By Simon Henry @simlington
Just as we thought the football season was ending, World Cup Fever starts. Hmmm.
If you don’t understand the first thing about football, but don’t want to feel left out this summer, here’s a quick guide to sounding like a real fan.
And don’t worry – most people with an opinion about the actual football don’t know what they’re talking about either.
Here’s a table showing how the World Cup works. You’ll probably ignore it.
It is worth noting that England’s group has Uruguay, Costa Rica and Italy in it.
Unfortunately, South Americans and Italians are generally better than us at football.
Now you theoretically know how the World Cup works – and that England are in a difficult group – you’re ready to approach conversation like a real football fan.
Five World Cup conversations you can join
1. Skill and tactics
England’s players are a bit rubbish compared to lots of foreign players. But their managers pride themselves on their tactics.
Imagine a chess game on grass with all the pieces in football strips. That’s football tactics.
To sound like you understand tactics, say something like this:
“Will Roy (Hodgson the manager) go for 4-4-2, 4-3-3, or 4-5-1?’
Or ‘Will Roy go for Spain’s False Nine? Or the Sweeper System?’
Just say these out loud – there’s absolutely no need to know what they actually mean.
Remember, you are allowed to admit England probably won’t win the competition – and may get kicked out after the first round.
Even the most optimistic England supporter accepts this, deep down.
The classic England supporter’s approach is to sound utterly jaded – but with just a touch of optimism.
Use phrases like: ‘We’ve got a mountain to climb to even reach the quarters – but once we’re there, who knows?’
The weather is a great get-out clause for poor England performances. Especially in South America where European countries never win.
Use phrases like:
‘Our boys are going to struggle in the conditions’ and
‘It doesn’t seem fair to expect our lads to perform in those conditions.’
Expect appreciative nods all round whenever you use the word ‘conditions’.
4. Foreign cheats
I’m not claiming the average England supporter is paranoid, but you won’t go far wrong with phrases like:
‘The Italians/Uruguayans/Costa Ricans have always gone down like a sack of spuds.’
‘Italian/Uruguayan/Costa Rican football’s a different beast – more diving than in an Olympic pool.’
Try to ensure your similies and metaphors involve vegetables or other sports and you won’t go far wrong.
England traditionally lose penalty shoot-outs. (These only happen in the knock-out stages, so they will probably be irrelevant.)
Still, you should keep phrases like the following in mind, just in case England actually get through the first round:
‘We don’t have the confidence to win on penalties.’
‘We’ll bloody bottle it – as usual.’
‘Penalty shoot-outs aren’t the English way. And we’re sh*t at them.’
6. Useful player details
Try to memorise some of the info about these players to sound like a pro England football fan.
Steven Gerrard aka Steve G: Midfielder and captain. Lifelong Liverpool player. Skills: Long range passing, tackling, dead balls. Unusual for a footballer in that he can string more than two sentences together and seems like a pretty decent and thoughtful chap.
Chris Smalling: Defender. Manchester United. Weak link in the team if you’re talking to anyone who isn’t a Man United fan. Use phrases like ‘untrustworthy’ and ‘really not sure what he’s doing in Brazil’ for Smalling and the other England and Man United defender, Phil Jones.
Adam Lallana: Attacking midfielder. Southampton. New to the England team. Will give the side ‘much-needed creativity’. Make ooohing and aaahing noises whenever he makes a creative pass, does a creative run or tries a creative shot.
Joe Hart: Goalkeeper. Manchester City. Had a flaky season despite appearing in a Head & Shoulders advert. Make this joke a couple of times per game. Others fans will, if you don’t.
Daniel Sturridge: Striker. Liverpool. Does a body-popping dance when he scores. Very greedy, shoots all the time and will miss at least three chances per game – if England cross the halfway line.
With thanks to Scott Allen @grumpyscott for his much-needed expertise on all matters football.
If you enjoyed this, you may like The British: A humorous guide to a misunderstood and eccentric people
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Copyright Simon Henry @simlington 2014