World Cup 2010 Sweepstake - and then there were 8...

Well Folks,

The dust has settled on the group stage as well as the round of 16, leaving 8 brave teams (and of course, by association 8 of us) to fight it out for World Cup glory.

So what have we learnt so far in the 18 days of football, endless nights on the couch and the futile attempts to function in work the next day after depriving oneself of decent sleep for 3 weeks?

The nasal whine of Aussies the world over progressively increased in both pitch and length during their ultimately futile group stage efforts. As atrocity (the Germans opening a can of whoop ass on the poor Socceroos), followed atrocity (brave Aussie born-to-a-Samoan-mother-and-a-British-father-of-Irish-descent battler Timmy Cahill sees red as he is inexplicably sent off for a potential leg-breaker of a tackle), followed atrocity (Harry “sick note” Kewell rises from his death bed just long enough to make an impact on the World Cup.)

Although I’m sure the impact that everyone was hoping for wasn’t the red card that was given for the impact of his arm on the ball that prevented a certain goal as he made a more than decent impression of a goalkeeper. Which is quite ironic, considering he hasn’t impressed as a footballer since he left Leeds for Liverpool all those years ago)

But not content with these injustices, atrocity followed atrocity. Those pesky soon-to-be quarter-finalists, Ghana, failed to read the script and had the audacity to equalise against the brave 10 men of the Socceroos and despite the Socceroos actually playing some of their best football once their backs were to the wall as they faced World Cup elimination, Serbia scored and Germany couldn’t, undoing all the good work of the 2-0 lead that the brave Aussie lads had notched up previously.

World Cup hopes in the bin. Thanks for the memories, now rack off Pim!

Following their struggles against poor form, inept tactics, rash tackles, illegal goal-line clearances, and an undoubted vendetta from referees, FIFA and the world in general, there was only one thing left for the Aussies to do to cope with the injustice of what had happened.

Yes, shamelessly adopting the New Zealand team like they hailed from a hitherto unmentioned Australian state or territory and claiming them as their own (something they’ve been doing for years as Phar Lap, Split Enz, Russell Crowe and the poor pavlova would be only too willing to testify), as the All Whites defied their pre-tournament odds of 2500 to 1 and stuck it to Slovakia, Paraguay and reigning World Champions Italy no less.

Yes, the All Whites can hold their collective head high, as they return from a World Cup finals to their home land in the ar$e-end of the world undefeated.

Something their counterparts in the oval-shaped game have not been able to do since.....erm......

In every World Cup there are teams that surprisingly flounder and then there are others who – well – surprise. For every North Korean team that resolutely stifled a less than samba-ing Brazil there was a North Korean team getting flogged 7-0 by the Portuguese, a drubbing that I’m sure had their King of Political Spin, the dictator Kim Jong-Il rueing for quite some time. After the initially optimistic performance against Brazil he saw an opportunity to please the masses and decided to show – for the first time ever – a live football match on the one and only state-run propaganda television channel.

Lord knows what the masses thought as they watched their country getting thrashed on the world stage by a bunch of men with half the world’s supply of Bryclreem stuck to their heads.

For every Frenchman shrugging his shoulders, swearing, shouting at his manager and getting packed off home in disgrace, there were many more who did their talking on the pitch – by striking off the training pitch – and by the looks of their performances – on the football pitch as well, ensuring that they didn’t get too comfortable in their South African surrounds and were soon sent home (in economy class) to face the wrath of the French public – and its government.

Ably prompted by the White Caps, cheating, diving, boo-hiss and - let’s face it – reigning world champions Italy fared no better and were sent home, I’m sure, to face recriminations at Rome airport from many men dressed in Kappa tracksuits or designer suits and shades somehow managing to simultaneously hurl abuse with both hands, whilst shouting at the top of their lungs, gesticulating wildy, smoking on cigarettes and ordering a double-expresso delivery on their mobile phone whilst checking out the air hostesses.

Speaking of hostesses, the hosts, South Africa, diappointed but not as bad as was expected and at least they gave us the lasting memory of the vuvuzela. The less said about that the better.

Refereeing decisions were inconsistent and seemed to favour the big teams. Yet again. Conspiracy theories abound as USA! USA! USA! have two perfectly good goals disallowed, Argentina get away with an offside goal in the Round of 16 and Brazil at times look like they’re playing basketball rather than soccer. And then of course there is the Frank-Lampard-goal-that-never-was-in-a-sweet-revenge-for-1966-kind-of-way in England’s brave but futile attempt to beat Germany by allowing the Germans to run rings around them for two-thirds of the match in the hope that they would eventually tire out. Unfortunately, the only tired and burnt out image on show at the end of the game – apart from Capello’s withered features – was the England team itself as they trudged off the pitch.

Shakespeare himself would have struggled to write a better tragic comedy than the Ing-er-land football team’s performances at major finals for the past 44 years but surely had he dreamt up such a farce, even he couldn’t have come up with such a sad, insipid, anti-climax of an ending. The Golden Generation (as they like to be referred to) will now disappear into the sunset leaving the hopes of millions crushed at what might have been. No doubt the players shall try and console themselves during their retirement as they count their endless millions, peruse their air-shelters full of chavtastic bling-covered cars and search for sympahty in the form of the nearest airhead WAG-wannabe.

It’s all so unfair, isn’t it?!

And with that rather convoluted and contrived segue.....

Speaking of unfair – I have attached the updated spreadsheet containing the current standings that leaves 8 of you in the running for the big money.

Except - and here is where the “unfair” part comes in - there won’t be the “big money prizes” promised at the start of the competition because a few of you have still to pay their entrance fee of 10 dollars. So basically, this is the “name and shame in front of your peers campaign” - if you see your name with a red mark against it, then can you please respond by transferring the money into my account, or email me (not the whole group – we don’t want to pi55 off Lisa!) with other arrangements.

Thanks – and for those of you still in the game - why oh why couldn’t one of you have picked Greece instead of me?!