Folklaw can't help but jump on a bandwagon, and what better bandwagon to jump on today but the World Cup? So to ensure you're not mute when the client lunch chatter turns to football, check out Folklaw's beginner guide to the Cup.
France: The French have some big guns, possibly the best strip and the best anthem. Can be beautiful and ugly in the same match, let alone tournament, and combine a tempestuous nature with a laissez-faire style that is nice to watch, but can be cynical in its execution (ask Irish supporters). Have won the World Cop once, will be awhile before they win again.
Mexico: The Mexicans warm the heart of the neutral, and seem to be the one international football team that could be described as playing with a conscience. Rarely commit bad fouls, most of its players come from the ranks of the poor and oppressed, and always play with flair. Nice to watch, but when it comes to results, are the poor man's Brazil.
South Africa: The hosts, but not really sure if they have the most. Buoyed by passionate home support, there is generally a good vibe about this side, as the players like each other and neutrals will want to see them challenge the traditional powerhouses. Will not want to claim the inglorious title of being the first host-nation not to progress to the second round, and Folkaw predicts they will upstage some more fancied rivals (see France).
Uruguay: The enfant terrible of international football. They won the first two Cups back in the 1930's, and while not as strong now, have remained relevant throughout. Intersperse thrilling attacking play with some brutally aggressive tackling, they are the most unpredictable team in the tournament. Specials for the second round.
Argentina: Argentina was a major player back in the 1980s, but have lacked star power since. Have not won the Cup since 86, but with Diego Maradonna, the player of the 80's, back at the helm as coach, and with Lionel Messi, the best player since Maradonna, people are once again talking about them. Could do anything.
Greece: Shocked the world by winning the European Championships in 2004, and have not done much since. History is littered with teams defying the odds to win major tournaments, and with the current shenanigans with the Greek economy, would be a great story if they can win the Cup. Realistically though, Greece has been a major player in the development of democracy, philosophy, art and literature, but will not have a similar impact at this tournament. Will bow out in the first round.
South Korea: The world was cheering on South Korea when they got to the semi-finals in 2002. Are quick, nimble and extremely hardworking. Not easy beats, but not a contender. Always worth watching.
Nigeria: Its football team, like its country, is often beset by internal difficulties. Its football team, like its country, has great potential and natural resources that have not been used effectively. Its football team... we could go on forever, but you get the drift. The great underachievers of world football, waiting for Nigeria to arrive is like waiting for Godot.
Algeria: Some teams don't try and win the whole tournament, they just want to see if they can preen a few feathers off the established big birds. Capable of causing a surprise.
England: An old world power, back when power was gained through the nozzle of a musket, but have had troubles on and off the pitch since they last won the Cup in 66. Have "re-branded" themselves in recent years, and have hired an Italian coach in a bid to get back to the winners circle. Have the best domestic competition in the world, with the Premier League, and some of the best players, like the potty-mouthed Wayne Rooney, but have not reached the semi-finals since 1990. Will need a miracle to do so again.
Slovenia: The most bizarre World Cup factoid is that Slovakia's players will receive the highest base match payments. Hard to know how that came about, as it is the smallest nation competing, with a population of just over two million, and is not naturally endowed with vast sums of wealth or resources. Can't see the base pay for Slovenian players being topped up by win bonuses.
USA: The US has been around for awhile on the world football stage, but have never been a serious player. However, that is changing. Like the lyrics from a Beatles song, they are getting better all the time. The dark horse.
Australia: Relative newcomers to the World cup scene, but they are keen and show some promise. Have a foreign coach, and although almost all its players ply their trade overseas, they have produced a fairly unique style of play. Doubts persist as to whether their ambition matches their talent.
Germany: The Germans are always there or there abouts at the business end of the tournament. They are very consistent and professional in how they go about their work, rely on processes and organisation, offering little by way of surprise or flair, but also rarely making mistakes. They are dependable and hard to beat.
Ghana: Made it to the second round at its first World Cup appearance in 2006, playing a brand of exciting, attacking football. Lost their best player and captain Michael Essien before a ball was kicked in anger, leading many Ghanaian's and lovers of the beautiful game around the world to kick other things in anger as well. To get to the second round this time around would be a great achievement.
Serbia: The heart of the old Yugoslavia, if they could still draw on players from Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia and Montenegro, they just might win the tournament. However, as the old Yugoslavia they never won the Cup, Serbia certainly won't do so with a reduced talent pool.
Cameroon: Play with grace, play with style, a crowd favourite, but have been around for too long now to claim genuine underdog status. Will make themselves noticed.
Denmark: A small nation with a proud history, both on and off the pitch. Won the European Championship in 1992, after coming into the tournament at the last minute when Yugoslavia were kicked out. Since then, the only thing of note Denmark has won was the Eurovision Song Contest in 2000. Have some classy players, but lack the firepower of the big guns. Quarter-finals at best, but we are hoping to be proved wrong.
Japan: The footballing world has always had a soft spot for Japan. For many years they flew the flag for Asian football, but now find themselves a smaller fish in a bigger pond. Will play with courage, pride, passion and commitment, but go out in the first round.
Netherlands: A country with a small population, but that provides a football team that is always competitive. The Dutch influence on world football has been profound, pioneering the concept of "total football" in the 1970's, with Ruud Gullit and Frank Rijkaard giving us "sexy football" in the 1980's and 90's. The Dutch are well liked by both spectators and opponents and no one has worked out why they have never won the Cup. No answers to that riddle will be provided in South Africa.
Italy: The Italians will do whatever it takes to win. Enough said.
New Zealand: New Zealand is the team to beat when it comes to rugby and netball, but football? The world will be watching to see whether domination in one field can be translated to another. Is extremely doubtful.
Paraguay: Always qualify, but rarely do anything. That is not being too harsh on this small nation of just 6.5 million people, for to make the World Cup is an achievement in itself. Not a serious contender, but loves a scrap and will fight to the end, but the end will come quickly.
Slovakia: Stopped receiving aid from the World Bank in 2008, and Folklaw predicts the good times will continue to roll-on at the World Cup. The strongest team in the group after Italy, should qualify for the second round. Will progress no further.
Brazil: The glamour team, for Brazil, it is not just about winning, it is about winning with style. When kids first lace on a boot, even non-Brazilian kids, all want to do is play for or like Brazil. Every other team wants to knock them off, and no team has won more World Cups. Good looks will only take them so far this time around, as the style is still there, but the substance is questionable.
Ivory Coast: A relative newcomer on the scene, the Ivorians play with style, are aggressive and ambitious, and have some of the best players in the world in key positions. The question is, do they have depth in their ranks?
North Korea: Like the country it represents, North Korea's football team is shrouded in mystery. They picked a striker as a reserve goal-keeper, with observers not knowing whether they are treating the Cup as a novelty event or serious football tournament. They captured the hearts of all sports fans in making it to the quarter finals in their only other World Cup appearance in 1966 (beating Italy along the way). But there's more chance of North Korea being a fully fledged parliamentary democracy with KFC and cooking reality tv shows by the next Cup in 2014 than seeing a repeat of past heroics.
Portugal: Have an impressive pedigree on paper, including some great, well known players like Cristiano Ronaldo, who regularly attract the plaudits, and, like the Dutch, do well when compared with much larger neighbours. Won't win, but will impress along the way.
Chile: The football community wants Chile to do well, only because keen observers remember the injustice done to them at their last world cup appearance in 1998, when a dubious penalty decision enabled Italy to escape with a lucky draw. While that narrative has been written again (see the Socceroos exit in 2006), hopefully this time, the gods will smile on Chile. Genuine quarter-finals chance.
Honduras: Always been a strong regional player, but how will they cope on the world stage? In a tough group, and will struggle to get past the first round.
Spain: Are staying at a university campus as a sign of solidarity with the Spanish people, who are doing it tough since their economy headed south. Have hardly lost a match in the last two years, qualified with ease, have talent to burn and are one of the favourites. But this could have been written about Spain before the last eight world cups. They have never won it, and expect a heartbreaking, unlucky loss (see Italy).
Switzerland: Much like the country, its football team is mostly inoffensive (ignoring the hording of Nazi loot with the Swiss National Bank during World War Two), pretty in patches, and a leading figure in some areas (finance, chocolate, watches, cheese, free-kicks, team discipline). No one will bemoan their absence once they fail to progress past the group stage.
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