How’s your Brazilian slush fund looking?

FIFA World Cup South Africa

Remember the vuvuzelas at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa 2010? What will we see in Brazil in 2014? (Photo credit: Craig Strachan)

Bernardo still holds hope that he will soon win the lottery and will actually be able to afford to go to the World Cup in June 2014 in Brazil, where he will be able to practise his Portuguese with the locals, and his Spanish and Italian and possibly his French and Romanian with all those visiting fans. No doubt when Bernardo arrives in Brazil people will find him charming and pleasant to talk to and will want to buy him a beer or two. Possibly even a meal. As long as they don’t expect him to buy them anything in return, all should be fine.

Bernardo had an anxious time earlier in the week wondering which team he would support if Portugal and Romania (two of his favourite countries) were drawn together in the play-offs that will decide the last four European teams to qualify for the World Cup soccer tournament in Brazil next year. What would you prefer, two of your sentimental picks being paired together, thus guaranteeing that at least one will be there, or would you want them kept apart in the hope that both could make it – but also having to face the danger that none of them will make it? Have faith in your two favourites, that’s what Bernardo says.

Before the last round of group matches, Portugal had been certain of a place in at least the play-offs, but Romania had to beat Estonia and rely on the Netherlands not losing to Turkey to progress. On a nail-biting night, Romania won and Turkey lost.

Bernardo also had to face the possibility that France, a country he likes and one that is very relevant to this blog, would be drawn against Portugal. Bernardo was a great fan of France in the Michel Platini era (in the, ahem, mid-1980s), but has kind off gone off them now, for some reason. Bernardo doesn’t like it when the same teams win trophies over and over again – and he always wanted France to win a World Cup. Once they achieved that (in 1998), it no longer seemed so urgent.

As it happens, those three teams were kept apart. Portugal were drawn against Sweden (who will be formidable opposition), France have a tricky tie against Ukraine, Romania play Greece and the final pairing is little Iceland against Croatia. The matches take place in mid-November. The four winners will join Belgium, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Russia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, England and title holders Spain as the European contingent in Brazil next June-July. It was great to see Spain finally win it last time round in South Africa – Bernardo had been tipping Spain to win it for at least a decade, before that – they had such great players (Raul, Luis Enrique, Morientes et al). Great, too, that the tournament was held in Africa.

The South American qualifiers for Brazil 2014 are Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Ecuador, while the fifth-placed team, Uruguay, will have to play off against the fifth-placed team from Asia, Jordan. Uruguay will be firm favourites to win that one. Bernardo will be supporting little Jordan in that one, partly because it is always welcome to see new faces at the tournament (Uruguay are regulars and have won the World Cup twice), and partly because he is very fond of that country, which he visited as a journalist last year. You can read his impressions of Jordan in The Australian Financial Review’s Sophisticated Traveller magazine here. You didn’t know that Bernardo was sophisticated, did you?🙂

The Asian zone teams that qualified are Iran, Japan, South Korea, Australia.

Turning to North and Central America, The United States, Chile and Honduras will definitely be in Brazil, and the fourth-placed team in their qualifying zone, Mexico, have to play off against Oceania winners New Zealand. Mexico are lucky to still be in with a chance. Really, Panama should be playing New Zealand instead. In their last game, Panama were leading the US 2-1 in extra time but amazingly conceded two goals in the 93rd and 94th minutes of the match to blow the opportunity. They must be kicking themselves.

Which leaves Africa. The first legs of the final deciders have already been played and the return legs will be in mid-November. Ghana thumped Egypt 6-1 so should be there, but the other matches finished thus: Burkina Faso 3 Algeria 2; Côte D’Ivoire 3 Senegal 1; Ethiopia 1 Nigeria 2, and Tunisia 0 Cameroon 0.

Incidentally, Brazil are the only team to have played in all the 19 World Cup tournaments held so far. The first was in 1930 and it is held ever four years, but the 1942 and 1946 ones were not held because of the second world war. Brazil last hosted the tournament in 1950, so today’s sports fans all over the world will finally get a good look into Brazilian language and culture.

Igazu falls - Brazil

On Bernardo’s bucket list: Iguacu falls in Brazil (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

So if your national  team is going to be there or is still in the running, we might see you around in Brazil some time soon (you’re going to win your national lottery too, right?). But if your nation has missed the boat to Brazil, well, good luck for Russia, which will be hosting the tournament for the first time in 2018. Start putting your coins in your piggy bank for that one now….

Russia is hosting the 2014 winter Olympics, and as well as the 2014 World Cup Brazil is hosting the 2016 Olympics, so as far as languages go you would have to say that really Portuguese and Russian are the flavours of the moment. (This paragraph has been inserted here to try to bring some intellectual content to what is basically a discussion about football. I hope you fell for that trick.) See you next time.🙂

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