Here it is, soccer fans. The Daily Caller’s Ultimate Master Guide To Everything You Ever Need To Know About The 2014 FIFA World Cup In Brazil.
Brace yourself for over a month’s worth of whining from the MLB/NFL/NBA purist who doesn’t understand the offside rule and insists the game “still sucks.” Prepare for some thoroughly embarrassing “expert” opinions from that guy in the bar who thinks the game was invented in 1992. And yes, there will more than likely be some tedious BuzzFeed listicles about the best player simulations, eccentric jerseys and players that look like cats.
All that aside, there should be some great entertainment on the field.
For the entirety of the tournament, Ewan Watt will be providing grizzled, foul-tempered Scottish punditry for The Daily Caller on everything you need to know about the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. This will range from a comprehensive background on each team, short posts on the games, and some history, ranging from failed drug tests to a team’s struggle to understand the rules to why an Arab prince halted the game and got a referee’s decision overturned.
In the build up, we’ll be releasing guides to the different groups, so buckle in, study up and become the master you’ve always said you were anyway.
Overview: Belgium has been portrayed as the “dark horse” for the World Cup. To some, this is a little strange given that the Belgians cruised through qualifying undefeated and have one of the most expensive squads in the world. However, for a team that boasts some of the world’s greatest talent (including Manchester United’s Adnan Januzaj who has, finally, opted to play for Belgium), Belgium’s recent preparations have been anything but impressive, winning two games out of their last five — one of which was a humbling of lowly Luxembourg.
And yet, writing off the Belgians in Brazil would be foolish—if their top players can remain disciplined and stay fit. Despite this being their first foray at a World Cup since 2002 (they qualified for six in a row between 1982 and 2002), some claim that this is Belgium’s second “Golden Generation” of stars. In fact, long before qualification for the World Cup had even started, one journalist with London’s Times (and soccer’s greatest pundit for his reverence of Aberdeen’s Willie Miller) predicted over four years ago that Belgium would be the side to watch. Few teams in Brazil will possess both the physical and skillful attributes of Belgium.
Their captain, Vincent Kompany, who commanded his defensive area like a veteran when he made his debut for Anderlecht aged 17, has enjoyed yet another tremendous season with Manchester City. Thibaut Courtois is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world right now. Roman Lukaku excelled for Everton while on-loan from Chelsea. Eden Hazard, Chelsea’s £32m signing from Lille, has often struggled for fitness but is as good as anyone on his day. Marouane Fellaini, alas, has had a season he’d rather forget. But a lackluster performance at the tournament (like 1998) won’t be enough. Even for a country with just 11 million people, certain expectations will have to be met.
Best World Cup Performance: Fourth (1986)
FIFA Ranking: 11th
Best Players: Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Kevin Mirallas (Everton), Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Thibaut Courtois (all Chelsea), Kevin De Bruyne (VfL Wolfsburg), Axel Witsel (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Marouane Fellaini, Adnan Januzaj (both Manchester United) and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur).
Most famous World Cup moment: There was Belgium’s shock 1-0 victory over champions Argentina in the opening match of the 1982 World Cup. But it’s hard not to include the 1986 World Cup run. Leo Van der Elst may only have played 13 times for his country, but he’s still remembered as the man who thumped home the decider in Belgium’s quarter-final penalty shoot-out victory of Spain. The Belgians would go on to the semi-finals, still their best ever performance at a World Cup.
… Most infamous: Tricky as the Belgians have never really disgraced themselves at a tournament. If infamous can also mean heart-breaking, then the 1990’s defeat against England in the last 16 comes to mind. Most England fans will remember the game for one of the most delightful finishes at a World Cup, with David Platt’s volley in the last minute of extra time. But for Belgium, it was frustration throughout. They largely dominated the game and twice hit the woodwork. Unfortunately, Platt’s cruel volley ended the dream of exceeding, or even matching, the performance of four years previously.
Sound like an expert: “I really like the look of this Belgian side. I wouldn’t put it past Wilmots’ team to get to at least the quarterfinals.”