Thursday 26 June 2014

World Cup super groups

In case you hadn't noticed, we're coming to the end of that beautiful bubble known as 'the First Round of the World Cup'. It's beautiful because the 32 greatest footballing nations in the world are thrown together into eight groups of four in a curious, sometimes bizarre mix of geography, playing ability and experience.

It all starts with the draw, usually made six months or more before the tournament begins. Upon completion, it's as much as we can do to ponder on the deliciously random permutations that have been set before us. Will 'Team A' beat 'Team B'? Will 'Team C' top the group? Will 'Team D' cause an upset or two?

Before a ball has been kicked, we take it upon ourselves to figure out whether any given group is a good one, a great one, or even a 'Group of Death.' It is a time when we can dream about the things we will see and the battles that will ensue - and all, initially at least, within the confines of each of those fabulous First Round groups.

So what is it that gives a group so much potential for excitement? Regardless of how it might eventually pan out, what makes a First Round group look good on paper? Having given the matter some thought, I arrived at the three main criteria that would lead me to the greatest groups in World Cup history - in principle, at least.

Saturday 21 June 2014

Panini's World Cup 'Nearly Men'

Question: What connects the following football players? Andy Gray, Carlos Alberto, Ruud Gullit, Kenny Dalglish, Eder, Phil Neville and Robert Pires.

Need a few more clues? How about Steven Gerrard, Roberto Bettega, Dan Petrescu, Fabrizio Ravanelli and David Beckham?

The answer? They've all appeared in a Panini World Cup sticker album but failed to appear in the World Cup tournament it was commemorating.

It happens more often than you think and for good reason. As if to officially begin the countdown to a World Cup tournament, Panini launch their official sticker collections several weeks in advance. It gives you ample opportunity to familiarise yourself with all the names and faces waiting to create a patchwork of footballing wonderment in front of your very eyes in the days to come.

Friday 6 June 2014

Fantasy Nostalgia: How to get Scotland into World Cup Round 2...

Football is full of traditions. Whether it's the need to go for a pre-match pint of beer or the irresistible desire to support the little team in a 'David v Goliath' cup tie, there are some things we can't help ourselves doing where football's concerned.

Another tradition, especially if you're English, is to remind those kindly Scottish folk that their national team are as likely to reach the Second Round of the World Cup as it is of winning the Nobel Prize for Literature. It's an old joke and getting more and more worn out with every passing year.

Yet a friend of The Football Attic, Andrew Rockall, seems to have come up with a valid reason why Scotland failed to progress beyond the group stage of at least one World Cup Finals. Andrew writes:

'Have you ever wondered how the 1982 World Cup would have played out if they'd used a different format - say the one used in 1986?'

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Up For The World Cup (1986)

Under what circumstances can a large piece of printed paper be given such reverence and adoration? When it is printed with the fixtures for the first World Cup to ever ignite your growing love of international football.

The 1986 World Cup was going to be majestic in all its colour and magnificence. I'd seen bits of the 1982 tournament, but it had all arrived slightly too early for me, as if I'd become a fan of The Beatles in the year they split up. Fragmented imagery and an awareness of past glories was fine, but I wanted to see what a new World Cup would really be like. My eyes were wide open and I simply couldn't wait.

In order to get myself in the right frame of mind for Mexico '86, I bought and read whatever items I could find as part of a relentless campaign to educate myself on this sensational sporting spectacle. World Soccer magazine (a publication I'd discovered in 1985) helped, to say nothing of Shoot! and Match Weekly, and that was without the growing mountain of memorabilia being created in readiness for the event.