TEN things I expect to see before the end of the World Cup

With the World Cup only a few million seconds away- probably- the excitement is now reaching boiling point, especially for those of us who’ve allowed ourselves to get carried away with the idea that England can actually win.

While the dream of seeing Rio Ferdinand lift the coveted trophy in just 40 days time, may be just like the dream I used to have of bedding Pamela Anderson when I was younger- i.e, never going to happen, rather than anything wet, I still can’t help but have a faint glimmer of hope, dare I say even  expectation.

It’s at such  times that the cynic in me raises his gloomy, pragmatic head and reminds me that not only are England seemingly destined to never win the World Cup in my lifetime but that, along with certain other things are pretty much guaranteed at this summer’s tournament. Here’s a list of ten things that will more than likely happen in the next few weeks.

10. Let’s not drag it out or hide it in the middle or near the bottom, England go out on penalties. There I’ve said it. Despite my overwhelming faith in Wayne Rooney and unshakeable optimism bordering on blind faith, the odds are that England will be eliminated on penalties. I may be wrong and of course I hope I am but as the World Cups of 1990, 1998 and 2006 showed us, not to mention Euro’s 1996 & 2004, the national team’s predilection for penalty elimination in major tournaments has become something of a tradition.

9. A co-commentator/pundit will use the tournament to try and get the job full-time or impress us all and instead merely become very annoying. I remember in 1994 listening to John Fashanu state: “He’s just nutmegged the defender- which is pushing the ball between your opponents legs.” before being thanked by his colleagues for explaining such things to the many people who may be watching football for the first time. There was also the Martin O’Neill; I’m going to get my point across, even if it runs through the second half performance of France ’98. Let’s of course not forget the various Ron Atkinson ’isms’ which lit up Japan and South Korea 2002- on second thoughts, let’s forget all about them. I’m half expecting Ian Holloway to be wearing a fez in the studio banging a tambourine and ‘amusing is all with ‘crazy‘ metaphors- the joker.

8. Maradona will cost Argentina the world cup with a bizarre substitution. I was going to say silly tactical decision but giving the plumped, shaking slightly, Hand of God’s fondness for those it seemed a bit too broad. I expect it to be a substitution that does for the two-time winners. Just as it did in Germany 2006 when Jose Pekerman removed man-of-the-match Juan Riquelme during the quarter-final game against the hosts. The difference between then and now is that Pekerman was by all accounts a sane individual despite making a poor decision, something his successor could never be accused of. Expect Lionel Messi to be dragged off for only hitting the bar with a 30-yard lob, or perhaps Juan Sebastian Veron to be asked to fill in between the sticks following a goalkeeping error, with Maradona in charge- of the team if not his faculties – anything’s possible.

7. There will be no surprise packages. This sounds harsh, after all doesn’t every World Cup have a team that comes from nowhere to get to the quarter-finals or even the semi’s. Okay, you may get an African nation in the last eight, but would that really be a shock? I don’t think the final four of the tournament will be of any great surprise, expect Keaton, McManus, Fenster, Kint, et al to be there- did you see what I did there? In other words, Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina-unless Maradona acts quicker than I expect- to all be there or there abouts.

Which leads me onto my next one…

6. Germany will progress further than England. Again I’m listening to my head rather than my heart as I still think we, yes ‘we’ are going to win the World Cup and am so confident have even bet an entire tenner on it, but realistically ‘we’ won’t. Not only that, our former military adversaries- oops don’t mention the ’you know what’ always seem to do better than we do when it comes to  the World Cup -unless it’s in England of course, and there’s a Russian linesman. Since the day that everyone over fifty won’t stop going on about, Germany have almost always gone at least one better than us. Mexico 1970’s quarter-final defeat to them was the beginning of a pretty shabby run from England. 1986 we made the quarter-finals they made the final. 1990 we made the semis, they won it. 1998 we made the second round; they made the quarter-finals. 2002 we made the quarter-finals they made the final. 2006.…..you get the point.

Click here to see the TOP 5

5. Emile Heskey will not score a single goal.

4. Peter Crouch will.

3. Nelson Mandela will be shown on the television at least 54 times a day and how far South Africa has come as a nation over the past 16 years will be mentioned at least every 3 minutes by every commentator.

2. A Premier League player will win the Golden Boot. At first this may seem like I’m stating the obvious as due to the fact Ji Sung Park plays in the EPL then there can be no doubt what I’ve said is true. However with Fernando Torres- if he makes it, not to mention Wayne, oh you know the one, Rooney that’s it. Plus Carlos Tevez, Robin Van Persie and Didier Drogba all representing their country, it’s not the most far-fetched notion I’ve ever heard of. Unlike a recent ten pound bet I made earlier.

1. A single person will be blamed for England’s exit. As far back as I can remember -or even  google for that matter, without fail at every major tournament it has been the act of one man that has let this nation down. Sometimes before we’ve even got -or not got- to a tournament, look up Assenmacher if you don’t believe me. It was David Beckham in ‘98, David Seaman in 2002- by some critics, not all I might add, 2006 it was obviously Cristiano Ronaldo for having the temerity to wink after Rooney got sent off. Let’s not forget the Euro’s as well, where we’ve even seen a penalty spot, come under scrutiny for England’s exit. Admittedly you could argue that if Fabio Capello picks the wrong side or whatever, then obviously he’ll be to blame but I’m not talking about that, I’m on about burning effigies of Stephen Warnock for giving away that 93 minute throw-in on the half way line that led to the equaliser. Or perhaps we’ll find ourselves boycotting Spain as a holiday destination because David Villa dived in the box to win a penalty against us. Chances are though it could be some previously unheard of referee who finds himself public enemy number on in England for making a suspect decision which was without a doubt the turning point in our quarter-final game.

Read more of Justin’s work at his excellent blog ‘Name on the Trophy’

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