World Cup Facts

ESPN's done a fantastic job of promoting the World Cup over the last several years (take this recent spot for the US team, or this U2-inspired one from four years ago). The latest ad goes through all 32 teams in the field and gives us one interesting fact about each of them. It's another winner - although some of the facts left a little to be desired...

1. Brazil factoid: The team hasn't lost a competitive home match since 1975. In other words, the Brazilian national team turns into the Harlem Globetrotters when they hit home soil. Actually, that probably isn't far from the truth.

2. Spain factoid: This team holds the record for winning 29 consecutive competitive matches. Who ended that streak? Brazil, at last year's Confederations Cup. Spain is probably the best team on paper, but they're not so deep at forward. How else to explain Chelsea flop Fernando Torres's spot on the preliminary roster?

3. Netherlands factoid: This is the only team to make three final matches and not win a World Cup. But they always entertain. Except for in the 2010 Final, when Nigel de Jong thought he was competing for the UFC world title.

4. Cameroon factoid: The team's seven World Cup appearances are a record for an African nation. And many people still overrate them because they upset Argentina in 1990.

5. Iran factoid: Iran's odds of winning the World Cup are 2500/1. But they'll always have 1998.

6. Switzerland factoid: The Swiss were the only team to beat Spain in the 2010 World Cup. And all it did was piss Spain off...

7. Nigeria factoid: Their president almost banned them from playing after a poor showing in 2010. Too bad France's president didn't ban Les Bleus after the 2010 debacle.

8. Croatia factoid: Josip Simunic once received three yellow cards in a single match. Wow, I was convinced they'd talk about his suspension from the World Cup after leading a pro-Croatian chant that has neo-Nazi historic underpinnings.

9. Ecuador factoid: The team retired Christian Benitez's number after he suddenly died in July. Classy.

10. Cristiano Ronaldo - I mean Portugal factoid: The reigning World Player of the Year was named after Ronald Reagan. And like Reagan when he was first elected President, Ronaldo has played like an 69 year-old man in the World Cup, scoring only two goals in 10 matches. By contrast, he has 15 goals in 29 World Cup qualifiers.

11. Germany factoid: Miroslav Klose is two goals away from being the all-time leading goalscorer in the World Cup. In his club career, Klose's strike rate is 206 goals in 524 appearances for Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Lazio. His rate for Germany is 68 goals in 131 matches. Too bad his club managers could never figure out how to hypnotize him into thinking he was really playing for Germany.

12. Italy factoid: Mario Balotelli became a spokesman for a fire-safety campaign in England after he got careless with some firecrackers and set fire to his Manchester house. The day after the fire, he burned Man United, bagging the first two goals in Man City's 6-1 demolition of their rivals at Old Trafford (a result that caused me to laugh hysterically because, otherwise, I would have started crying). Maybe he should have gone Lisa Lopes on his house more often.

13. France factoid: Franck Ribery is nicknamed "Scarface" because of- well- the scar on his face. It's a pretty family friendly moniker, considering the nickname he could have...

14. Japan factoid: Shinji Kagawa and Hiroshi Kyotake once beat 55 children in a soccer match. I don't know if that's impressive or kind of sad.

15. Uruguay factoid: Luis Suarez's nickname is "El Pistolero," which means gunfighter. Again, it's a lot better than any of the nicknames he could have...

16. Ivory Coast factoid: Brothers Kolo and Yaya Toure will play together for their third World Cup. A unique situation, provided you didn't see them suit up for Man City from 2010 to 2013.

17. Bosnia factoid. Edin Dzeko is known as the "Bosnian Diamond." Dzeko's three full seasons at Man City have been fairly uneven, as he's gone from being a supersub to a centerpiece. This year, he was an absolute monster down the stretch, scoring five goals in City's last four games - matches they had to win in order to wrest the title from Liverpool.

18. Argentina factoid: Lionel Messi may be short, but he's also really good. Except at the World Cup. You can call him "Farr" because he's the opposite of Klose. (Sorry...)

19. Belgium factoid: Romelu Lukaku has his own Internet meme. I would have gone with Marouane Fellaini is under investigation for committing grand larceny and fraud for stealing money from Manchester United ever since his £27.5 million transfer in September.

20. Ghana factoid: Ghana's Kevin Prince-Boateng and Germany's Jerome Boateng are half-brothers and will face off during the group stage. It should be less destructive than when these brothers faced off...

21. Mexico factoid: Javier Hernandez was the fastest player at the 2010 World Cup. The slowest? England's John Terry against Germany in the knock-out round.

22. Algeria factoid: In 2010, they conceded Landon Donovan's famous stoppage-time goal that sent the U.S. into the knock-out round. To be fair, their only other highlight in 2010 was holding England to a dreadful, boring 0-0 draw.

23. Greece factoid: Sokratis Papastathopoulos's name is so long, it won't fit on the back of his jersey. It's not even the longest name on the squad. Lazaros Christodoulopoulos has two additional letters in his surname.

24. England factoid: Geoff Hurst is the only English player to score a hat-trick in a World Cup final (1966). This is ESPN's tacit concession that there's nothing remotely interesting or positive to say about this year's team.

25. Australia factoid: Australia's team is nicknamed the "Socceroos" while the under-17 team is called the "Joeys." At least they didn't decide to be the "Russells."

26. Chile factoid: Chile qualified for the 1974 World Cup by default after the Soviet Union refused to play citing poor field conditions. Refusing to play is not uncommon. Manchester United refused to play for David Moyes this season. 

27. South Korea factoid: South Korea conceded the fastest goal in World Cup history, allowing a Hakan Sukur strike 11 seconds into the third-place match at the 2002 World Cup. In my opinion, it wasn't nearly as shameful as giving up a goal to an overweight guy who let his overnight fame get to his head.

28. Colombia factoid: Their manager used to be a taxi driver. And David Moyes will soon be one! Okay, that was a low blow. A bunch of teams would have killed for the point total he got with United.

29. Russia factoid: Oleg Salenko scored the most goals ever in a World Cup match when he bagged five against Cameroon in 1994. Not as impressive as Vladimir Putin scoring six goals in a hockey match where the defenders were not at all petrified of getting within three feet of him.

30. Costa Rica factoid: Joel Campbell bought 100 packets of World Cup stickers hoping to find his card - he failed. In a related story, Marouane Fellaini lined up for Man United 21 times during the 2013-2014 season and failed to score a goal.

31. Honduras factoid: In 2010, Jerry, Johnny and Wilson Palacios became the first trio of brothers to play in the World Cup. Take that Toure brothers!

32. USA factoid: Landon Donovan has five World Cup goals. More than Cristiano Ronaldo (2), Lionel Messi (1) and Wayne Rooney (0) combined. While we're piling on, Americans Clint Dempsey and Brian McBride each have two World Cup goals.

Can't wait for the games to start.

Victor Li

chicago, il