Barcelona’s Gerard Pique (L) is backing a $3.82 billion revamp of the Davis Cup into a week-long World Cup event. (Reuters: Kai Pfaffenbach)
The Socceroos have beaten Hungary, Brazil had another injury scare and France are still tinkering with their formation. Comedian Ed Kavalee looks at the interesting World Cup players set to take the field.
Starting with the Socceroos’ first opponent: France.
Players to watch: France — which French player throws the first tantrum
Your options are: Antoine Griezmann when Paul Pogba doesn’t square it to him for a tap-in. Pogba when the coach won’t play the formation he wants or both of them when Kylian Mbappe tries to score from halfway with his weaker foot.
`The French spend all their time telling the press there are no tensions in the squad, which is how you know there are. Which presents the Socceroos with an opening.
Australia’s best hope to beat France is to start an on-field rumours campaign.
Mile Jedinak to Pogba: “I heard Griezmann say your hair looks like Sisqo’s from Tha Thong Song.”
Aaron Mooy to Olivier Giroud: “Hugo Lloris told me he thinks your beard looks like you stole it from a community theatre’s costume cupboard.”
Mat Ryan to Mbappe: “Raphael Varane said you remind him of Stefan Guivarc’h”.
Trust me, that last one would sting.
Guivarc’h was France’s starting striker in the 1998 world cup. He was not prolific. He didn’t score at all. Not once.
A few choice words, the French implode during the game and we stroll to the win.
If only there was an Australian national sports team that specialised in sledging we could ask for help. Oh well.
Players to watch: Spain — their defence
Spain has the best goalkeeper in the world and the best defence. That’s a very German characteristic that the Spanish have found themselves blessed with.
I want to focus on their central defensive pairing in Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos. One Barcelona and the other Real Madrid. One a handsome clean-skin gliding around the pitch arriving in the right position just in time like he’s been beamed there by Scotty.
The other a tattooed street fighter who arrives late with an elbow or some studs as a gift. It’s the closest football comes to an odd couple sitcom cast.
Gerard Pique. Spain fans boo him.
According to the Guardian (do I get extra ABC points for mentioning our best media buddies?), Pique is so used to getting booed by his own fans, he once asked a teammate at half time “they didn’t whistle at me today did they bro?”
The whistle/booing is about his feeling on Catalonia separating from Spain and basically means he’s loved by many in Barcelona and hated by many everywhere else in Spain.
Don’t feel too bad for Pique. He’s married to Shakira and gets to play with Lionel Messi at Barcelona every week.
The Spanish central defender that deserves some boos is his partner, Ramos. His defending has a Chopper Reed vibe to it.
His ju-jitsu tackle on Egypt’s Mohamed Salah left him in doubt for the tournament. Which leads us to talking about Egypt’s best player.
Salah is so popular in Egypt that many news outlets reported he came second in the Egyptian presidential election, even though he wasn’t on the ballot.
Over a million people crossed out the names of the candidates and wrote his name in.
Players to watch: Argentina — It’s easy to go on about Messi but let’s focus on Argentina’s goalkeepers
Argentina’s number one got injured so now it’s a really interesting threesome they’ve gone for. The three keepers have a combined age of 99 and a combined nine caps between them.
Let’s compare that to just Egypt’s number one, Essam El-Hadary. He’s 45 years old and has 157 caps.
The good news: Argentina’s goalies will let in so many that Messi will have to play even better for them to win.
Ed Kavalee is one third of Santo, Sam and Ed’s Total Football. You can hear and watch their coverage over the course of FIFA World Cup on iView, ABC Listen app or wherever you find your favourite podcasts.