England qualified for the World Cup, but, based on October’s FIFA rankings, are unseeded. Thus, they face the very real prospect of a “Group of Death.” We don’t know what the future holds, but here is a close approximation, in style if not in substance, of the Three Lions’ fate.
James: Hello, this is James and John again, reporting this time from Costa do Sauipe, in the lovely Southern Brazilian state of Bahia. The atmosphere is electric, but, John, I think you’ll agree, English fans are biting their nails and a bit puzzled.
John: Well James, I think offended and outraged would be better terms. FIFA nonchalantly changed and released the pots days ago, failed to see England, and many fear this could turn out ugly for the Three Lions.
James: John, we’ve all seen the pots, but let’s just go over them one more time for the viewers who may have missed some key details.
John: Well, in Group One, we’ve got a killer’s row of Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Spain, Germany, Colombia, Switzerland, and Bubonic Plague.
James: I have to say that I’d fancy Switzerland out of that stable of World Cup winners and a zoonotic disease which circulates mainly in fleas on small rodents and killed a third of the world population in the 1300′s.
John: You are most assuredly not alone in your estimation, James. Now, in Group Two, we have Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria, Chile, Ecuador, and Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.
James: Oh my dear heavens. And that’s the second weakest pot!
John: Weak indeed. Now, Group Three, mostly the Asian and CONCACF teams, features Australia, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Costa Rica, the United States, Mexico, and Bengt Ekerot, who narrowly squeaked by Count Orlock on penalties after a lifeless two-legged playoff.
James: Out of that group, Mexico is the sleeping giant but I’d definitely hope to avoid Bengt Ekerot, the Swedish who portrayed death in Ingmar German’s The Seventh Seal. It just really unsettles me that Switzerland is seeded but not Ekerot.
John: Well, Switzlerand did beat Spain in 2010 James.
James: Very true, very true.
John: Now, lastly, we have Group Four. Of course, there’s England, Bosnia, Croatia, France, Portugal, Italy, Holland, and Russia.
James: And now things are getting started. The lovely host and Sepp Blatter have approached the machines, which are humming and spinning about balls with numbers that represent each country.
John: Much more dramatic than a computer equation and algorithm.
James: And for the first Group from Pot One, we have….Bubonic Plague.
John: Well, with Argentina and Brazil in that pot, I don’t say I’d fancy Bubonic Plague, but surely it’s not the worst of the lot.
James: But John, isn’t there something to say for, perhaps, the pressure on the home-team perhaps hurting Argentina and Brazil? Both played quite poorly at the latest Copa America.
James: I mean, Uruguay won the tournament and it was hosted by Argentina.
James: Your thoughts?
John: You’re doing it again. Your basically disagreeing with everything I say.
John: James, I’m bloody sick and tired of it. We’ve discussed this before. You don’t have to play bloody devil’s advocate each and every show. If I’m right, I’m right. Just fucking admit it.
James: John, I was….
John: Was nothing. Even when you know I’m 100% right, you find some sneaky way to change the subject or look at my argument with the finest toothed of combs. Just for once say I’m right at get on with it. It’s bloody redundant.
James: John, this is very unpro….
John: Yeah we’ll talk at the commercial break. They’re on to Pot Two.
James: And it’s….Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever.
John: Wow, things go from bad to worse. I’m sure there’s 8 countries with millions of fans sitting at home at the moment and praying not to end up with those two.
James: Now, John, I know the World Cup is a celebration of different countries and continents and playing styles, but, despite being from Asia and Europe, there’s some serious similarities between the game played by Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever and Bubonic Plague.
John: What do you mean?
James: Well, the Plague spread based on fleas on rodents and Ebola spreads based on contact most likely with infected monkeys. Also, England has never defeated either in an official, FIFA-sanctioned match.
John: Interesting points, James. And, it looks like they’re ready for Pot Three. Maybe one of the Asian or CONCACAF teams will soften things up a bit.
James: And it’s….Bengt Ekerot.
John: Oh my word.
James: A nightmare of a draw – this is even worse than that Argentina, Holland, Serbia, Ivory Coast group from Germany 2006.
John: The two teams who survive will be too busy licking their wounds to do much in the elimination rounds, I gather.
James: Ekerot presents serious match up problems for any side but especially for both those teams.
John: Can death incarnate even become infected by a disease?
James: We’ll certainly find out this summer in Brazil.
John: Now, we come to the last pot.
James: Statistically speaking, lowest chance of any that England will be drawn to this group.
John: Emotionally speaking, my heart is in my throat.
James: The lovely host draws the ball from the machine and it’s……