As the dramatic turns of the 2014 FIFA World Cup draw fans to watch in record numbers, we've invited comedian and writer Greg Chociej to share his picks for the personae that lend this compeition its Shakespearean proportions. Here are his Group Stage picks for bad boys of the World Cup...
by: Greg Chociej
Let's start by saying that every single team at this competition are already winners, as the world cup is considered a final. The sweet end of a two year journey that culminates in a month long soccer festival, where eventually a champion proves worthy of all the free swag and adoration. Five individual players, two teams, one referee, and one terrifying climate make up my list of the Bad Boys of the 2014 FIFA World Cup so far.
Honduran defensive midfielder Jorge Claros takes the cake for bad boy of the tournament. In 2011, while dropping a friend off at home, Claros was shot twice in a failed carjacking. Once in the shoulder and, you guessed it, once in the head. Now, most people would, well... not live. But Claros actually drove himself to the hospital and was back at practice for his club team, Motagua, just two weeks later. He came on in the second half against France, and despite his side’s 3-0 loss, he played a crucial role in stopping the scoring. It’s important to remember, as we watch this competition, that the world is a huge crazy place. Some places are crazier than others, and in those places you might need to cheat death to pursue your dream. Hats off to Claros!
If you watch soccer and don’t cheer for Real Madrid or Portugal, you probably hate Pepe. This infuriating defender has been a thorn in a whole lotta sides over the last 10 years. The guy is big, strong, fast and if he’s not trying to end your tournament with reckless tackles, he’s probably trying to enrage you enough to make you do something stupid. Pepe’s first game was against Germany on Monday afternoon, where he was shown a red card at the end of the first half for headbutting Germany’s Thomas Muller while Muller was on the ground. Tough as nails and with a temper to boot. It goes without saying that if you ever have dinner at Pepe’s house, eat everything, be polite, and call poison control after you leave.
I chose this picture of Thomas Muller (in the centre with his mouth wide open) because I think he only has two faces. The first face is for when he’s sleeping, with a little smile, thinking about all of the goals he’s either scored or created. The second face is the one in this photo, where the teenage-looking sniper is celebrating the destruction of your hopes and dreams. When he’s not driving Pepe out of his mind, he’s driving me out of my mind. Muller plays his club football for Bayern Munich and I support their number one rivals, Borussia Dortmund. So, it’s not okay to headbutt people but, it’s kind of okay to headbutt Thomas Muller?
The Olympic motto is Cytius, Altius, Fortius, which in English means "Stronger, Higher, Faster". I’ve chosen these three words to define Mario Balotelli as well. Born to Ghanaian parents in Palermo, Mario Balotelli suffered from severe intestinal problems as a child. Unable to afford the operations and procedures needed to help the young boy, his birth parents gave him up for adoption and thereafter he was raised by an Italian family. His almost impossible natural talent combined with a hot temper mean that he’s always in the news for making the wrong decisions. "Difficult to work with", "egotistical" and "out of control" are all monikers assigned to this 23 year old. Wait? What? This super human is 23 years old? He was only 21 in 2012 when he dispatched a powerful German side from the tournament with two sublime goals, while also being the first black player to play for Italy at a major tournament. The weight of Italian soccer ambitions placed upon his barely adult shoulders. Italy. You know? Italy!!! So, it was refreshing to see him play a calm game, where he scored the winning goal against England and stayed out of trouble. His fate is now, as it always has been, firmly in his own hands. BALO!!!!!!! BALO!!!!!!!
Whenever I meet people who don’t like soccer or, more specifically, the World Cup, I always think the same thing: that they simply don’t like being happy. 'Cause there’s nothing better then a big win for the little guy. Like on Saturday afternoon when 28th place Costa Rica beat 7th place Uruguay. Uruguay has one of the best attacking trios in the world with Luis Suarez, Diego Forlan, and Edinson Cavani providing a dangerous attack up front, but that didn’t stop Costa Rica from running rampant over them. You ever dream about slapping your principal? Kicking your ex’s new boyfriend or girlfriend in the shin? Wedgieing that boss that called you “blimpo”? Well, Costa Rica did it for you! Revel in their splendour!
You dream, you work hard, you persevere through impossibilities, you believe in yourself in the darkest hours, establish a career, and then one day you start for your country in the World Cup. You stand upon the greatest footballing and event world stage, your country proud of who you’ve become as their representative. And then, if you’re Croatia’s Dejan Lovren, in the 69th minute of a tough contest between your team and the host team, you watch as the Brazilian striker ahead of you, Fred, falls on his butt like a baby. Perspective change. Lovren is shown a yellow, a shocking penalty is taken and scored, Brazil breaks Croatia’s spirit, and the game ends 3-1 in Brazil’s favour. This World Cup will be long and hard and many, many things will happen that will try to erase the opening ridiculousness. But no matter what, I will always remember Fred as the man who sat on the field like a baby, arms raised, buying a win. Lets hope Lovren’s favourite TV show wasn’t The Flintstones.
That’s not TV fuzz, that’s rain! It’s worth mentioning that another bad boy of this World Cup is actually a woman, Mother Nature. In Natal, where the Estadio das Dunas is located, the rain started on Friday and continued non-stop for upwards of 40 hours. This constant heavy rain caused landslides and evacuations, which eventually lead to a state of emergency being declared. But rain isn’t the only thing that football has to contend with, since human beings also built a stadium in the rainforest. Yep, a stadium in the Amazon Rainforest. The Arena Amazonia is located in the city of Manaus, right in the heart of the world’s largest rainforest. Many have questioned the decision to stage matches here in the face of almost constant high heat and exhausting humidity. Italy’s Claudio Marchisio said that at times it felt like he was hallucinating because of the intense heat during Italy’s 2-1 win over England on Saturday. In response, FIFA has instituted water breaks at the 30 and 75 minute marks if temperatures rise above 32 degrees celsius at the start of the game. So, Brazil is very hot and very wet. I just pulled a hamstring thinking about it.
Refereeing is probably the most scrutinized and most criticized part of the game. So, lets take a closer look at Thursday’s game because the proof is in the pudding. Overall, Nishimura charged 21 fouls to Croatia and only 5 to Brazil, which is indeed very drastic. He miraculously only showed Neymar a yellow in the 27th minute, after he viciously elbowed Luka Modric in the face, taking him down hard. Then, of course, there was the above-pictured yellow in the box which lead to Neymar converting the penalty from the spot. And, as if all of that wasn’t bad enough, there was also Ivica Olic’s disallowed goal in the 81st minute. That’s enough proof for me, this pudding stinks.
In a rematch of the World Cup final in South Africa four years ago, Netherlands beat Spain 5-1. Wow!
There you have them - my picks for the bad boys (and bad weather) of this World Cup so far. One could poke holes in it all day, but since soccer is on, watch the games instead!
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