So! The draw! It happened! The World Cup is an event that is happening! With teams! Thirty-two of them!
First, the presentation. Things began in very FIFA-like fashion with no audio, then suddenly the booming, familiar world feed voice of John Helm (who’s reigned in his sniffing over the years) giving us badly timed English translation over the pretty Portuguese speaking faces of Fernanda Lima and her husband Rodrigo Hilbert, a choice that might turn out to be racist. The sound production was awful pretty much throughout, though this is a visual exercise.
Things kicked off with a well-put together tribute to the late Nelson Mandela and his long association with football, although there was a choice, long cut of Mandela embracing FIFA president Sepp Blatter. This was cancelled out a little by a lovely shot of Pele kissing Mandiba, which was the only earnestly moving moment of the day.
Then what followed for the next hour or so was vintage FIFA. Awkward transitions. Musical numbers with a lack of choreography. Unfortunate choices in dress. Poor audio (did I mention the sound production?).
And of course bumbling old Blatter himself, strutting out out after a short tourism video, violently grabbing the mic out of Lima’s lovely hands while avoiding eye contact, only to aggressively exhort the audience to “applaud, please!” The Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff added some words on Brazil’s multicultural make up, and the Blatter was back doing his “football builds bridges” and making a barely disguised plea to the Brazilian people to play nicey nice next summer.
Then a montage featuring a little kid wearing his dad’s blazer or something, running through World Cup history in a kind of high school production only to literally pick up an hour glass at the end to represent the passage of time. That happened. No I don’t have a GIF of it.
Del Bosque came out to threaten the other 31 nations with annihilation, and then more creepy dancing with poor audio featuring a man in a white suit gesturing for his mic to be turned up because of the poor audio, and then Ronaldo! RONALDO! Thank the Lord! And he promised us the best World Cup ever, for which we should be grateful.
As if that wasn’t good enough, the giant furry Armadillo came out! And don’t sniff at the jittery Fuleco—his Wikipedia page is longer than some dead English kings. This preceded a pretty neat dance choreography thing with attractive people moving their bodies, wearing short shorts.
Then Pele! I don’t know what he said though: poor audio and Helm’s booming voice. After a quick panorama featuring the stadiums, Jerome Valcke walked on, which is the best way to know that this was all about to go down.
Geoff Hurst. Mario Kempes, Fabio Cannavaro, Lothar Matthaus, Zidane, Cafu…lovely. After a completely, utterly bewildering explanation of the existence of something called Pot X, we got into it in earnest, and…well…it was quick. The highlight of the night? Geoff Hurst grabbing one of the few remaining European nations in the pot, smirked, nodded his head confidently, and then brought it over to Valcke. The man who scored a World Cup final hat-trick, winning England the World Cup, drew them in Group D alongside Uruguay, Costa Rica, and Italy. Anyway, this is how the draw unfolded:
And the USA…oh the USA. At first it was funny, and things got sick. Group G with Portugal and Ronaldo, with Ghana and a history of failure against Ghana, with Germany, a World Cup favourite. They will pray for some of this:
For the neutral though, there is a LOT to like in the early stages. Group B could be a blockbuster, and an opportunity for Chile to cause a major upset. Group C is a very interesting prospect, with a potential barnstormer in Colombia vs Ivory Coast, and a good chance for Japan to do some real damage. Group H is a good a group as Belgium could have wished for, and France will be counting their blessings having drawn Group E for easy.
Just a heads up, we’ll be talking about all of this later on the pod, which I’ll drop here as soon as it’s up!