Following last month's guide to official and corporate media World Cup websites, Ian Plenderleith looks at the best of the blogs and fan sites covering every competing country at Germany 2006

World Champion Website – Planet World Cup
It’s hard to find a World Cup webpage that tells you something you didn’t already know, so I was pleased when I came across the following in an A-Z sub-section of this site: “Brothers have been part of the same World Cup squad several times. But Victor and Vyacheslav Chanov are unique. They were in the 1982 Soviet Union squad, both as goalkeepers. Neither of them played a match though, as the great Rinat Dassayev was first choice.” The whole site is a footballing treasure in a desert of almost unending blog banality and sloppy stats. There are comprehensive analyses of each squad, written by Peter Goldstein, whose lively style is apparent in sentences such as this one on the US line-up: “The first words of George Washington after he took office were OK, so who the heck plays left-back? It’s still a problem.” Qualifying games and recent friendlies for all teams are a click away. The stats are complete, including line-ups and scorers for every World Cup game ever played, together with rosters and appearances of all the participating sides. The mascots are there, the posters, the legends and a multi-level quiz. I’d recommend you only take the latter after you’ve thoroughly read the site. 10/10

Runner-Up – World Cup Blog
This site boasts “34 blogs reporting daily on every detail of the world’s greatest sporting event”, and is already popular enough for them to receive a cease-and-desist letter from a FIFA representative (called Karen Fan – and no, they didn’t make the name up) banning them from using the World Cup logo. “The timing of such a message was not lost on us,” says the blog. “Two days after FIFA posted $164.9 million in profits for 2005 it sends this message to a site whose operators are happy when they find some loose change underneath the cushions of their couch.” The site took the logo down, but responded by sending a letter back to FIFA claiming the world body had stolen the site’s copyrighted description of Argentine teen sensation Sergio Aguero as “the next, next Maradona”. FIFA’s response is yet to be documented. The blogs themselves offer a handy overview of events around the teams and players that might otherwise be hard to track down. You can read the Iranian blogger’s view of the Islamic authorities’ stadium ban on women; about the potential healing powers of football on Ivory Coast’s civil strife; or the disappointment of fans travelling from Trinidad & Tobago that their steel drums will be banned from grounds. In fact the T&T blog is one of the picks of the bunch, being concise, witty and well written. At the bottom end, the Serbia & Montenegro blog seems more obsessed with the Dutch than its own side and offers up mainly short entries with links elsewhere. Overall, though, a site well worth bookmarking. 8/10

Top of the Blogs
There’s a very good blog at World Cup Hippo (8/10), offering, for example, tips on how to play a drinking game depending on statements of the obvious from commentators and analysts. So you take a drink every time a commentator explains the group’s mathematics or “says something about the new football being light”, or “notes that only x players from any one team actually ‘ply their trade’ in that team’s national league”. A bonus three glasses if Tony Adams “says something insightful”.

Also worth reading is Who Ate All The Bratwurst (7/10), which has some nice outside bets for those who can’t resist a flutter to crank up the tension. “USA/Ghana to finish 1st/2nd in Group E 50-1: Sounds crazy but why not stick a quid on?” it asks. “I really think Italy and Czech Republic are too old and overrated – youth will prevail at this World Cup.” Meanwhile, its Classic Moments section muses: “It may not sound as exotic as ‘Makelele’, but if Nicky Butt had continued his rich vein of [2002] World Cup form, the holding midfield position might have been universally known as the ‘Butt role’.”

A slightly patchier effort with some redeeming comic highlights can be found at another imaginatively titled site, World Cup Blog – Football News, Reviews and Betting (6/10), with a particularly good entry on the mascot, Goleo the lion, “who… is rumoured to have his own album coming out – bound to deftly cover all the bases of the three worst types of albums: the football album; the children’s character album; and the German album.” It also reported on the anti-streaker measures in place following four naked pitch invaders at last summer’s Confederations Cup. “Officials are launching a crack team of streaker-watchers – referees and members of the German FA will be peppered throughout the crowd at World Cup stadiums, eyes peeled for any suspicious tugging at zips and belts.” Wouldn’t it be great, though, if Germany 2006 were to be remembered as the tournament where spectators were mostly tugging suspiciously at their zips and belts?

From WSC 233 July 2006. What was happening this month

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