8 June ~ Like the last World Cup and the one before, this tournament will be heralded as the most written about, most blogged about, most Twittered about competition ever. Thanks to that wonderful online medium known as The Internet, there will be reams of repetitious blather, but a chronic shortage of words worth reading. Here is a handful of useful or well-written sites and blogs that you might want to bookmark for the next month or so.
World Cup College
Clever lads, these. Not only do they preview the games thoughtfully, they approach football from impossible but entertaining angles too, for example looking at why Zeno's paradox means that John Terry's lack of speed won't be an issue. Sample quote: "Because we are cognitively predisposed to relate our personal circumstances to external events and occurrences, we have little difficulty developing an affinity with a group of people (that we've never met) representing us, via shared nationality, in a sporting tournament." That's why you blindly love England.
Play The Game
The site of independent watchdog Play The Game will be keeping a moral eye out for the usual FIFA shenanigans, and reporting the kind of news that won't be edging headlines like ABSOLUTELY TERRYBLE off the tabloids' outside pages. Currently running a story about how the three main South African broadcasters have shunned a documentary on how much money has been wasted on stadium construction. Sample quote: "Padania completed a hat-trick of successes in the Viva World Cup for non-FIFA nations at the weekend but the latest tournament in the Maltese island of Gozo was a far lower profile affair than last year." Watch out for the official non-FIFA film of the tournament, Waiting For Gozo.
FIFA official site
It may sound obvious, but FIFA's official site is, as official ones go, the full ten yards better than any of its sister sites. There are few better places for historical stats, or up-to-date news on less-covered countries like Honduras and Paraguay. Even its features bravely attempt a slightly more original angle than the mainstream media, although the prose is in that clunky territory you might generously say is aimed at a global audience. And don't expect any probing investigations of corporate backhanders. Sample quote: "This year the prize for the most original motivational approach surely goes to Japan, who rounded off their build-up in Switzerland with a visit from members of Japanese boy band Exile. During the event, Takeshi Okada's men were presented with a banner and some origami cranes in the team's colours." It will be the origami cranes wot win it.
Spanish sports daily Marca has produced a phenomenal online calendar with a revolving one-page overview of the tournament, depending on where you move your mouse. Some have unkindly compared it to Alan Partridge's famous studio floor guide to the 1994 World Cup, but the former Radio Norwich pundit did not come up with an instant electronic formula for viewing the schedule by country, date, group or venue. Goes full screen, and in English too. Sample quote: "Group F, Italy v Paraguay, June 14, Cape Town, 8.30pm local time." FIFA should copy the FA and the Football League and get that intellectually copyrighted.
There are, apparently, environmentally friendly vuvuzelas made out of South African seaweed – that's the kind of priceless fact you can pick up at this site devoted to the tournament's six African participants. The ugly design is ten years out of date, but again this is a good location for non-mainstream news and features in what sometimes reads like quasi-poetic, dictionary English. Sample quote: "Already the exclusion [from Nigeria's squad] of Victor Anichebe and Ikechukwu Uche is causing ripples, while that of the former has taken an international dimension with his club, Everton Football Club of England, knocking Nigeria for misinforming the world about the player's physical condition." Although the world may have just missed that story in the light of the BP oil catastrophe, the perpetually jittery financial markets and Israel's attack on the Turkish aid ship heading for Gaza.
World Cup Chart
There's no need to enter the office pool and face the humiliation of losing your status as That Bloke/Lass Who Reckons He/She Knows About Football just because your World Cup forecasts turned out to be miserably wrong (again). Worse, in fact, than the forecasts of that quiet woman in accounts who's never watched a game in her life. Instead, keep your useless, wildly off-mark predictions within the privacy of your own computer with this handy digital chart. Don't use the office computer, though – you know that cocky git Steve from IT will unearth it and "accidentally" email it to the entire company. Sample quote: "France 3 Uruguay 0 ha ha ha ha!" Ian Plenderleith