Group E: Guinea Pigs, “Fat Blokes,” Drones and Misplaced Hotel Reservations

14 Jun

Group E

Hey gang, it’s Karo (kfunk22 / karoroad), reporting for Group E duty as we get underway in Brazil. Super pumped to be here with you all! How awesome is this going to be? How awesome has this been already?
mygypsyspirit did such a fabulous job of putting together the team profiles (I’ve linked to them in the subheads below if you need a refresher), so I’m just going to plow onwards into the void! Below, you’ll find brief overviews with lots of awesome links for fabulous further reading.

Minimalist Interpretations of World Cup 2014 Team Logos by Daniel Nyari, whose awesome football art keeps my Tumblr dash happy.

Valon Behrami, Diego Benaglio and Admir Mehmedi arrive in Brazil. (AFP/Anne-Christine Poujoulat)

La Nati, Switzerland

Between all the chocolate, secret bank accounts and draconian immigration quotas, it’s easy to forget the Swiss are currently ranked 6th in the world. (France, the odds-on favorite, are 17th). Despite their one-goal wonder win over Spain at the 2010 World Cup, they left the competition in typical fashion: after a quick run of boring, toothless matches. So how’d they end up ranked so highly—and seeded in their group? Here’s an interesting breakdown, courtesy of the folks over at BBC.

That looks poised to change in Brazil. The squad, a veritable melting pot of first- and second-generation immigrants that flies in the face of the country’s recent wave of anti-immigration laws, is young, hungry and filled with players-on-the-brink: explosive right winger Xherdan Shaqiri, who mostly sits on the bench at Bayern Munich but may be on his way to Liverpool, and centerback Fabian Schar, a former bank teller at FC Basel whose ability to find the back of the net still haunts my Tottenham-loving heart (see: Europa League quarterfinals, 2013).

Divining Diva Madame Shiva (AFP)

One of Paul the Octopus’s would-be successors, soothsaying guinea pig Madame Shiva thinks La Nati have got it in the bag against Ecuador. She’s Swiss, so I’d say that she’s got an axe to grind but we all know about how the Swiss feel about remaining neutral.

Anything’s possible in a nation that once worshipped at the altar of Roy Hodgson.

Los Catrachos, Ecuador

Carlo Costly celebrating his 44% strike rate (AFP/Ricardo Makyn)

La Nati will find familiar faces on the Honduras squad, which shared a group with them in 2010; the two sides both tanked out of the group stage following a dismal 0-0 draw.

Los Catrachos are led by Luis Fernando Suarez, a feisty leader who makes no bones about his opinion of his players. Suarez was decidedly unimpressed when he heard that his squad’s star striker, the awesomely named perennial clubhopper Carlo Costly, was taking a six-month sabbatical a la Landon Donovan. There was definite mention of “fat blokes” in the exchange that ensued.

The home fans aren’t keen to let their players off the hook either. Back-up goalkeeper Donis Escober learned that the hard way after he once requested a toilet break just 15 minutes into a game: fans showed up to jeer him in nappies.

The indomitable Wilson Palacios (Fabio De Paola/Guardian)

Suarez’s squad is known for its fierceness on the field as well: strong tackling and stifling pressure as long as their legs hold up. You’d expect no less from a country that waged the Football War against El Salvador in 1969. Despite its name, the economically fueled conflict didn’t have much to do with football, save for the fact that fighting broke out at a pair of 1970 World Cup qualifying matches between the two countries.

Honduras has a troubled history of violence, and a recent U.N. report cited this deadly statistic: there are 90.4 homicides for every 100,000 people in Honduras—roughly twice that of the next highest country, Venezuela. And the players themselves aren’t immune to the consequences. Former Spurs midfielder Wilson Palacios, now at Stoke City, lost his youngest brother Edwin in 2009 after he turned up dead 19 months after being kidnapped. Palacios considering giving up his career but forged onward in tribute, ultimately naming his son after Edwin. His is just one story (one definitely worth reading) in a country of 8 million stories.

Les Bleus, France

UntitledI’m pretty sure you’re up to speed on these guys. The endless rehashes of Le Revolution Francaise 2010. Nasri’s exile. Ribery’s injury. Griezmann’s gross hairstyle. Benzema’s butt massages. Here’s everyone being tres francaise sur l’avion:

There was also the little matter of being spied on at training by a drone but Commissaire Maigret is on the case.

So let’s just move on to the pretty, shall we?

Monsieur Super Sexy, Olivier Giroud (football-hqs).

M. Chaton de Guerre Karim Benzema (lloris-angels25)


Testing the limits of gravity with hotness are MM. Matheiu Debuchy, Rio Mavuba & Yohan Cabaye (asiesfutbol)

La Tri, Ecuador

Making their third appearance in the World Cup are Ecuador’s La Tri, named after the equatorial nation’s tricolored yellow, blue and red flag. They may be easy to overlook (boasting one of the shortest squads, alongside Chile, Mexico and groupmates Honduras), but Ecuadorians take their football very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that former national team coach Hernan Gomez was shot in the leg in 2001 by a disturbed fan who was unhappy that the son of the country’s former president Abdala Bucaram was excluded from the national U-20 team.

Then there was the debacle at the 2004 Copa America, in which Ecuador threatened to withdraw from the competition after a hotel gave away their reservation to their Argentinean rivals.

Don’t underestimate La Tri — or their fans.

La Tri are one of only two teams in the tournament (shout out to South Korea!) whose squad do not include any players of dual nationalities. In fact, a staggering 10 of their 23 players hail from a single town, the port city of Esmeraldas. Located near Ecuador’s northern border with Colombia, many of the country’s most successful footballers have cut their teeth on what is lovingly referred to as the best pitch in the country: the Pacific coastline. It’s easy to see why it’s such a popular spot for football scouts.

Midfielder Christhian Noboa and forward Joao Rojas, seen here waving to their children during training, will look to fill the void left by the late, great Chucho Benitez (AFP/Rodrigo Buendia)

What remains to be seen is how well the squad will be able to cope with the tragic loss of Christian “Chucho” Benitez, who passed away suddenly of heart failure last July at age 27. The striker, around whom the team was built, has been described as “practically irreplaceable” by Ecuador coach Reinaldo Rueda. Hoping to plug the gap will be Manchester United’s right winger Antonio Valencia, central midfield Christhian Noboa and former Manchester City man  Felipe Caicedo. They’ll also be susceptible in defense, following an injury that sidelined veteran centerback Segundo Castillo during the squad’s warm up matches.

Ecuador are surely hoping the third time’s a charm.

My money’s on France heading the group, while Ecuador slip into the remaining slot after a heated battle with Switzerland that will come down to goal difference. How do you think it will all shake out, Watishistas?

One Response to “Group E: Guinea Pigs, “Fat Blokes,” Drones and Misplaced Hotel Reservations”

  1. Katie Ann June 15, 2014 at 10:20 am #

    Awesome profiles!

    I’m pulling for France because the ancestors will never forgive me if I don’t. Love the video of them being tres francaise. 😉

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