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The Usual Friday Crud

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Monday, 12 June 2006

World Cup lowdown...

After three days of intensive analysis, application of scientific models and weighing up the build-up to the tournament, sports editor Dan Nicholl and his team of experts have worked out exactly what will happen in this year's World Cup — including who will win the tournament.

Group A
Michael Ballack's feud with Jurgen Klinsman overshadows the bad blood between Jens Lehman and Oliver Kahn, but Ballack blows two weeks wages from his new Chelsea deal to buy out Klinsman's contract, and installs himself as player-manager. German public almost caught smiling as their team wins the group comfortably, with Costa Rica sneaking into second place, despite undue attention from sniffer dogs at customs every time they go through an airport.

Group B
English press call for Sven to be knighted after opening win over Paraguay. English press call for Sven to be shot at dawn after dismal draw with Sweden. English press call for Sven to succeed Queen Elizabeth after win over Trinidad and Tobago confirms top spot. David Beckham lauds team that can beat not only Trinidad, but Tobago as well. Victoria Beckham promises to produce a tribute song if England wins the World Cup; England team signs petition imploring her not to. Sweden finish second.

Group C
Commotion in opening match as Diego Maradona attempts to film his talk show mid-pitch during Argentina's opening game against Cote D'Ivoire. Group comes down to a shootout between Argentina and Holland in the final match, which Holland take in the final minutes to win the group. Ruud van Nistelrooy celebrates by sticking more pins into his Sir Alex Ferguson doll at post-match press conference.

Group D
Angolan players lose opening match to Portugal, but then take Luis Figo and Cristiano Ronaldo hostage afterwards, demanding reparations for colonial oppression, financial aid for economic growth, and an apology for inflicting peri-peri chicken wings on the Angolan people, who don't actually like them very much. Portugal finish top of the group after stand-off is resolved, with Iran also through after Mexico expelled for attempting to take FIFA to court mid-tournament, demanding royalty payments every time a crowd wave ripples through a stadium anywhere in the football world.

Group E
USA briefly withdrawn from tournament by American government, after President Bush declares the team cannot travel to the Middle East; quick clarification on the geographic location of Germany allows them back in, and three surprise wins see the Americans through. Italian players stage protest, claiming they haven't been called with instructions on who should win, and what they're being paid for the result, and Ghana slip into the next round after defeating the Czech Republic.

Group F
Australian team turns out to have the most challenging names in the tournament, and the game against Croatia sees 18 television commentators hospitalised with injured tongues. Australia win tough battle to join Brazil in the next round, who opt for the novel but thus far successful 1-1-8 formation, the added support up front allowing Ronaldo to break for meals during play (and adding great impetus to McDonald's World Cup sponsorship).

Group G
Togo team goes missing with the team bus, which turns up at a scrap yard four days later, stripped clean. Togo players emerge in Berlin a week later claiming asylum. South Koreans gain widespread plaudits for 'adopting' as a charity the local German SPCA, with each team member taking a new dog back to the hotel as mascot; "a mouth-watering opportunity we couldn't pass up", say team members. Switzerland play to three 0-0 draws, and France finish top ahead of the Koreans, who face rumours of sudden weight gain.

Group H
Last minute attempts by Saudi Arabia to sign Samuel Eto'o, Roy Keane, Ryan Giggs and Benni McCarthy and make them Saudi citizens are blocked by FIFA; McCarthy responds by saying he's quitting international football. Spain coast through with Ukraine, who are cautioned for offering the referee a complimentary wife from a selection of top Ukrainian websites before the match against Spain, in return for a favourable performance.

Second round
Blonde Swedes in the stands sadly come to an end as their team loses to Germany, the locals described by German television as being "extremely happy". Iran refuse to play against the Dutch, who appear to have women in their team; the phenomenon of long-haired men is carefully explained, before the Dutch win comfortably.
The English press call for Sven to be canonised following a victory over Costa Rica that is only marred by substitute Peter Crouch accidentally jumping up and down on Wayne Rooney's foot at half-time, ending Rooney's campaign and getting Crouch back in the starting XI. President Bush congratulates "the entire people of Vienna" on their victory after the United States loses to Australia, but promises that the war on terror will not let up.
Elsewhere, Portugal lose to Argentina, France see off Ukraine, the Koreans (whose dogs have all sadly gone missing) lose to Spain, and Ronaldo racks up a hat-trick, two Big Macs and a quarter-pounder with cheese in the defeat of Ghana.

Quarterfinals
German commentators describe the local people as "extremely sad" after losing on penalties to the Dutch, although most people struggle to discern the difference to the earlier round's "extremely happy". France coast past Australia, while Brazil beat Spain 19-17, amidst some suggestion that playing eight strikers has its tactical weaknesses.
And in England, MI5 are tasked with tracking down and bringing to justice Sven, after England lose to Argentina. On a bleak day for England, Peter Crouch is ruled out after hitting his head on a passing bridge, Theo Walcott keeps the team up all night with teething problems, and Sven is spotted having lunch with the Real Madrid president (who he is subsequently romantically linked to by The Sun in a world exclusive).

Semifinals and final
The Netherlands take on Argentina for a place in the final, with Van Basten recalling Gullit, Koeman and Davids for the big game. It pays off, as Holland go through to face France, who take advantage of Brazil's new 1-0-9 formation, and the absence of Ronaldo, who in a repeat of 1998 falls victim to a big night out at the Pizza Hut buffet. France and the Netherlands thus play off for the World Cup, a place in history, and the promise of a transfer to Stamford Bridge, after Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho offers to buy the winning squad. The Netherlands win 3-2 in extra time, and celebrate deliriously, although the largely German crowd seems strangely unmoved.

[Thanks Con]

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