Usain Bolt’s quest to become a professional footballer appears to have run its course, with the former Jamaican sprinter saying his “sports life is over”.
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We continue our in-depth look at the ins and outs, the ups and downs, the rights and lefts and the protons and electrons of the nations of World Cup 2018.
The southernmost slice of bread in North America’s USA sandwich has a proud footballing history that it keeps very quiet about in order to lull others into a false sense of security.
Mexico is the most successful nation in the CONCACAF region, though nobody knows what these letters mean.
At this World Cup the theme of the Mexican team is ‘peer pressure’, and the players hope that their set plays will illustrate important lessons for young people.
Morocco first came to fame with the classic film Casablanca, a dramatic retelling of the 1934 World Cup.
Since then, Morocco has fallen on hard times, and its squad this year has had to make their own uniforms out of the drapes in their governess’s bedroom.
At each game, the assistant coaches will be helping boost funds by selling cigarettes in the stands.
On the pitch, Morocco is expected to cause most trouble to teams with defences inexperienced at withstanding wartime intrigue.
Nigeria has not turned up to the World Cup, after revealing that it only entered the qualifying rounds in an attempt to get FIFA’s bank details.
As Van Halen sang, “Panama! Panama-a-a-a-a-a!” This is as true today as it ever has been.
The Panama Canal is 82 kilometres long and has had more than 800,000 vessels pass through it.
Opposition teams will be foolhardy if they ignore these facts when planning their strategy against the plucky Panamanians, who in lead-up games have gained a reputation for anonymity.
Peruvians eat guinea pigs. Think about that.
With their signature chant “For the honour of Grand Duke Jogaila!” the Polish have always made fearsome and cunning adversaries, and it is generally accepted that Poland would have won at least eight World Cups if it weren’t for incorrectly inflated balls.
One of Poland’s most notable destinations is Wroclaw which is famous for having more than 350 dwarf figurines scattered throughout the city.
The national football team will hope to creep its opposition out as thoroughly as these dwarfs do to visitors.
Portugal is blessed to have the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo, the eldest son of former Brazilian star Ronaldo, who was himself the son of Pele, brother of George Best.
This focus on family is crucial to the Portuguese footballing philosophy, which has seen the administration introduce flexible working hours for players and creches set up in the penalty area. “Happy players, happy coaches,” says Portugal’s coach, bafflingly.
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Russia is the host of the 2018 World Cup and plans to extend the country’s famous hospitality to all-comers, having signed a binding pledge to allow at least 60 per cent of visiting players and administrators to return to their home countries alive.
Russia expects to win the World Cup this year and has put several infantry divisions on high alert to ensure this.
This country’s name is officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, making this the wrong place to put it alphabetically.
This is typical of FIFA’s incompetence and will not change until there are root and branch reform of the organisation’s governance procedures.
Saudi Arabia itself is a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean and has stunned the world with its rise to the upper echelons of world football (despite the country’s only football pitch being underwater).
Senegal will be hoping that a strong showing in Russia 2018 provides a much-needed boost to its calcium phosphate exports.
Still reeling from the trauma of the Habsburg invasions, Serbia had high hopes of gaining a fillip to national pride from showcasing the flair and commitment of its footballers to the world.
Unfortunately, however, the team has been drawn in the notorious ‘Group Of Death’, and will have to escape a pit of snakes and an outbreak of smallpox just to make the Round of 16.
Spain won the World Cup in 2010, but they have nevertheless turned up this year trying to win again, as for some people – nothing will ever be enough.
Their chances of winning in 2018 hinge mainly on their ability to kick the ball over the goal-line and prevent players on the opposing team doing so – though many analysts claim that this will not be enough, and they will also have to ensure that the goal-line they kick the ball over is the one at the end of the ground where they are supposed to kick the ball over the line.
Thankfully, a highly-trained team of sports scientists and strategists will be on hand to make sure the players remember this.
Sweden is the birthplace of soccer, which was first played in Stockholm in 1927.
Sweden has not fought in a war since 1814 and has grown fat and lazy. They will be ripe for the plucking by other, hungrier nations, and their downfall will be just recompense for their decadent complacency.
In 1992, the Swedish central bank raised interest rates to 500%, but it is not expected that interest in their football team will be very high this year.
Switzerland is the land of William Tell, who famously shot an apple off his son’s head in order to prove that, contrary to the prevailing scientific opinions of the time, arrows were sharp.
This gave birth to the William Tell Overture, which was named after the 1812 Overture, which uses cannons. The Swiss football team does not use cannons, which is a shame as that would be the only way they could possibly win.
Tunisia was the filming location for Monty Python’s Life Of Brian, but it has frequently failed to live up to this early promise in subsequent international tournaments.
Russia 2018 is a prime opportunity for the Tunisian team – affectionately dubbed ‘The Hurtling Narwhals’ by fans – to finally deliver on the potential displayed in the climactic “Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life” scene.
Uruguay won the first ever World Cup, but that was a long time ago and everyone who played in that team is now dead. So what good did it do them? Absolutely none, that’s what. We should never forget this.