The World Cup’s group of chaos

You’ve heard of the Group of Death; now, discover the Group of Political Chaos (and Diego Maradona). The New York Times Goal blog uncovered an interesting tidbit about one of the 2010 World Cup groupings. Group B is composed of three countries beset by political or economic turmoil: Greece’s status as current global basketcase is ...

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images
ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

You've heard of the Group of Death; now, discover the Group of Political Chaos (and Diego Maradona).

You’ve heard of the Group of Death; now, discover the Group of Political Chaos (and Diego Maradona).

The New York Times Goal blog uncovered an interesting tidbit about one of the 2010 World Cup groupings. Group B is composed of three countries beset by political or economic turmoil: Greece’s status as current global basketcase is well known; South Korea is only weeks removed from a major international crisis after the Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo; and Nigeria is undergoing spurts of ethno-religious violence, not to mention the saga over the late-President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua. (Argentina’s the fourth team in Group B, and while it may not be in the midst of current political upheaval, President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner is always entertaining.)

The World Cup always provides fun storylines for a follower of international relations, regardless whether you’re a soccer fan or not. Four years ago, Ivory Coast was my favorite story: after qualification, the national team pleaded with opposing sides to lay down arms in the country’s civil war, a call that was miracuously heeded. Sadly, for the second World Cup in a row, Ivory Coast is pitted in the Group of Death with Brazil, Portugal, and North Korea, and with star striker Didier Drogba (probably the best African footballer in the world) potentially out injured, the Elephants again look unlikely to advance.

Certainly, FIFA couldn’t plan the political scientist’s dream Group B. (Or could they? Pretty convenient for the growth of American soccer that the first Saturday afternoon game — in the U.S. — of the tournament pits consistently-overhyped England versus the Yanks…) So which will emerge from the group?

Greece is out, because its economy is a shambles (and footballing side woefully underwhelming). Between South Korea and Nigeria, it’s anyones guess, but if I were betting I’d say the Super Eagles emerge as the only African team to make it out of the Group Stages. 

Maybe only the Hand of God knows which of those three countries will finish second to likely group winner Argentina.

Andrew Swift is an editorial researcher at Foreign Policy.
Tag: Sports

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