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Russia 2018: 32 Reasons to Support Everyone!

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picture courtesy of outsports.com

Did you know that it’s 20 years since Scotland opened France ’98 with a 2-1 defeat to a Ronaldo led Brazil. Whilst some mystery still remains around exactly what happened to the Brazilian striker prior to kick off of the final that year names such as Robbie Stockdale, Gary Kenneth and Darren Barr can be quickly pulled as evidence as to why the Tartan Army continue to be absent from the world’s biggest football party.

Fear not though as I have found a reason for you to not only support just one but every single country at this year’s tournament, allowing you the luxury of knowing that even in defeat you can still celebrate glory. So without further ado here it is…

32 Reasons to Support Every Country at Russia 2018

Group A

RussiaGiven my desire to live to see my next birthday let’s just say we like Irn Bru and in Mother Russia they are pretty keen on it too. In fact until recently it was more popular than worldwide leader Coca Cola, in part due to its resemblance to an old Soviet beverage. I’m just glad I’m not the one that has to tell them that Barr’s have recently changed the recipe!

Saudi ArabiaWe both have governments who like a bit of oil.

EgyptAndrew Robertson is team mate and *best friend with Mohammed Salah at Liverpool. Andrew Robertson is officially the greatest left back in the history of football and all around good egg. Mohammed Salah is also a good egg. Don’t think you need much more reason than that.

*they might not be best friends

Uruguay Had the good grace at Mexico ’86 to not only boot Scotland all over the park but also record the quickest sending off in World Cup history when Jose Batista was sent back to the change room after 52 seconds of their group decider. The fact Scotland then proceeded to draw 0-0 and as a result be eliminated from the tournament should not be held against them and at this point we should take the opportunity to turn the other cheek and support La Celeste as they literally kick, bite and scratch their way through Russia 2018.

Group B

PortugalRicardo. Inevitably beating England was going to feature in here. It was Euro 2004 and a group of us had gathered in a Scottish pub just off the main Magaluf strip to watch as the Portuguese keeper committed trolling of the highest order by first saving Darius Vassell’s penalty with his gloves off and then stepping up to score the winning penalty. What followed was a night, which until this day, I have zero recollection of.

SpainReally when Spain won the World Cup in 2008 it was all thanks to us. Back in 1899 two Scots formed Spain’s oldest football club, Recreativo Huelva. Without these footballing pioneers it’s fair to assume that a game of football may never have reached the Iberian Peninsula. Tiki Taka would never have been born and we never would’ve known how handsome Isco was. Spain (and planet earth) you are welcome.

MoroccoIf it hadn’t been for Morocco’s love of a shot during their 3-0 defeat of Scotland  at France ’98 (the commentary in this clip is incredible)there is a very real possibility that Jim Leighton would still be getting a game as Scotland’s first choice keeper. For helping us to avoid this circumstance we should be forever grateful.

IranAlexander Samizadeh. Kilmarnock legend and one of the shining lights of the Lee McCulloch era. Such was his footballing prowess that on last review of his Wikipedia page his skills have now transcended the need to play for a football team. 

Group C

FranceCarnaval de Paris by Dario G was the last World Cup Song that was an absolute banger not matter how many times, even now, I find myself randomly going Waka Waka, damn you Shakira! You know why? Because we had qualified, which meant that it had bagpipes in it. A French win would no doubt bring memories flooding back of their triumph that year and lead to a renaissance for this dance floor classic.

Australia A shared love for BBQ’s whatever the weather should never be underestimated.

Peru Many years from now as Peruvian football analysts and commentators look back on the glory of winning the 2018 World Cup they will often reference that night in late May. That night where they knew that if they could somehow both shackle Oli McBurnie and squeeze a shot (or two past) Jordan Archer then they would be ready to win it all. Scotland had prepared them and because of this we too can bask in their glory.

DenmarkIn the absence of Finland and Norway (positioned at number 1 & 2) Denmark are officially the happiest country at the World Cup according to the latest World Happiness Report. There are however concerns that this ranking will plummet with the news that Nicklas “I can’t believe he hasn’t ended up in Scotland yet” Bendtner has not made the squad. A World Cup win would surely keep them smiling.

Group D

ArgentinaThat goal…World Cup 2006, Argentina v Serbia & Montenegro, 25 passes ending with Esteban Cambiasso passing it in. What other one would I be talking about?

IcelandThe English National Football Team have been living their own “Banter Years” for over two decades now. At Euro 2016 Iceland provided the world with perhaps their most banterous moment yet when they knocked Roy’s Boys out. A feat so unbelievable that people thought it was acceptable to cut arm holes in Iceland carrier bags and don them whilst dancing about the streets in celebration clapping aggressively in passer-by’s faces.

CroatiaTheir group opponents may have had more than three million pre-orders of their new World Cup Kit but Croatia are the ”OG” of the strong football kit game. The red and white checked design more emblematic than any other in the modern era. They also have Luka Modric and he’s just lovely.

NigeriaAll we need is Ikechi Anya *clap clap* Ikechi Anya *clap clap* ikechi Anya. It seems only fair to support the Super Eagles after the destroyer of the Macedonians and frightener of the Germans chose Scotland over his father’s home nation of Nigeria.

Group E

Brazil They’re the favourites plus that Joga Bonito airport advert is still the absolute tits 20 years later.

SwitzerlandSwitzerland Women are currently in the same World Cup Qualifying Group 2 as our lassies. A success in Russia for their men’s side would surely result in them disbanding all football activities knowing that they had indeed peaked leaving a clear path for Shelly Kerr & Co. to saunter their way to France 2019.

Costa RicaWhilst there are some teams Scotland have played only once and lost to. In Costa Rica we have an opponent in which we have not only played multiple times but also boast a perfect losing  record of played 2, lost 2. With this astonishing record in mind it is our duty to ensure that the uncrowned greatest football nation of all time finally take seat at the head of football’s top table.

 

SerbiaEh. They’re not England? Other than a really depressing story about housing World War One refugees in Edinburgh and referencing former Rangers midfielder Dragan Mladenovic I’ve got nothing here.

Group F

Germany Thomas Muller is an absolute LOL Factory.

Mexico The winner stays on rule. A common technique used by football fans with no club of their own. Supporting a team up until they get knocked out, only to then switch allegiances to the team that had just declared victory until they too get knocked and so on. As Slovakia failed to even make the play-offs after beating us to second in the group stages, Mexico as Scotland’s last opponent before the World Cup are our next best bet.

Sweden Because if you don’t Zlatan will Zlatan you with his Zlatans and you will be left in a Zlatany mess, Zlattaned, Zlats and totally Ibrahimoviced…ZLATAN!

South Korea – After letting Oliver Burke and Billy Gimour rout their U21 team at the Toulon tournament it seems only fair that we give some support to our Korean friends. In other news it’s disappointing to report that on review of their final 23 man squad that not a single name can be turned into some sort of childish innuendo.

Group G

Belgium Both the Tartan Army and the Manneken Pis in Brussels demonstrate a fondness for urinating in public. One is a considered a symbol of a cities sense of humour and independence of mind. The other is fuelled by thousands of litres of Tennents on match day. Either way, at Russia 2018, let us pee together!

Panama In the 1700’s Scotland once tried to establish a colony on Panama called “Caledonia”. Unsurprisingly the Central American climate did not sit with the lads and it was a massive failure. Caledonia by Dougie Maclean is a good song. Here ends this tenuous link.

TunisiaBilel Mohsni has been capped a staggering 6 times by Tunisia (ACTUAL VIDEO EVIDENCE). He was even named in their preliminary squad for this year’s tournament! Any country that can show that level of benevolence deserves nothing but our full support.

EnglandOther than geographical proximity this bunch of England players seem annoyingly pleasant. In fact the English media have done such a good job of hounding Raheem Sterling there is a tiny little part of me that wants to see him score a hat trick before unveiling a tattoo of a giant middle finger. The fact that this hat-trick would then prompt a Panamanian comeback for the ages on route to a 5-3 win and thus eliminating the Three Lions from the tournament two games in is just a minor detail.

Group H

PolandIf it wasn’t for some of the development that Barry Douglas undertook at Lech Poznan then Scotland wouldn’t possibly be in possession of one of the best third choice left backs in Europe. Unfortunately a similar experiment involving Ziggy Gordon at Jagiellonia Białystok was considerably less successful.

 

Senegal – It was going to be near impossible to do “32 reasons to..” without showing a little bias somewhere. Mouhamed “Sena” Niang, was living in Senegal up until six years ago when he and his family moved to Scotland. Now 18 he currently plays in midfield for my local junior side Pollok FC recently winning 3 MOTM awards in 4 games. Russia 2018 may be far too early for this very promising youngster but allow me to get carried away and imagine a future World Cup where a former Pollok player takes the field. No harm in getting some pro-Senegal practice in early.

ColombiaI don’t know about you but I got a wee bit fed up of seeing Alfredo Morelos’ face tripping him constantly towards the end of the Scottish Premiership season. So let’s get a smile on that wee buffalo coupon with a Colombian World Cup win. Of course Carlos Valderrama’s hair cannot go without a mention here although worryingly he has suggested that if Colombia win the big one his hair will be no more.

Japan If it wasn’t for their invite to the Kirin Cup in 2006 then to this day we would have never known what a Scotland captain lifting the most prestigious trophy in the whole of world football would look like. The fact we have not been invited back to defend this title only goes to show the fear we struck in the hearts of all nations that glorious May day.

So there you have it, 32 reasons to support every country, including England at the 2018 World Cup.

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Relegation: It’s Not All Bad, Is It?

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As some of you may know, I have spent the last year running two sites with football at their heart and soul. This one, a celebration of all things pie and a sister site titled ‘Leading The Line’ where I would muse over many of footballs little foibles that are not solely encased in pastry. As the season comes to a close and plans get set in motion for next year I have decided to amalgamate the two sites into a one stop shop for all things sporting and pie. Do not be afraid that pies will be off the menu for there is another two reviews working their way to you in the next few days but now I want to take this site and to the next stage. This may work, this may not, but either way I will still be your number one friend in pie. So without much further ado, let me welcome you to Meat Filled Pastries first non-pie piece, Relegation: It’s Not All Bad, Is It?.

Picture courtesy of The Football Blogging Awards
Picture courtesy of The Football Blogging Awards

When I was a much younger lad I had a t-shirt that read, ‘Football is life…the rest is just a game’. At the time I believed it to be true but as I have grown older with life continuing to throw its many curve balls, both good and bad, I know that the slogan sprawled across my chest in those most innocent of days was nothing but a clever play on words that only helped to serve as just another subtle enabler to my burgeoning football addiction. As I travelled back in the deathly silence of the supporters bus, the realisation dawning on the dozen or so of us on board that this was the season that relegation had finally come after what has felt like years of constant struggle, that t-shirt came screaming to the forefront of my mind and the question I asked myself as I looked around was ‘Why are we all so sad?’. ‘How can something that is in reality so fundamentally irrelevant when compared with matters of life and death cause a group of men to look so down trodden and broken?’

I could analyse what caused this communal depression but instead of staring down the pit of despair that relegation is meant to bring, and quite frankly to try and cheer me up a bit as much as anything else, let us try and put a positive spin on what without a shadow of a doubt is the most soul destroying aspect of the game we all love.

1. At Least it’s Over.

Relegation is not something that happens in an instant, it’s the culmination of a season or in some cases many seasons woes and struggles. There is no more false hope to cling to, no mathematical equation that can save you and no desperate voice in the back of your head screaming ‘Please, please, please just put me out of my misery!’. When that final goal that seals you’re fate goes in the misery finally comes and the grieving can begin. Now some people deal with this grief in different ways, some get misty eyed giving knowing nods and gentle applause to the players who have just not been quite good enough whilst some get angry, unable to contain the raw emotion that the ultimate in footballing failure causes to coarse through their veins. For me I go into quiet contemplation mode, dissect every single tactical decision made, every substitution, every player signed and sold, wonder what will happen next and where it all went wrong this. Three very different ways of coping but all of them finally end with taking solace in the fact that at least it’s all over.

2. A Fresh Start.

A summer of fine tuning and removing the perceived dead wood has you starting the season, albeit at a lower level, as one of the title favourites and not the easy three points that your rivals eyed on a Saturday afternoon. The grieving is over and the wave upon wave of new hope and optimism is near impossible to repress even for the most cynical of fans. There is always that one new signing that scores 3 hat-tricks in pre-season and who you pin your hopes on for the year ahead. If a player doesn’t look up to the task early on they get the benefit of the doubt that a new season brings and you convince yourself he’s bound to come good soon. Sometimes the manager changes, sometimes it doesn’t but who cares as long as we keep winning and the crowds come flooding back.The dread of Saturday is replaced by the excitement of another potential day of glory. The dark days are over, by the end of the year your team will be champions!

3. Road Trip, Baby!

Get the satnav out as your geographical knowledge of the great footballing beyond is about to increase exponentially. All of a sudden places you’ve never heard of become your desired destination on a Saturday afternoon. The roads less trodden become the roads you and your fellow footballing army tread upon with new hope and expectation. You get to meet new people, drink pints in new pubs, stand on new terraces and set your taste buds alight with a smorgasbord of new pies and pastries all season long. For any football fan even the familiarity of a fierce rivalry can still breed contempt and the chance to go somewhere new is often what piques the interest of even the most casual of fans.

4. You Still Have Each Other.

Whatever joys or miseries a new season may bring you can carry on supporting the team you love safe in the knowledge that those fans that were there with you at the bitter end of a previously fruitless season will be standing side be side with you when hope springs anew once again. The slightly un-PC pensioners, the people you can’t remember how or why you stand with but you continue to do so with ever willing acceptance and the generations of family both young and old that are usually the ones responsible for you finding yourself in this mess in the first place.

I had spent 28 years on this earth without suffering relegation. I hope to go at least another 28 more before it happens again but until then I’ll do my best to remember that no matter how big a part of my life this wonderful game is, when the final whistle blows, it’s all still just a game.

 

If this is the first time you have read a non pie piece from me, I hope you enjoyed it and an archive of my previous work will remain on the internet until the end of time at http://www.leadingtheline.wordpress.com. But do not fear I have a programme deadline to meet so a new pie review will be with you imminently.

As always though, until next time, go forth and eat pie!