If cricket’s nine test sides were at the World Cup, which footballing nation would they be?
Pakistan are France – Bit of an obvious one this one. The football world was amazed by the dysfunctional, disloyal and mutinous French, but thanks to Pakistan and the PCB, cricket is familiar with having a crazy team and an even crazier administrative board within its ranks. L’equipe de France is only an apprentice in controversy compared to the old hands of Pakistan.
India are England – Both full of richly talented performers but who continually fail to deliver on the big stage that is the World Cup to deflate the huge media expectation at home. 44 years of hurt for the England football team is nearly equalled by India’s 27 year gap since they won the cricket World Cup in 1983. However, at least India are the number one ranked test side; the England football team have done nothing as good.
England are Spain – Until recently, both sides had failed to deliver on the big stage for a very long time. England had a false start with winning the 2005 Ashes, but since the introduction of Andy Flower as coach have regained the Ashes and now won the World T20. Spain finally broke their quarter final hoodoo in the 2008 European Championships and now both teams dream of the ultimate success of a football World Cup and an Ashes win in Australia. Both have a really good chance.
Australia are Germany – England’s biggest foe in cricket and football respectively, both are now rebuilding after long periods of success. Whilst both are not quite the side they were in days of yore, both tend to raise their game for England and like nothing more than rubbing the nose of St George in the mud. It is a fool that would ever rule out the Australian cricket side and the German football team.
South Africa are Portugal– Consistently strong teams that never seem to win anything and have a tendency to choke. South Africa have stumbled with the victory line in sight in so many competitions, but the 1999 World Cup particularly sticks out with the two games against Australia and Herschelle Gibbs dropping the World Cup. Portugal too had the ultimate opportunity for a trophy when they played obdurate Greece at home in the European Championship Final of 2004, but contrived to lose 1-0 with Ronaldo finishing the game in tears (ha ha).
Sri Lanka are Holland – Continually punch above their weight, limited resources and a small population, and do so with a huge degree of style whilst even managing to win things. For Sri Lanka, it was the 1996 World Cup and strong subsequent performances plus colourful players such as Jayasuriya, Da Silva, Sangakkara, Vaas and Murali. Whilst for Holland, read the 1988 European Championship victory, two World Cup finals and some of the greatest footballers ever in Cruyff, Gullit and Van Basten.
West Indies are Italy – Fallen champions. Italy unbelievably finished bottom of a weak group containing Paraguay, New Zealand and Slovakia just four years after winning the World Cup. West Indies have been on a downward spiral ever since Australia won their elusive series in the Caribbean in 1995. Italy will rise again though, but will the demoralised West Indies?
New Zealand are Paraguay – Always seem to qualify for the second stage, but are then found wanting due to a lack of stardust and strength in depth. Dependable, tough to beat but ultimately boring. Finally, with South America having a history of dictators, Daniel Vettori would be right at home.
Bangladesh are Cameroon/Nigeria – Despite continuous stories saying Bangladesh are getting better they continue to lose and rank at the bottom of the pile. Whilst African football is reasonably strong and has a number of the best players in the world, the predictions of many (including Pele) that an African country would win the World Cup has failed to materialise and only Ghana made it past the group stage in South Africa. So it may be a bit of an unfair comparison to Cameroon and Nigeria, but for failing to even win a match in this year’s World Cup, for now they are Bangladesh.
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