World Cup

FIFA World Cup: Rubbish Football Between Irrelevant Nations

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Far from being a show-piece for excellence, FIFA's World Cup is a money-spinning convention packed with average teams playing poor football.

Over the course of a month, 32 teams battle through 64 games to establish which nation can call itself Champions of the World. But the reality is that half of those sides shouldn't even be there, and are merely present to boost the viewing figures and provide a casino-style atmosphere for FIFA delegates and corporate sponsors.

Take New Zealand v Slovakia, a game for which the main betting market involved how many empty seats there would be in the Royal Bafokeng Stadium (correct spread – 20,000 to 21,000).

It was match between a country that most people would struggle to pinpoint on a map, and a nation with just one professional club side and no professional league. (Wellington Phoenix, the sole team employing full time footballers in New Zealand, plays in the Australian league).

The 23,871 that did bother to turn up for this clash of the titans amounted to a crowd 2,000 fewer than that present for the Leeds United v Milton Keynes Dons match on the final day of the season in England's third-tier league.

Other matches in the tournament have seen the spectacle of coach-loads of school kids imported as non-paying extras to avoid the embarrassment of empty stands.

And then there is the football. Should Greece, a team whose sole aim is to kill every game in which they appear stone dead, really be permitted to appear on this stage?

Switzerland, Harry Lime famously said in The Third Man, had taken 500 years of brotherly love and peace to produce nothing more intrinsic to world culture than 'the cuckoo clock'. If only their football were so diverting.

And even France, who desperately scraped into the competition with a non-goal punched-in against a nation that lists shinty as a national sport, couldn't be bothered to play in most of their matches. On present form, the French national team would struggle to escape relegation from its own domestic league.

North Korea, so dreadful a side that they conceded seven goals to a well below-par Portugal, didn't even have the excuse that they were being cheered-on by the millions watching at home. The country has no broadcasting rights for the tournament, and recently managed to fall out with it's neighbours to the south who had promised to provide pictures.

FIFA should dump this self-aggrandising jamboree for also-rans, in favour of a contest between major nations worthy of the title 'World Cup'.