this will give you a better sense of who to expect to do well in each group.

GROUP A
MARSHALL FOOTBALL
TEMPLE B-BALL
NOTRE DAME FOOTBALL
DUKE B-BALL

GROUP B
WASHINGTON REDSKINS
PHILADELPHIA EAGLES
PHOENIX SUNS
TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS

GROUP C
NEW YORK JETS
HOUSTON TEXANS
NEW JERSEY NETS
MINNESOTA WILD

GROUP D
DALLAS COWBOYS
MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES
SAN JOSE SHARKS
ATLANTA HAWKS

GROUP E
PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS
ARIZONA B-BALL
GONZAGA
BOISE STATE FOOTBALL

GROUP F
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
IOWA FOOTBALL
NORTHERN IOWA B-BALL
FLORIDA PANTHERS

GROUP G
LOS ANGELES LAKERS
THE CITADEL
CLEVELAND CAVALIERS
SAN DIEGO CHARGERS

GROUP H
2005 BOSTON RED SOX
CORNELL BASKETBALL
MILWAUKEE BREWERS
PRE-SUPER BOWL NEW ORLEANS SAINTS

Only two teams advance from each group... but you knew that, right?

I hope this helped. Give the World Cup a chance, y’all. It’s good times.



(If you'd like to know more about World Cup history, click here.)

- Brendan Hunt
twitter.com/theunlikelyfan
© Brendan Hunt, 2010


159 comments:

  1. brendan, thought i'd share with you my british/jets fan friend of mine's response to your blog. i think you too would enjoy going back and forth on it! is tony meola still on the us team? :)

    from my friend alan:
    That was an intereseting article and one I very much enjoyed reading. I liked most of the comparisons with the obvious exception of England. I love the fact that they are compared to the Jets (for obvious reasons) but the reasons behind it are for me at least, a little arrogant. In almost every different paragraph he at least tries to give the so called non followers an insight in to what to expect from each team but in the England paragraph he immediately attacks the fans and the media. I aint too sure how that really gives the American an idea of what to expect when they meet on June 12. We DO expect our team to do well, we invented the game. Our media is Jekyll and Hyde, but that has nothing to do with how the team performs. And he is right, we have only won it once and it was in the 60's but we HAVE won it and that alone demands at least a little respect. Only a handful of teams have actually won the tournament and the favourites going into the World Cup (according to most bookmakers) are not one of those teams. If he thinks that our chances solely rely on a certain Wayne Rooney then he obviously has never heard of John Terry, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, Rio Ferdinand and so on. Players that have all won elite competitions in Europe, and three of them mentioned also Captain their sides. However, this was expected. I have been sent quite a few emails with peoples opinions on what to expect from England. All in all they all pretty much add up to the same thing. My personal opinion is that is that England will qualify from the group stages with or without a win against the USA and then go further into the tournament with a chance of winning it. We are 3rd in the betting so to underestimate us would only be beneficial to England in the long run. I hope USA go far and shock maybe even their own faithful but if I was American I would be more worried about Slovenia than England (oh thats right, no one is worried about England).

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  2. THIS IS BRENDAN'S RESPONSE TO ALAN... HE'S HAVING COMPUTER PROBLEMS:

    Alan,

    thanks for a thoughtful response. I'll address some of your criticisms momentarily, but first I'd ask you to take a moment to consider the context here: this is not intended to be a thorough and specific description of England, nor of any other team for that matter. The audience is the less-than-casual American fan. Those of us who are zealots for the game can so quickly get into the minutiae of things that we leave the uninitiated American sports fan behind. There needs to be a middle ground in soccer media in this country between the know-nothings (typical American sports fans, who haven't really decided if they're even going to watch the World Cup at all) and the know-it-alls (the Grant Wahls and Jamie Treckers, who are magnificent, but writing at a very high level of soccer intelligence that is, unfortunately, gobbledygook to many).

    So if this doesn't "give the American idea what to expect," I say two things to that:

    1. It isn't necessarily supposed to; nowhere in here do I claim I that it will. I'm just trying to give folks a general sense of what these teams and their cultures are like.

    2. The section that says England "will almost always fall before the final hurdle, but… their current coach might just be the perfect man for this team. He has them playing better than they’ve played in decades, behind a mix of veterans and one gifted youngster whose performance will be the primary determining factor of where they finish" is heartfelt. Capello is indeed the best coach for this team, and he truly does have them playing at heir full potential on a consistent basis. No one's done that since... Venables perhaps? They have a better chance of winning a tournament now than they've had in my decade or so of following England.

    Of course I do know who Terry, Lampard, Gerrard and Ferdinand are. I also know Jack Wilshere, Dean Sturridge, Gareth Barry, Theo Walcott, Joe Hart, David James, Paul Scholes, Sol Campbell, Gareth Southgate, Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, David Batty, Dennis Wise, Steve MacNanaman, Tony Adams, Gary Lineker, Bryan Robson, Bobby Robson, John Barnes, Peter Beardsley, Alan Smith (Volumes I and II), Kevin Keegan, Trevor Francis, Bobby Moore, Roger Hunt, Alf Ramsey, Tom Finney, Stanley Matthews, Walter Winterbottom, Dixie Dean, the Corinthians and on and on. But this article isn't about them.

    Further, I disagree with you that Rooney's performance won't be the single most determining factor in England's success. As Rooney goes, so goes England. It was the case at Euro 2004, Germany 2006 and in the failed qualifying campaign for 2008. There were other factors as well in that last failure, of course- but Rooney's absence from the decisive game against Croatia is worth noting.

    I think we can agree that he is far and away their best player, the sort you need to have running at all cylinders to make a viable run at the World Cup. So I think it's fair to emphasize him to the casual fan.

    He is also, of course, much better at soccer than Mark Sanchez currently is at (American) football. I still think they're a suitable pairing for this sort of casual analogy.

    So there it is. Again, I thank you for your note. I hope more people have things to say soon enough.

    -br

    PS - After June 12, I will be rooting for England. Unless they play Holland, in which case I'll be unable, alas.

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  3. Lute Olsen vs Portland Trailblazers. I'm ready for it.

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  4. Regarding England soccer teams: If you've ever spent time in a soccer pub in the States, you know the drill....England supporters will talk your ear off about the sanctity and righteousness of the English game, the cheating refs who have denied their advances through tournaments, and reel off excuse after excuse regarding the English Team's inability to win a penalty shoot out. I say this as someone who lived in the UK, learned to love Chelsea FC during the Ruud Gullit Years, and have enjoyed watching the Premiership and England soccer ever since. But the Truth is this, England have won as many World Cups as Albania since DIck Nixon's First Term in office, and all the rationalization in the world can't change that. And that being said, I'm hoping for 3-3 USA England, followed by a round of 16 Matchup of England vs Germany with England finally vindicating themselves with a penalty shootout win led by Super Frank Lampard.

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  5. Thanks Brendan! I think the article was both hilarious and spot on. The hubris of England fans is indeed their most recognisable trait in Europe. Not that they don't have a great team, but they expect so much (and boast accordingly) every time and you can't help but feel Schadenfreude when they lose. That is, before they start smashing up the poor town the game was in. Though that England stereotype is aging fast.

    As for Slovakia, here is what I think their team is like: Well organised if slightly boring, with a few young talents and a decent star player (Marek Hamsik). Mainly went through because they got a very easy draw and because better teams (czechs, poles) screwed up a lot this time round.

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  6. Great piece of work!

    England? Spot on!

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  8. why all the hate towards Portugal? It's a small country...
    People who criticize Cristiano Ronaldo forget that he's a humble player(yes humble because he's continously trying to improve) who raised from deep poverty, is always trying to improve and does not rest on his laurels. He is NOT a Patrick Kluivert!
    He could easily have stayed in Manchester where he was undisputed king but he chose to go to where the best player in the world was to dispute world domination with Messi.
    This sounds more like sour grapes over all the wins over the Netherlands.
    People always attack Portuguese players for the dives and simulations but stay silent on Gerard for instance, not to mention Portuguese players don't do the kind of dirty tackles that Khalid Boularouz used on Cristiano Ronaldo to take him out in the first few minutes of the WC in 06.
    Overall it was an interesting read and I do expect some prejudice to spice things up, and maybe all this hate could mean that Portugal is no longer the underdog and a real contender which sadly is not the case.
    The sad reality is that Portugal is a small country that prior to 96 only qualified for two WC (66 and 86) and one Euro (84) and this group of players outside of Ronaldo is mostly average and relying on Brazilians to fill some gaps.

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  9. As a Notre Dame student in South America listening to Uruguayans talk about their team, your analysis is absolutely spot on about Uruguay (and Notre Dame).

    Well done sir.

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  11. Interesting and pretty accurate! Hopefully this will get some more Americans on board for football!

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  12. Enormously entertaining. A++++ Would read again.

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  13. @Jorge, you're right, Christiano Ronaldo is not Patrick Kluivert. He's worse. He could have stayed in Manchester, where he was king and WINNING EVERYTHING, but that was less important than a big money move to a glamorous city where he could be an even bigger star. He goes to ground as though he was snipered if someone so much as breathes on him inside the 18-yard box, and is the first one to derisively clap the referee or protest a decision (although he may have been taught that by Ferguson). THAT is why there is such hate for Portugal.

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  14. I thought this was very interesting...But as a Jets fan and an American I find my rooting hard to do now. Do I root for the America over England...Or the Jets over the Texans?

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  15. If the Jets somehow make it into the tournament, I suppose you're allowed to cheer them on, but otherwise its USA USA USA!

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  16. @Brett, my mention of Kluivert is that he is one prime example of someone with a lot of talent that basically never fulfilled his true potential. He has the same birth date as Van Nistelroy but while Kluivert scored in the final and won the chamions league as a teenager he very quickly started to not put in the effort and started to go down while Van Nistelroy had to work really hard but was able to reach and surpass Kluivert's level somewhere when they were in their mid twenties. My point is that Cristiano (no h, btw) has talent at the level of Kluivert but also the work rate of Van Nistelroy, Beckam, etc. One example from a Portuguese player that probably had as much talent but never put in the effort was Dani who played for Ajax, West Ham and had a trial at Celtic. He could still be playing but he quit long ago because he was more interested in the night life.

    I just hope the hate could transform into titles for Portugal...

    In any case this is a side discussion and I really enjoyed the overall article, because it was a clever idea that was very well executed.
    I hope to see more articles like this one!

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  17. You have to say that Portugal deserves it. After the US took a shock lead against 5th ranked Portugal at the 2002 World Cup, Portugal went immediately to diving. They got some bad calls their way due to the flopping around like fish. It just is poor sportsmanship period if you are the dominant team, and you resort to theatrics like that against a weaker team who is beating you.

    Ronaldo is a diver too. I think it was Figo who was the worst with the diving in 2002. Shame on them both. Gerrard is a lousy diver too, that doesn't excuse Portugal from diving as a national pasttime.

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  18. Well done. And Ironic Yanks was a great show. I still quote one of the jokes.

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  19. I fail to see the point of this...it's not humour, nor does it convert the seppoes to football. You seem to be talking to the people who chuckle when Matt Groening had one of his xenophobe days and did that World Cup in Springfield episodes (though that made me laugh guiltily too). You can't make Americans care with parallels; you just have to force them to go out to play once and realise what a difficult thing it is to play as, say, a winger or a centre back. That's the only thing that will really make you appreciate the beautiful game. This applies, of course, to just about anything in life.

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  20. Thats a fantastic blogpiece there, highly amusing yet pretty accurate, I loved it!

    http://worldcupprofitbets.blogspot.com/

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  21. Good article. I will send this along to my American friends. I'd quibble with the pairing of France with Duke. One of the defining features of Duke is their intense fanbase. France has always had a problem with fair weather fandom. Other team sports are very popular in France, Rugby, for instance. And I'd say that they've gone through periods of being the neutrals' favorites (especially in the Platini era). The French side is most often very good, sometimes brilliant, but can underperform shockingly (e.g. the early 90s and 2002-4). I don't know what team would fit this profile. The Giants, maybe?

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  22. for what its worth, from your descriptions, notre dame is a better fit for argentina than for uruguay. every sentence you wrote for argentina fits with nd, right down to the "haven't won anything in around twenty years." nd's last title was in '88. and wasn't army the first great team? nd went to yankee stadium, beat them when they were on top and built their reputation from that point forward. anyway, you did a good job with this overall.

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  23. I would like to make a comparison between your GLOWING description of Italy and your total crapping on of Portugal.

    I have NO idea how you possibly believe Italy had "tremendous success" this decade. They won the World Cup. That's huge. But of the five major tournaments last decade, the only other tournament they even made a ripple in was Euro 2000. And while i'll totally admit they were robbed in the final, fact is they didn't win it. And we ALL heard about the "unfairness" of it.

    They got knocked out in '02, and while they'll say they got robbed in the South Korea game, they still were knocked out in the first knockout round. And we ALL heard about the "unfairness" of it.

    They got knocked out in '04 in the group stage, and while it may be possible that Denmark and Sweden colluded to get the required goal differential to prevent Italy from progressing, the Italians still put themselves in that position by tying said Scandinavian nations in their opening two games. Nevertheless, they complained. And complained. And we ALL heard about the "unfairness" of it.

    In '06, they won. And people say they won convincingly, and I know it sounds bitter to criticize a champion. But i'm doing it anyways. They did their duty in the group stages, but needed a last-minute, controversial penalty to defeat Australia. Yes, Australia. They beat Ukraine comfortably in the quarters. Yes, that POWERHOUSE Ukraine. And they played, what I believe, is the game of the tournament against Germany and beat them in the semis before knocking off France, minus Zidane in the last ten minutes, in penalties. France, on the other hand, was destroying future Euro winners Spain while Italy struggled with the Aussies. They convincingly shut down the favoured Brazilians as Italy walloped "the mighty" Ukraine. And they beat the Portuguese in the semis, who had off'ed Holland and England before giving in to the French. Then they needed penalties to beat the, by this point, exhausted frogs. But, alas, they won, and I accept that.

    In '08, Italy barely got by their group of death, but lost in the quarters to Spain. And the Spain game was one of the most boring things i've ever watched.

    NOW, in comparison, in 2000, Portugal lost on a golden goal in the form of a penalty to France for a hand-ball that was supposedly inside the box. It wasn't. Not by a long shot. Yeah, they complained on the field, but who wouldn't?!

    In 2002, they failed. Miserably. But, in the final, must-win group stage game vs. Korea, they had two men sent off for very, very questionable offences. And sure, Joao Pinto kinda sorta punched the ref, but that was still after the most ludicrous straight-red i've ever seen.

    In '04, they lost to the Greeks twice, including in the final. They complained that the Greeks parked the bus in front of goal and waited for a lucky counter-attack. EVERYONE complained about the Greeks. It was awful to watch. But they won. They didn't complain about that.

    In '06, as mentioned before, they knocked out some heavyweights before going out to France on a Zidane spot-kick. Figo missed a wide-open header in front of goal. But, there was no complaining. A country of ten million had made it to the semis of the world's most important tournament. It was a success.

    In '08, they were outmuscled by a tough, rough German squad. And they almost came back from 3-1 down. But, what can ya do.

    So, who's classless? Who are the babies? Who are the horrible losers? Ronaldo is a douche, but a guy who calls his opponent's sister a whore and asks for her isn't? I smell a wop.

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  24. Tulinias, I would argue that Duke is still a great match for France. Until this season, Duke went through several years of mediocrity (at least as far as the NCAA tournament is concerned, losing to inferior teams like VCU), and most of their fan base was silent. This probably spurs from the fact that most of their fan base has no affiliation to the university, they are just fair weather fans who like to follow successful teams.

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  25. Wow Daniel... be a little more offended and take it a little more personally why don't you. That was a classless response to a fairly innocuous comment from Brendan.

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  27. I fail to see the classlessness. It's just a rebuke of a totally common misconception of the Portuguese national squad, not particularly aimed at Brendan but to people who generalize the Seleccao in general, but usually base this solely on Ronaldo because they don't know any other member of the team. The fact is there are some pretty serious, hard players on the squad who more than make up for the flair players who, I do admit, embellish injury for gain. To generalize the entire squad as underachieving whiners is simply incorrect

    And, in no way am I speaking down on the Italians. They're world champs, four times now. And I do respect that.

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  28. I'm referring specifically to the last comment you made... I'm not Italian, but I know they're not big fans of being called that word. Seemed completely out of left field and aimed to offend.

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  29. Ohhh...sorry dude. Didn't think it'd be a big deal, totally not meant to offend. I was raised around a buncha Italians, most of my friends are Italians, it's not that big a deal where I'm from.

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  30. Great article man. Well put together and great comparisons. Love the comparison between Phoenix and South Korea and the border concerns. Thanks for writing this up. It should be mandatory for US citizens.

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  31. I really enjoyed this very much. I am a huge soccer fan here in the states and this will help my fellow Americans who do not follow soccer. Good job.

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  32. Great stuff. Best would have to be Ghana as the Hawks and Greece as the Buccaneers. Perfect.

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  33. When Algeria beats The U.S., you gonna change this article up ? obssesed with our neighbors..lets face it our neighbors aren't even in the World Cup

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  34. Seconding Louie's comments... absolutely brilliant... I wish I'd thought of it.

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  35. @Jan J. People who use the term "Seppo" to describe Americans are knobs. Do you also use the term "loaf" for "head" or "needles" for "gin?" Cockney rhyming slang my @rse.

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  36. Perhaps USA = Tampa Bay DRays (Confederations Cup potential + stockpile of talent)?

    Otherwise, fully enjoyed the article, and sent to all of my soccer hating friends. Maybe they'll finally understand.

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  37. One comment: It's NORTH Korea not South Korea

    Is there a US team that will likely be tortured if they lose and will have the goals against them blanked out from the local broadcast of the games?

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  38. Brandan,

    Great stuff mate.

    Steven here from World Football Daily. How do we get hold of you to have you on the show to talk about this.

    Can you reach out to steven@worldfootballdaily.com.

    cheers.

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  39. The most ridiculous and dumbest Thing I have ever seen!!!! This is why the united states will never be good a soccer , because we have to compare it and world class players to American teams and athletes.

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  40. @ daniel
    seems to me all you are doing in the portugal section is complaining. The same thing you acused the italians are doing. Alittle hypocritical? Probably? if you are going to make a valid point try to at least be consistent within your own argument

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  41. Blue Devils for France is great, especially since their nickname comes from touring French soldiers.

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  43. Hi Brendan,
    left you a comment and then thought better of it, but can I ask you to contact me, my email is on the blog below. Thanks! Cormac

    Please contact me today.

    Cormac
    Boston Irish
    http://irishbaseballseason.blogspot.com

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  44. Brendan,

    Great article - one comment. Not sure Boise State fits with Cameroon... You correctly mention that Cameroon never won anything - yes, Boise hasn't won the championship game either (never been to it) but they've had enjoyed great success recently (3 undefeated seasons in the last 5 years). And most importantly - I'd venture a guess that when the majority of American sports fans think of Boise, they think of the incredible 2007 fiesta bowl, not their lack of a BCS championship. Hook and ladder, statue of liberty, win over the Sooners who is a juggernaut, etc. The defining moment of their recent history is a win over a huge favorite in the most exciting fashion possible. Can't say that for Cameroon.

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  45. Great article, with one glaring exception...the Chargers are hated? This is news to me and everyone else I asked about this. The Chargers instill hatred in no one.

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  46. "Man oh man do their fans talk a lotta shit."

    Woteva. Wen ENGLAND play USGay we iz gunna smak u up innit!

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  47. USA have bad aids we is gonna slice you up!

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  48. I bet those yanks will lift the ball up and get sent off! lol, the bummers.

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  49. Brendan Hunt,
    Great article, although your statement 'England have won ot only once' is a little innacurate - they've won it between 0.7 and 4.3 times, depending on historical variables.
    Can I also say that your pic is awesome. Your wang, although massive, is at a slightly strange angle.
    Your brother, Mike

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  50. "They’re hard to root for if you’re not from there"

    Hating on Germany still? The war finished 60 years ago - GET OVER IT!

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  51. LOLZ!! Team USA gives the best head!!

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  53. We may talk a lot of shit but at least we've won it; show us your medals.
    And we had to bail you lot out of the war FACT.

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  54. Greece: A team of no importance until they came out of nowhere to win a title, early in the 21st century, that was won almost entirely on defense. Before that, they sucked. Now they suck again. Still dangerous D though.

    My good friend Dean was called "Dangerous D" for a while. But he was only ever really dangerous to single women late at night. He's in prison now.

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  55. Gosh, the rumour mill has really went downhill

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  56. Soccer, SOCCER! Kings of sports,
    Makes me forget my anal warts,
    We British took it to all ports,
    around the world, along with syphilis

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  57. Brilliant Post. I can see the momentum starting to pick up as we streak towards kickoff. Your comparisons we're spot on, as a Brazillian who HATES the Lakers it was hard to see that one but its very very accurate. Enjoyable stuff...

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  58. I never thought I would be in a position to root for North Korea...

    Nice job.

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  59. I've rooted most of North Korea sandlapper. It's not as much fun as you'd think.

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  60. As a Native Portlander as well as a die hard Blazer fan you couldnt be more on the money with the Netherlands. The boys in orange have the most rabid fans outside of maybe a few South American teams. The Blazers have the loudest and most knowledgeable followers in the NBA. Both have had amazing players careers cut short. I Will be watching all the games with 10 to 15 thousand other Portlanders downtown on the square just like last time. Go Usa. Go Blazers. Go Orange. Ohh Yea, the Shittle Flounders suck.

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  61. Brendan, this is great comparison. I especially like England and the New York Jets. You should try to submit this!

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  62. I am a huge soccer fan from St. Louis, MO (national soccer hot bed). LOVED THE ARTICLE.

    Since you welcomed a suggestion. A team stepped in history with multiple championships but in a current drought. A laundry list of some of the greatest players ever. Bigger names seem to be a little "sexier" to pick. Always in contention and most consider the greatest player in the game to be on their team. A little drought needs to be cured with a championship to satisfy the current generation of fans and players.

    Argentina is the St. Louis Cardinals

    ...pre 2006 World Series. The parallel with Messi and Pujols, History, championships, and a fan base that dwells on history but feels entitled in the present. Also, Brazil, Germany, and even England seem to get the attention that Argentina deserves...like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Phillies over the Cardinals. Players one cannot ignore and history that cannot be denied.

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  63. Argentina did win Gold in the last two Olympics. I know its not a major trophy to most, but they they take it pretty seriously in South America. Just ask Brazil they are dying to win it...

    I always liked the French, but after Henry's handball they are Duke to me.

    Great stuff all around, well done.
    Would it were June 12th!

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  64. Depressingly accurate about England. This from an England fan. Still....maybe this year..hah!

    Portugal spot on. If I could slap one country collectively about the face, it'd be them. Without Ronaldo, panties of teenage girls everywhere would dry up, as would sales of hair product.

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  65. Brendan, great job on the comparisons, I loved them all (especially Notre Dame/Uruguay. I'm an SC boy), but particularly your comparison between the Brewers and my parents' home country Honduras. You could say Jonathan Bornstein was our CC Sabathia!

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  66. As an Argentinian, a soccer fan and a Bucs fan, I enjoyed both comparisons (Argentina-Redskins, Greece-Bucs). Great article!

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  67. Funny that you mention that the Blue Devil even LOOKS french. If you look into the history of the mascot for Duke it turns out they were actually names after an elite WWI French Squad nicknamed "The Blue Devils" for their ferocity on the battlefield and their blue uniforms?

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  68. I belong to a family of globetrotters, was born in Sacramento, moved to DC, went to Brazil, then to Argentina, lived in Italy and finally came back to the States (NY). I love soccer and like the article as I'm a Redskins and Lakers fan as well as Brazilian and Argentine soccer. As I went to middle and high school and still have a bunch of lovely friends there, and their beef has no comparison anywhere in the world, I would like Argentina to win it all.

    Reuben James

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  69. Very well done. Thank you!

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  70. Excellent, excellent stuff. As an Italian, I appreciated the parallel with the Spurs. Enjoy the World Cup everybody, and may the best team win!

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  71. Brandan:
    Like you, I am a refugee from the USA, having lived in Barcelona, Spain for 3 years.

    Your article was just fantastic; both times I read it, I laughed long and loud. Because it was so much fun, I posted on Facebook so my American friends could read: predictably, only two of 57 bothered to read.

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  72. This is fantastic! Only would something so trivial as explaining something complex to ignorant Americans (I am one so I can say as much) piss off overly fanatical football fans across the globe. Keep it up Brandan!!

    Oh and, ABSOLUTELY hit the nail on the head about the Chargers & Portugal.

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  74. Great article. Do another one matching the individual players to USA players. Ex) Drogba=Lebron James.

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  75. So France are "so often being the recipient of grossly questionable calls by the refs."

    Oh really? What, Henry's handball gets translated into "so often"??? Just exactly where do you get this bullshit "so often" nonsense from? I'm not French but I support the French national team, esp. because they are the recipient of the worst racist abuse out of all national teams in the entire sport put together -- both in and out of France.

    Geezus, you'd think the French invented the handball in football (soccer), the hysteria around Henry's handball is absolutely hysterical idiocy. All it did was deny Ireland a penalty shoot-out, not a place in the world cup.

    In the same game, Robbie Keane committed a handball that almost resulted in a goal. But that's ok, I guess since he's not French.

    The Irish also got away with a fake penalty call against Georgia in the qualifiers.

    Does that make them "so often" the recipient of fake penalties?

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  76. Marcus,

    You said, "I'm not French but I support the French national team, esp. because they are the recipient of the worst racist abuse out of all national teams in the entire sport put together -- both in and out of France."

    This makes no sense to me. You support the French team because you have empathy with them being the most picked on team with racism...but, then go to say they are also the most picked on team with racism INSIDE France itself. So you're supporting a country because you feel bad they get racist chants, but most of those racist chants come from the French themselves?


    And, let's not forget that you said.."the hysteria around Henry's handball is absolutely hysterical idiocy. All it did was deny Ireland a penalty shoot-out, not a place in the world cup."
    Ahh, but Marcus..that penalty shoot out meant Ireland COULD have got to the world cup. Penalty shoot outs are a part of football and this system, so Henry's cheating, and it was cheating he even admitted so himself, denied them a possible spot to the world cup no matter how much you want to cloud it over.

    And, finally, to be fair, you're right...the "so often being the recipient of grossly questionably calls by refs is unfair." is out of line. It's not the Ref's fault at all, it's the dishonesty of the French cheat, Henry.

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  77. I don't know anything about Notre Damme, or any American sports franchise, but I'm from Uruguay. My take is that Uruguay has good players, but lacks confidence and unity... Also players need to humble, sacrifice, and merge: play with and trust the teammates.

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  78. Splendid stuff old chap. I'm from England (UK) and your description of us and our press is pretty much spot on. Can't comment on the USA versions of the teams obviously because the 'Trailblazers' and the 'Wildcats' mean nothing to us over here in Blighty.

    You may want to know that I arrived here from a link on The Guardian newspaper so expect a few thousand hits from En-ger-land.

    Roll on June 12th....

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  79. What a great article. You should seek some more press and try to get it published in USA Today, NY Times, etc. Very well done and right on the money on so many counts. Love it!

    p.s. heard about this on World Football Daily

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  80. As an American living in Europe that mostly follows football (soccer) this actually taught me more about the American teams! Not sure it was the intent but still great! Will pass it on to the American chick that made me fill out her world cup bracket yesterday for her.

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  81. I'm a standard American sports fan, which means I follow the World Cup the same way I follow the Kentucky Derby: I know very little about what is involved, but I'm excited to see what happens. This was both thoroughly helpful and entertaining.

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  82. As an Englishman who grew up supporting Holland - I loved it. I know absolutely nothing about American sports so this works both ways - I now know that I want to see the Dallas Cowboys lose every game while cheering on the Portland Trail Blazers. Genius!

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  83. Overall, a great read. I'm a big Boise State Football fan (grew up in Boise) and the comparison to Cameroon is on the money!

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  84. South Korea have a terrific, organised defence. The English press are not the only negative set of journos - look at France with Domenech, Brazil and Dunga. Ghana's squad is arguably worse than 4 years ago due to the injury of Essien and a dearth of top quality strikers. You don't say anything about Slovenia, Slovakia, Paraguay, etc that you couldn't make up in 5 seconds. Uruguay - what on earth are you on about? etc. etc. Nice idea though!

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  85. Great read. Loved the Jets-England comparison as well as the USA-Houston one. Spot on.

    June 12. The harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. Go Yanks.

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  86. I thoroughly enjoyed the article! My son forwarded it on to me and I in turn to others. On a "sensitive" note, I do not feel, at ALL that is offends anyone group, Portugal, Gahana, Italy or Argentina, Slovania, etc. I it meant to amuse, and so I feel sorry for the long-winded comments, they do not seem to have a humorous bone in their body, not even a funny bone on the elbow! PLAY ON!

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  87. I'm French, and reading this, I realize you guys have a huge problem with us...we often commit fouls? Seriously? You must not have watched a lot of games, except for that France - Ireland one...

    And in the comments: we have a lot of racist chants? Wtf?

    I dont really care to know that you have some kind of problem with France or something, but could you please stop inventing facts about us? That would be nice.

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  88. Know you had to shape-shift a little, but very good very funny, perfect for us casual American semi-fans. And wish you could've worked the Butler Bulldogs in somewhere.

    You got Japan right, and great hair matters. Korea, otoh, wasn't defense their only charmpoint a while ago? Have they completely abandoned it? And what about their hair?

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  89. Your description of Argentina sounds exactly like the Montreal Canadiens, truth be told. Good forever, but haven't really done shit in the last two decades. Uruguay's pretty close, too, with the haughtiness, nostalgia-fueled expectations, and the Catholicism, though the Canadiens weren't the first great team, as such. Still, if either of those had been followed by a big ol' CH, I would've laughed my ass off.

    As for Slovenia, are their games also boring as sin? Because holy shit, I'd rather gnaw my own arm off than watch the Wild play.

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  90. I think England is more of the Texas A&M Aggies. They won something a real long time ago. They have an amazing supporters group but they end up doing nothing more and more often.

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  91. So the author hates the Packers, the Vikings, and Philip Rivers?

    Brendan Hunt = Jay Cutler?

    And I don't care if people think Rivers is a douche (he's actually not at all) as long as they recognize he's one of the top 3 players in the NFL, looks like the author does.

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  92. fantastic, and hysterical. i think i love you.

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  93. As a Houstonian living in England... Go Texans

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  95. Awesome...well done...even funnier that people ACTUALLY take offense to some of your comparisons. England analogy is spot on...can't wait to play on June 12.

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  96. Fantastic.

    Couldn't agree more about the chasm between our (Americans) current knowledge and the level of information available.

    This kind of middle ground is perfect for us American sports fans new to soccer, and willing to give it a go.

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  97. Nicely done. Particularly enjoying the people getting worked up over it.

    And right or wrong we do all think Portugal are prancers and divers.

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  98. I apologize for commenting slightly off-topic, but given that this post is aimed at the casual fan, I have to respond to something of a "Thierry Henry is the devil" meme that really gets my goat.

    Yes, Henry's handball had a massive effect for the Irish team. However, if you watch soccer at all, you probably know that fouls like that are committed frequently, and without huge apology. Sometimes the refs see it and sometimes they don't. I don't watch as many games as I'd like to, but I've certainly witnessed similar plays (with the help of slow-motion replay) multiple times in the last 6 months.

    Certainly, it was a very important game and the final outcome fees unfair, but the sh*tstorm aftermath that Henry received seems somewhat out of proportion, as if he was the first and only player to ever try to get away with anything. Professional athletes are programmed to compete, to win.

    This is more a defense of rational perspective than of Henry's actions. He's not a favorite player of mine or anything.

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  99. god, this is so good.

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  100. Very funny and interesting read.

    In my opinion I think you are giving Nigeria too much credit to equate them with the Philadelphia Eagles. I think Nigeria would be closer to the Seattle Mariners. They play in a weak conference (AL West), some years they have great talent and are a fashionable pick to win, yet fall flat in the playoffs, other years they fall into the depths of mediocrity.

    England and the Jets is pretty good, but I would have guessed England would be equated with Philadelphia Eagles or the Cleveland Browns. Unruly fans known for causing more headlines than the team, some really good teams with high expectations that collapsed. Pennsylvania and Ohio region stakes claim as being the birthplace of modern american football.

    I don't like the US comparison at all. The US has an international soccer history dating back to 1885 and the first world cup. I think the US could be similar to the Dallas Mavericks or the Tennessee Titans/Houston Oilers. No one really cared about them until the mid-90s at which time they had some hideous uniforms. Since the mid 90's they have gotten better almost to the point where people think they might actually be able to win it all, and even though their following is growing they are still not the most popular in their market (Dallas Cowboys and Tennessee Volunteers football).

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  101. Banastre Tarleton3 June 2010 at 08:29

    hi there Septics, I enjoyed the article. It's nice to read the views of folk from foreign lands. I havent got a clue about whether the Jets analogy is apt though as I havent a clue about American Football.
    As for England fans and talking a 'lotta shit' well it's because we're passionate. We love the team. Maybe not the individuals but the concept of 'England'.It is what we cling to as a nation, everything else has turned to shit but we still have our football. So, yes, we think we're great and sure, yes, it gets on peoples tits but it's the expression of our cultural identity. You Americans dont express your love for your country through your football team but by God you do it full on and repeatedly in other walks of life. We dont stand and sing our national anthem at every opportunity, we dont have our national flag flying everywhere you look, we dont sing our heads off about how god darn great we are before every game and in every half time interval (as an MLB fan and visitor to several ballparks I'm more than aware of the Star Spangled Banner/God Bless America shtick). You Americans live in a 24 hour a day AmericaLoveFest, on the other hand we English go mental every 2 years when the big football tournaments come around (if we qualify!). Cut us some slack if we talk a little shit, it's the greatest game on earth and we're quite good at it. We know we'll lose in heartbreaking fashion but while it lasts we're going to big it up.
    Looking forward to dicking you on the 12th ;-)

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  102. I'd say very well done especially your reply to Alan.

    .....Soccer loving Nigerian

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  103. Great article, I also arrived here via a link from the Guardian so it looks like the article will get quite a few reads from people in the UK. I also enjoyed the World Cup history articles, good work all round.

    As an Englishman I have to say your comparison with the Jets is pretty much spot on. I'm also amused by how much offense you've managed to cause with a pretty innocuous article.

    As someone who has attempted to explain football to Americans and American sports to English people I enjoy the team comparisons. The best one in any sports I've found so far is the Mets and Manchester City (pre oil riches).

    Both are comically incapable of living up to their billing. Both have city neighbours they really can't stand, but whose big rivalry lies elsewhere (Red Sox/Liverpool). Both continously find any way possible to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

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  104. K-
    Yes, fouls go uncalled in every game. Its the degree to which Henry handled the ball. Its football, so using one hand to direct the ball to the other and then sending it accross the goal mouth is going to qualify as really really bad. You could argue that even in basketball he would have been called for traveling. The only thing that would have made it worse is if he passed it from his left hand to his right between his legs.
    What made the situation so much worse were two additional factors:
    1. France limped through the qualifying rounds, despite a roster full of star players. Ireland weren't perfect, but played thier hearts out to get to the playoff and raised thier level of play throughout.
    2. The last minute decision to seed the playoffs was seen (fairly or not) as a way of protecting the 'big teams' from playing each other.
    When you start with those two factors in play and THEN you have such a blantant display of cheating...its gonna be bad for France and Henry.
    That being said, I have been a huge fan of Henry and have usaully supported the French team. This was an awful way for them to sneak into the WC and the reaction from the French public, media and Henry drive the point home.
    The best counter arguments are not 'its part of the game' or 'you wouldn't care if you won like that'. The better arguement is that Keane handled the ball in the 1st half, though that is more debatable in the 'heat of the moment' is it hand to ball or ball to hand, blah, blah.
    The best arguement, for all you Henry supporters, is to put the blame not on the ref but on Paul McShane. He was the man who should have been marking Henry and if he had done his job the ball would have been cleared out for a corner and bars in S. Africa would have likely made a lot more money come next week.

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  105. Sir, I do not know you, but please know this: I am weeping at work because of the absolute hilarity of this piece. I think my fave' so far has to be Italy = The Spurs. Oh dear gawd. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May you prosper in good health, and enjoy enjoy World Cup 2010.

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  106. Haha this is good.

    I would switch Argentina with the Miami Dolphins though. Dolphins-won the super bowl in 72, 73, last appeared in a super bowl in 85. They always seem to have great teams that make a playoff push, but haven't been able to get to the big game in 25 years.

    They've only had 2 really bad seasons- 04 and 07, and just a few mediocre ones. And once again they are back to being playoff contenders, and on the verge of going back to the Super Bowl. Just like Argentina will probably make the knockout stage and could be a trendy pick to win it all.

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  107. I laughed out loud at the "border patrol" line. And I did enjoy the Yugoslavia/North Stars juxtaposition. I'm biased towards the Wild, but I thought they'd actually put together a few good seasons recently? Oh well.

    Thanks for the explanation. Not sure it'll help me figure out who to root for but it was useful.

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  108. re Brazil and Lakers. And the Lakers are known by single names (Wilt, Elgin, Kareem, Magic), and if a player were the logo it would be Pele.

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  109. hell... I am a born and bred English soccer person, many years ago my uncle in Vancouver sent me a Dolphins playing shirt, and I still don't understand it!!!

    btw Septic as rhyming slang for American started out in Australia not London....

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  110. Nicely done.

    Given your unbridled hatred of the Portuguese team, and your use of the phrases "Hall of Fame douchebag" and "coach is an outmatched drone", I was sure that you were going to equate them with USC. Of course the Trojans have had some success, so the comparison would be inexact. But who hates the Chargers? I'm a Raiders fan and I don't bother to hate the Chargers. It would be a waste of a perfectly good emotion.

    Hup Holland! (Unless they play the US, of course.)

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  111. I hope no one uses this article to fill out their brackets. You probably want to reasses your opinion of the Serbian, Dutch, and Portuguese teams since they'll likely have a strong tournament. Also an interesting assessment of Drogba given that he's more prone to diving (even Chelsea fans admit it) then Ronaldo.

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  112. Relio is not pleased with your comparison....

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  113. I just wish the O's could have got a mention ... oh well

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  114. Very unfair analysis of England. True, England haven't won it since 1966, but our record is still damn strong, and penalties our normally our downfall.

    World Cup 2006 - Quarter final, beaten on penalties.

    Euro 2004 - Quarter final, beaten on penalties

    World Cup 2002 - Quarter final

    World cup 98 - Quarter final, beaten on penalties

    Euro 96 - Semi final, lost on penalties

    World Cup 90 - Semi final, lost on penalties

    Moral of the story? England choke on penalties.

    What's the USA's equivalent sports team?

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  115. Ronaldo. Its the wink stupid! No England fan will forgive him as long as he plays.

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  116. You know...I was hoping to see the Chargers in there but not compared to Portugal. I'm a big Charger fan and...well ok most of your points are correct. They need to stop the prancing and win a super bowl already.

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  117. Michael, thanks for commenting. For the first part of your reposnse I will direct you to the end of my second blog. For the second part, I will direct you to the end of the blog you are already commenting on.

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  118. I see what you did there with the whole Greece/pirates thing.

    Also, "winged bird of displeasure"? That's a fantastic line.

    Well done. This is going on my facebook, for whatever it's worth (probably another couple comments from indignant English fans).

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  119. I like Michael's question about England losing, often, in the quarter and semi finals by being out shot in penalty kicks.

    That would be like a college team getting to the elite 8 or fab four year after year while having a horrid free shooting percentage compared to the team(s) that eliminated them. Or, maybe a pro basketball franchise with the same, consistent, free throw problem down the stretch with time running out.

    Don't follow US B-ball enough to know. Is there any team that meets that criteria?

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  120. Literally, laugh-out-loud funny! Of course, some of the analogies were lost on me since I couldn't possibly care any less than I do about baseball, hockey or basketball. But the obvious ones were good!

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  121. I'm English, and I don't mind you description of us in the slightest. It's all a bit of fun after all!

    Yes any English football fan can and will talk forever about football, and we all have quite strongly held opinions on it.

    A very interesting article, even though I admit the comparisons with American sports teams is rather lost on me because I know little about most of them.

    Personally, I'd be happy with semi-finals for England. Brazil to win it for me, beating Germany in the final. Spain will choke in the semis.

    I very much look forward to the match v USA, I hope for an England win obviously, and I think we will just about, but a draw wouldn't be a massive surprise.

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  122. loved your article.....

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  123. GREAT ARTICLE , BUT YOU DON'T KNOW A SINGLE THING ABOUT FOOTBALL.....

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  124. Brilliant description of the San Antonio Spurs. Go Spurs Go! Go Italy Go!

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  125. I know basically nothing about any of the teams mentioned, in any sport, and found the article enjoyable to read.

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  126. i like it. as a soccer fan who doesnt like other sports, i found myself on the opposite side as most americans i think in that i didnt know who the american teams were haha.

    my only issue: italy is easily more hated than portugal. france too this year especially after that handball. otherwise the list seems pretty solid.

    chile = saints is spot on

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  127. Quite a enjoyable article. I a huge England fan, and I didn't mind the piece about us. I'm really looking forward to our opening game against USA.

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  128. OH MY GOD WHY DID YOU RIP ON MY TEAM. WAHHHHHHHH!!!

    Wait... the US tied England? This article was written lightly and not meant to be super critical or every-observation-exactly-to-the-point?

    HELL'S FREEZING OVER

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  129. When something is good you copy it.
    http://www.nationalpost.com/ways+World+like+North+American+sports/3145912/story.html

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  130. I agree...Bloody Brilliant. However, as I live in Texas, the phrase would probably be "Hot Damn, he nailed it Bigger-n-Dallas!"

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  131. Hilarious!

    From your description of North Korea, I thought for sure you were going to say Texas A&M.

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  132. Wonderful stuff. On the English: they talk an awful lot of trash in English - if you read a Spanish paper you'll see they are not alone. Still the Spanish have at least proved themselves once within living memory so maybe you have a point.

    Good to see Dallas haven't changed since I was following the American game.

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  133. Great article. It's not perfect (how could it be?), but the attempt is honorable. My biggest complaint is your comparison of Argentina and the Redskins. Yes they both had their time at the top and haven't won in more than 20 years, but who has played for the Redskins during the past couple of decades? Nobody. You cannot say the same of Argentina. They have produced some of the best individual talents of the last two decades (international stars). The bottom line with Argentina is that their trophies do not equal their talent. You look back and wonder how it is that such players have not won the World Cup since '86, have won the Confederations Cup once, and have only two Copa America championships to show during the same period.

    So what does all of this amount to in terms of American sports comparisons? I would say they are closer to the Atlanta Braves than the Redskins. The Braves are the best team of the modern era to have so little to show for their talent. It's hard to believe that a team that won the NL five times in the '90s only won the World Series once. The comparison may not stand throughout time, but as far as underachieving/historic/championship teams go, I like the Braves-Argentina comparison much more than the Redskins.

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  134. Excellent work...The comparisons were quite entertaining and mostly on the money. The one thing I really despise in this sport is diving. FIFA and the various leagues would do the world a favor by reviewing tape and doling out harsher punishment for diving. This drives me insane and simply doesn't belong in this game.

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  135. I am a World Cup neophyte. A friend sent me this link to help me get up to speed a bit so I can watch some games this year and decide whom to root for. I enjoyed this thoroughly, and it really does help me get some perspective that makes sense to me.

    Thanks so much for writing it, and keep up the good work!

    I've watched 4 matches so far this week, and I am thoroughly on board for more World Cup games. I think I might be hooked!

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  136. Liked the post overall -- big fail on Netherlands/Holland.

    They ARE in the list of "never-wons". In fact, they're considered to be one of "the best teams that have never won the tournament" by most who follow soccer.

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  137. @ Kurt W. Holland won Euro '88. As i say in the beginning of the blog, continental championships count in this equation, despecially Europe. Thank you for commenting.

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  138. Nice. So, Italy and the Spurs are the Rasheed Wallace of teams. Sheeeeeeeeeeed!!!

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  139. Great overview. Living in the US and being from Europe and a huge soccer fan, I really loved this overview.
    Just one comment for improvement. When you describe Slovakia DON'T put the symbol for Slovenia up there. Slovakia and Slovenia are 2 different countries.

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  140. @ Anonymous - Don't know what you mean. That is the Slovakia FA crest and the Slovenian jersey, each in the correct place.

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  141. The World Cup cannot be compared to the Stanley Cup...it is a tournament. The winner of the Stanley Cup plays a grueling 82 game season to get into the play-offs. Then a four round best of seven tournament against the best performing teams in the league at the highest skill levels.
    (and on ice no less)...World Cup is physical, skilled, and intense (and more universally popular)....but don't compare it to winning the Stanley Cup!

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  142. Fun stuff dude!! A Yank here with a passing interest in football, mum from UK, Scotland though, so F England!
    Some of these just awesome, like Brazil-Lakers, Swiss-Cornell, France-Duke, oh and Skins-Argentina, I am a Skins fan, that Riggins-Maradona photo comparison!! hilarious!
    Guess there are no Yankees comparisons after Brazil? and was trying to guess who would be the Patriots, nothing for decades, domination for a Decade, and now sorta slipping back away??
    Anyway, good times! Esp the comments, some of those nuts are great!
    Oh yeah, and we tied England, hahahahahahaahaha!

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  143. had to add, New Zealand-N Iowa
    N Iowa beat Kansas, NZ tied Italy ?????
    awesome!!!!

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  144. I have to admit, as I was reading this I was thinking, "Ok these are great, but what is he going to do about the US? How can be make a good comparison?" The Texans were perfect. Couldn't have thought of a better one myself.

    Well Done!

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  145. It was a rough NCAA tournament for me this year, but thank goodness Duke finished last in their group in the World Cup!

    (Great post)

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  146. So now we are down to the wire:
    L.A. Lakers v. The Portland Trail Blazers
    Atlanta Hawks v. Notre Dame

    Dallas Cowboys v. Washington Redskins
    Boston Red Sox v. Iowa Hawkeyes Football

    I'm pretty sure we're going to see the L.A. Lakers meet the Washington Redskins in the Championship with the Redskins emerging victorious.

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  147. Brilliant article mate!
    I know jackshit about the Red Sox, but I'm happy their football counterparts finally won the big one. About time!! :D

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  148. Brendan,

    Just read the article now. Probably the funniest article I've ever read on the internet. Keep it up man. Love the New Zealand description.

    Tom

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