Unless you’ve been holed up in a cave or held hostage for the last month, you’re acutely aware that something big is happening in Brazil.
If the Brazilian flags plastered everywhere weren’t enough of a giveaway, Wayne Rooney’s face popping up at every turn should have tipped you off (or scared you to death). Whether you’re a football fanatic whose house will remained draped with St George’s cross until all 64 matches have been played to the bitter end, or a more casual observer who’ll watch England matches just to tell Facebook, you’re likely to find yourself, ahem, ‘embellishing’ your football commentary in the company of more knowledgeable viewers. If you don’t want to be rumbled as a bluffer, listen up.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: EXUDE CONFIDENCE, EVEN IF YOUR FOOTBALL KNOW-HOW IS ON PAR WITH THAT OF A MARTIAN, OR AN AMERICAN.
First things first: this is no 5-a-side match with jumpers for goalposts. This is serious. In any discussion involving Brazil and football, the latter must always be referred to as ‘the beautiful game’ or, ideally, ‘la jogo bonito’. If you weren’t aware of it already, Brazilians play football with unbridled joy and abandon (not to mention exuberant skill). It’s practically a FIFA regulation that any commentary on a Brazil game must include the words ‘samba-like’ (and a handful of clichés, inaccurate statistics and completely unintelligible comments). Be the first to point out that the trouble with this flamboyant style of footie is that it lacks ‘discipline’, of the sort embodied by, let’s take a random example, Germany.
IF I’M HOSTING, SHOULD I MAKE ROOM FOR SOME LIVING ROOM SAMBA, THEN?
No. It doesn’t matter how exciting the match you’re watching is, if the evening escalates into Rio Carnival then you’ve lost focus. And once your mum’s whipped out her feathered headdress and given everyone a twirl you’ve lost everything. (NB. An ‘exciting’ match can be measured by the sound of your friends clamouring, which will be echoed by half a stadium groaning in Brazil – you’ve got the better view by far.) What you can do is serve up half-time Caipirinhas – that’s kai-per-ree-nee-uhs. They will have to be served at half-time though because the secret to a good Caipirinha is to make them one at a time and the secret to watching football on TV is not to spend the whole time crushing ice.
SO, YOU’RE NOT ALLOWED TO DO ANYTHING DURING THE MATCH?
You can’t samba, you can’t make cocktails and you can’t start up a conversation about the state of the NHS. Instead, sigh resignedly and say: ‘They’re just not using the channels, making themselves available, or running into space.’ It might not mean much, but luckily for bluffers, a lot of group stage matches don’t kick off until 23:00, by which time no one will be up to arguing. Nor will they be fact-checking your fudged statistics about ball possession, so fudge away.
WHAT IF SOMEBODY BRINGS UP THE DREADED ‘O’ WORD?
Never get involved in a discussion about the offside rule. But if cornered, contend that you favour its total abolition ‘outside the 18-yard box’. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know what this means. Nobody else will either, but if they look suspiciously at you and ask you to explain, simply say: ‘It’ll open up the game, obviously.’
AND, THE BIG QUESTION: ARE BRAZIL GOING TO WIN?
They’re such hot favourites that they probably won’t. That’s how football works. Feel free to repeat the cliché: ‘It’s a funny old game.’ Suggesting that Spain, Germany, and Argentina might take the trophy won’t get you any funny looks. Telling people you’ve put money on Iran to win outright will.
LAST BURNING QUESTION, WHAT IF I NEED TO USE THE, ER, FACILITIES DURING THE MATCH?
Accept that if you go to the toilet, somebody will score a contender for ‘The Greatest Goal of all Time’. If you don’t, the game will remain goalless. There is no escaping this immutable law of football.
MAXIMUM BLUFFING VALUE
A lot of footballing commentary is made up on the spot and isn’t meant to be deciphered. But you should know the ominous phrase, ‘group of death’. This is the strongest group of four teams in the opening stage. While Group D (Uruguay, Costa Rica, England and Italy), with the highest combined FIFA ranking, officially holds this year’s title, Group G (United States, Germany, Portugal and Ghana) is equally lethal – all four teams made it out of their respective groups in 2010, but only two can survive this year. Just don’t go all Made in Chelsea on everyone and start abbreviating it to ‘GOD’.
DO SAY (Everything you can in Portuguese. This will make you appear funny and clever, not annoying)
‘Obrigado. Uma cerveja por favor.’ (Thanks. Mine’s a beer please.)
‘O futebol não é uma questão de vida e morte, é mais importante do que isso.’ (Football isn’t a matter of life and death; it’s more important than that.)
‘Itália tem estacionado o ônibus.’ (Italy have parked the bus.)
DON’T SAY ‘Now where did I put my vuvuzela?’