Dilettantes, if you're reading this, God bless you. You're beginning to embrace the world's game, and you're committed to not looking like a certified broseph--or worse, a golfer--on Thursday when World Cup 2014 kicks off in Brazil. Now that you know a little about the most famous futbalinhos in the world, it's time you really got your hands dirty with their competition, Mexico and Croatia (all respect to our Cameroonian readers, all of whom I hope enjoy the group stage).
Mexico, who only finds themselves in this World Cup thanks to American heroics (redundancy) will provide Brazil with thirty thrilling minutes of football followed by sixty minutes of Hulk and Neymar breaking down the shaky Mexican defense and going plumb goal-loco(inho). Mexico's real competition in this group is Croatia, whom they'll be battling to move on to the knockout stage, and your pal EK's gotta tell ya: I don't see it happening.
After spending most of the Hex playing like a bunch of putas, Mexico has been noticeably better since hiring former Mexican international Miguel Herrera as manager. Herrera led Mexico out of the bottom of the Hex, where they started not only winless but goalless (including another dos a cero loss to los Estadios Unidos) to a World Cup berth thanks to what was really kind of an accidental American win over Panama. Since then they've tied America in a "friendly" despite American dominance in the first half, and the jury is out on which Mexican team will show up in Brazil. I think, based on their one star, Javier "Chicharito" Hernandez's lack of playing time for Man U, and Miguel Herrera's haircut, they're going to suck juevos grandes.
PLAYER TO KNOW
JAVIER "CHICHARITO" HERNANDEZ
Chicharito, Mexico's only real star, clubs with the team you've heard of, Manchester United, where he watches Robin Van Persie, Wayne Rooney, Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa play soccer. Don't let that fool you, though; at 25, Chicharito is already a legend in Mexican football, ranking third on their all-time goal list, and with a possible transfer to Real Madrid in the offing, he, along with Neymar, is poised to be a breakout star in this group.
Croatia isn't as shitty as, say, Romania, but it does lack some of the creature comforts enjoyed by its Macedonian neighbors: space, potable water and an okay smell, for starters. But what Croatia lacks in Skopjean cuisine it more than makes up for in young football talent. This group has been called the new "golden age" in Croatian football, a team with huge upside and the effervescent Madridista Luka Modric as the straw that stirs the pot.
But there's two sides to having young talent. It's like the Schwartz but with soccer. And let's be honest, it probably doesn't take much to get a Croat excited. If they knew about our scented Kleenexes and our autocorrecting phones and that Tupac had not only been dead for twenty years but also had come back to life as a hologram, just like Obi Wan Kenobi, they'd probably have a five-alarm riot in the streets of Zagreb. Or at least one of those donkey-yawing noisemakers that Europeans have instead of proper sirens.
On the back of Luke Modric, Croatia should be good enough to get out of this group, where it will face one of the group winners, someone like Spain or Germany or Argentina, in which case, that's where their story will end. If, however, they draw the winner of a weaker group, say Italy or France or Colombia, then watch out. It'll be all windbreakers and AKs in Rio, boi.
PLAYER TO KNOW
Sparkling midfielder Luka Modric plays his club football for the best outfit in the world, Real Madrid. I had my doubts about his taking full-time duty when my beloved Merengues sold Mesut Ozil to Arsenal, but Modric shined in all competitions this year, including the UEFA final where, in the 93rd minute, he struck a perfect corner that found the skull of Sergio Ramos to force an extra thirty minutes, during which Real Madrid closed, and closed with vigor.
You won't notice Modric's contributions during Croatia's Group A games because outside of a perfectly weighted pass or a surgical strike on a set-piece, that's just the nature of the position. But he's the reason Croatia will make it out of the group, and now you know his name.
The fourth country in Group A is Cameroon. Lovely people, the Cameroonians, I'm sure, but soccerwise they're shit. Ignore them.
So there you go--everything you, the dilettante, needs to know about Mexico and Croatia for World Cup 2014. In the next TDGTTWC I’ll look at defending Campeonoes de World Futbol, Espana, home of the greatest club team in the world, Real Madrid. Stay tuned.
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