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The greatest show on earth

June 11, 2010

It’s easy – and usually justified – to be cynical about modern football. Rising ticket prices, moving kick-off times, greater debt and an increase in banal punditry are just a few of the things that have gradually detracted from the experience of supporting a team over the last couple of decades.

But, for four weeks, cynicism is rightfully set aside as the World Cup begins. In theory the competition encompasses everything that’s unpleasant about football – relentless sponsorship, lazy national stereotypes and wearisome hyperbole. But it is hard – unless you’re an Eastenders fan unhappy with your schedule being messed about – to resist the lure. The World Cup is fantastic.

Watching three games a day is a pleasure. It’s what a lot of people do every Saturday, but the World Cup has the equivalent of ten Saturdays in a row throughout the group stage (starting tomorrow, as you have no doubt heard, with a trio ending with England v the USA). Today sees the opening salvo of South Africa v Mexico and Uruguay v France. Learning about teams and players we know little about is half the appeal, even if who wins isn’t personally important.

South Africa have done well to create a mascot that rivals the London 2012 ones

At its best the World Cup produces magnificent games of football – Germany v Italy in the 2006 semi-final is a recent example. Even at its worst it plugs the unwelcome gap between domestic football seasons: there are just three weeks between the final and the opening day of the Football League, fixtures for which are released next Thursday.

There’s no point in trying to provide comprehensive coverage of the month-long event; it’s a) boring, b) difficult to do and c) available elsewhere. But we will put forward a few thoughts every so often about the games and the TV coverage we’ll be treated to throughout. There may even be some live text commentary.

As our African Cup of Nations predictions went so spectacularly awry, we’ll have another go, taking things on a day-by-day basis.

Today’s predictions: South Africa 0 Mexico 2.
Uruguay 1 France 0

What do you think? Comment throughout the competition are, as always, welcome.

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