COS contributor Andy Burrows draws insightful parallels between the English top tier and the forthcoming World Cup.
We find ourselves in a strange kind of football limbo. The club season has all but finished across Europe and the World Cup is still three weeks away. And so, to help whittle away the time before the Greatest Show on Earth begins let us embrace this limbo and mix the Premiership with the World Cup. If your club team was to be matched to one of the teams going to South Africa who would they be? Here are my suggestions for last season’s Premier League based on a mixture of current form, history and style of play:
Arsenal = Portugal: Play very nice football but often with little end product due to a lack of big target men to actually put the ball in the back of the net (if you count Ronaldo as a winger). There is the perception that you can bully them out of the game.
Aston Villa = Holland: Always start competitions on fire, leading many to tip them for great things, only for it to all damply fizzle out. Think of Holland in Euro 2008, hammering Italy and France in the group stage, only to exit weakly against Russia in the Quarter Final. Both teams are the biggest fan teasers around- they build their hopes up only to dash them time and time again.
Birmingham City = USA: Geographically big places but always on the edges of the big time in football (tenuous I know). USA will be hoping to emulate Birmingham’s cracking season at this year’s World Cup (I’m pretty sure their manager will mention that in his team talks actually).
Blackburn Rovers = Serbia: Very solid outfits, proving hard to beat. Will usually put in a mid-table/second round performance.
Bolton Wanderers = Ghana: See above.
Burnley = New Zealand: Neither are particularly good enough for the top competition, but both will have great fun being there. They are ‘plucky underdogs’ that commentators love to patronise. New Zealand qualified by beating teams such as Vanuatu (no, I didn’t know that was a country either) and Bahrain, and are going to struggle in their group. Everyone loves to cheer on the ‘brave’ little guy (unless you’re a Blackburn or Australia fan).
Chelsea = Spain: Have always historically been on the edges of success without ever really achieving much until recently when it has finally arrived. Both are now impossible to rule out when predicting overall winners. The way Chelsea played in some of their games this season they even began to resemble Spain’s style.
Everton = Ivory Coast: On paper both look to have talented teams. However, a few injuries to key players and their small squads are likely to fall apart. Both are often tipped to truly make an impact but rarely deliver. (I wanted to include a comparison between Sven and David Moyes here, but just couldn’t think of any connection between an angry Glaswegian and a laid back Swede.)
Fulham = South Korea: On their own turf, both have proved almost unbeatable and upset many of the ‘big’ teams in recent years. This has caused both to impressively over achieve lately- South Korea when they hosted the World Cup in 2002, Fulham in the Europe League this year. On the flip side, both teams are fairly terrible away from home: Fulham won just a single away league game this season, whilst South Korea also have a grand total of one win in six World Cups that they haven’t hosted.
Hull City = Honduras: New to the big time and may cause an upset every now and then, but are likely to fail in the long run. When Hull got promoted to the Premiership two years ago, it was the first time in their history that they had reached the top flight of English football. They had some fun, caused some upsets and are now on their way back out. Similarly 2010 is only Honduras’ second World Cup finals and could well get a unlikely win in their group (they did beat Mexico in qualifying), but are unlikely to achieve anything more than one freak result.
Liverpool = Germany: Though historically they have been very successful, neither team looks especially well equipped to compete with the big boys at the moment. Not that this is acknowledged by the fans who still see them as contenders. With their history of winning, you can never quite write off either team.
Man City = Argentina: Brilliant going forward but a suspect defence means they may flatter to deceive. Equally, both seem to be run by mad men on power trips, as Maradona appears to rarely know exactly what is going on and City’s owners spend countless millions on players seemingly because they get bored easily. Whilst Man City have an embarrassment of riches in the bank, Argentina have an embarrassment of riches in their strike force (get it?).
Man United = Brazil: Always going to be there or there abouts come the final matches of the campaign. Both have a huge fan base that expects success which, more often than not, is duly delivered.
Portsmouth = Greece: They have both recently overachieved and won something against all odds, but are unlikely to repeat such a feat for a very long time. There is also the small matter of both being absolutely bankrupt. If a country could go into administration then Greece would have.
Stoke City = Algeria: Both have enjoyed more success than expected recently, by remaining in the respective top competitions. Through being very well organised, few teams enjoy playing them. If things aren’t going their way then they can turn nasty, as shown by some of the frankly ridiculous tackles Algeria put in when they lost 4-0 to Egypt in the semi final of this year’s African Cup of Nations.
Sunderland = Denmark: Historically been over shadowed by their more famous and successful neighbours but in the last few years have turned that around. With Sunderland in the Premiership and Newcastle in the Championship, and Denmark going to South Africa and Sweden failing to qualify, bragging rights belong firmly with the Mackems and Danes…for now.
Tottenham Hotspur = England: Perennial underachievers that have suffered countless false dawns since the glory days of the ‘60s, repeatedly breaking their fans’ hearts in the process. Generally considered to be bottlers at the most important moments in matches. Let’s hope England finally live up to expectations just as Spurs have this year.
West Ham = France: Not actually very good anymore but there is still the illusion that they are. Both squads have countless strikers, none of whom can score.
Wigan = Australia: Not very good but they don’t really mind as football isn’t their first sport.
Wolves = Uruguay: Successful a LONG time ago and have been dining out on those glories ever since.
There we go. All twenty Premier League teams matched to a team going to South Africa. After the World Cup, I’ll come back to this and see if the comparisons still hold. In the mean time, what other match ups can you think of?
If you liked/didn’t hate this article or even if you are simply bored, then please vote for me- Andy Burrows, in the COS May Writer of the Month award on the right of your screen. Done that? Thank-you.