Tag Archives: World Cup

World Cup: Why do certain countries dominate?

So, no more World Cup for four years. I thought this was a good one overall, although the goals mostly dried up and caution took over from the quarter-finals onwards (with the obvious exception of Germany–Brazil). The Netherlands couldn’t manage a single goal in four hours of trying against Costa Rica and Argentina. But at least the final was a good game.

In the end it came down to some of the old reliables, after Colombia, Belgium and Costa Rica had looked like they might shake things up. The upshot is that Europe now leads South America 11–9, and Brazil, Italy and Germany between them have won 13 of the 20 World Cups. Why have three countries been so dominant? Continue reading


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England’s dreaming (again)

I wrote this piece ten years ago, before the Euro 2000 football tournament.

In 1970, when I was nine years old and living in a small town in Ireland, I started to fill an album with football cards featuring players in that year’s World Cup. Pictured on the cover was the smiling Bobby Moore of 1966, being chaired by his team-mates and holding the Jules Rimet trophy aloft. The England players wore jerseys of a glorious cherry red that reminded me of the taste of some rich cordial, with the ‘three lions’ crest that the FA shares, for some reason, with the O’Briens.

The small trophy had an understated beauty, and the players had a sort of grandeur: I was disappointed to find that they usually wore white. But when England played Brazil and West Germany that summer, somehow I already knew instinctively who to cheer for. And when I watch England’s matches in Euro 2000, nothing much will have changed. I’ve often felt somewhat furtive and guilty about hoping that England will lose, especially since I’ve known many very fine English people. But it’s not to do with them: it’s to do with St George and the dragon. I’ll now try to explain why I always cheer for the dragon. Continue reading


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