Published on June 14th, 2014 | by Kevin Lawson
What would the FIFA World Cup would look like if the teams were replaced with Beyonce, Kanye West, Miley Cyrus, One Direction and other popstars.
As the popularity of Buzz Feed has proven, obtuse discussions about popular culture are one of the world’s favourite pastimes. Whether it’s a list of the 10 classic episodes of Seinfeld that would no longer work in the mobile phone era, or a collection of GIFs from Game of Thrones, virtual audiences can’t get enough.
So when my friend suggested over coffee that Belgium were the “Alt-J of the World Cup; the hipsters choice for winners” it’s fair to say that the idea snowballed somewhat. Which team was the best match for Britney Spears? Which musician embodied the continual heartache that England constantly put its fans through? And just who the fuck would be Iran? Well fear not – all these questions are cleared up below.
Let us know what you think in the comments:
One Direction are Brazil
The popular choice who will be mentioned everywhere whether you like them or not: Given Brazil’s embarrassing riches of talent and 1D’s equally apparent lack thereof, the two might seem like a slightly odd match, so bear with me. As a team whose football is often more attractive than the results it achieves, and the bookmaker’s favourites to get to number 1, los Canarinho are the populist’s choice. Much like 1D, they look likely to dictate the tune that the rest of the world will be forced to listen to this summer.
Bjork is Croatia
Technically gifted but batshit crazy: Famed for being talented but also a little eccentric, Bjork is the best match we can find for the talented mavericks of Croatia. Born in 1991, following the country’s referendum delivered independence from Yugoslavia, Croatia burst onto the world scene during Euro ’96 when Davor Sukor’s logic defying chip of Peter Schmeichel made everyone take note of the nations football. However, much like Bjork, Croatia’s genius is flawed, with star players like Robert Prosinecki frequently smoking, former coach Slavan Bilić fancing himself as a musician and Josip Šimunić remaining on the pitch even after receiving three yellow cards…they constantly defy all footballing logic.
The Killers are Mexico
Their fans have high hopes but are always let down: To the rest of the world, Mexico are also-rans, but to their fans they honestly head into every World Cup genuinely believing they lift the trophy. It’s akin to how fans of Brandon Flowers and The Killers must feel every time he promises a new album which will be as good as ‘Hot Fuss’, only to be left utterly disappointed.
The Strokes are Cameroon
A team of individuals who only play for themselves: When Pele stated “An African team will win the World Cup by the year 2000” it seemed like a decent prediction given the emergence of Cameroon led by Roger Milla at the 1990 World Cup. However, much the like Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond, Jr. after the success of the Strokes post their breakthrough Is This It?, star performers like Samuel Eto’o and Alex Song have focused on their solo careers ahead of the success of the team.
Beyoncé is Spain
A decade of success, but the cracks in their perfection are starting to show: After winning the last World Cup (not to mention the last two European Championships) the Spanish national team have, like Beyoncé, conquered the world over the last decade and it will take a monumental effort by another team to displace them from their throne. That said, the years of success have begun to take their toll and much like the recently leaked fight between ‘Yonce’s husband Jay-Z and sister Solange, Spain’s loss in last summers Confederations Cup is proof that the cracks are beginning to show.
Sex Pistols are the Netherlands
Their ethos changed everything: It’s not because of a bratty, often contrary attitude that the Dutch national team are akin to the Sex Pistols. It’s not even because the country’s players have a reputation for outlandish acts of brilliance (Cruyffs turn), brash arrogance (the teams underperformance at Euro 2012) and gobbing (Rijkaard’s spit on Rudi Voller). No, it’s simply because the total football they had the bravery to player fundamentally changed everything. The Sex Pistols and the Netherlands are quite simply game changers; even if they have never won the biggest prize.
Japandroids are Chile
Playing each game like it’s their last: High-energy, relentless, talented and an underdog status are just four of the ways in which Japandroids and Chile are similar. Led by world-class duo Alexis Sanchez and Arturo Vidal (or Sassoon as I like to call him), and following the groundwork laid by former coach (and tactical genius) Marco Beilsa, Chile play each game of football like it’s their last. They are the very essence of Japandroid’s music which thrives on the moments in which life is at its most wonderful and fragile.
Britney Spears is Australia
The golden years are gone: Given the country’s lust for all things athletic, it’s strange that Australia hasn’t managed to produce a team to challenge the world. All the ingredients for a top-class footballing nation are there, something which is evidenced by the nations golden generation of players; Tim Cahill, Mark Viduka, Harry Kewell, Brett Emerton and Mark Schwarzer, but it never quite comes together for long enough. This makes them the Britney Spears of the footballing world; good enough to make the odd hit, but whose best years look behind them.
Pharrell Williams is Columbia
Enjoying a rebirth after a few years in the doldrums: Over the past year, Pharrell Williams has experienced on something of renaissance. First he made a fortune alongside Daft Punk’s breakout hit ‘Get Lucky’, followed it up with an even bigger single alongside Robin Thicke on the controversial ‘Blurred Lines’ and now is singing ‘Happy’ at any festival stage that will have him. For an artist/producer whose best years as part of N*E*R*D/The Neptunes looked to be firmly behind him, his re-emergence has a striking similarity to that of Columbia, who after nearly a decade of in the doldrums now have talented players like the uber-talented James Rodriguez, Falcao (who is unfortunately injured), Jackson Martinez and Juan Cuadrado ready to replicate the success of the nations 90s heroes such as the iconic Carlos Valderrama and Tino Asprilla.
Chris De Burgh is Greece
The one hit wonder you wished you could forget: Remember Euro 2004? You know the one where Otto Rehhagel ultra-defensive tactics somehow managed to take a less than talented team to the title? It is the very definition of a footballing one-hit-wonder and like Chris De Burgh’s awful song ‘Lady in Red’ will be remembered for all the wrong reasons.
Lana Del Rey Is Ivory Coast
Has yet to live up to lofty expectations: When Lana Del Rey burst onto the scene with the amazing ‘Video Games’ back in 2011, many (myself included) thought the world had a new pop star with the talent to join the ranks of the elite. A debut album followed, failing to live up to the thrilling brilliance of that first single and making critics wary about her long-term prospects of success. It’s much the same with football pundits and the Ivory Coast. As a team experiencing a golden generation of footballing stars such as Yaya Toure, Didier Drogba, Saloman Kalou, Cheick Tiote, Wilfried Bony and Gervinho they have promised much, but failed to deliver even an African Cup of Nations. As Del Rey prepares her new album and the Ivory Coast head to the World Cup, they both have a lot to prove.
Frank Turner Is Japan
The hardworking underdog edging closer to the big-time: A rising force in world football, Japan has started to produce high-class players (Shinji Kagawa and Keisuke Honda) with increasing regularity. The nations culture of hard work and the desire to constantly strive to be, bigger, better and do more makes them a match for punk-folk musician, Frank Turner. A former hard-core cult hero, whose relentless touring schedule has taken him from small pub function rooms to Wembley arena, the opening ceremony at the London Olympics and who knows where in the future.
Miley Cyrus is Uruguay
Always controversial: As the unfancied winners of the first World Cup in 1930 and again during the 1950 competition in Brazil (plus courtesy of Luis Suarez’s handball against Ghana, the villains of the last World Cup), controversy follows Uruguay’s football team around. It’s this which makes Miley Cyrus the nation’s perfect match. Whether they take a wrecking ball to England’s own hopes or Suarez undoubted talent takes a bite of Italy’s dreams of progressing to the knockout stages, Uruguay, like Cryus, won’t be far away from the headlines.
Rick Astley is Costa Rica
The comic relief: What’s the one thing that every football fan remembers about Costa Rican football? That’s right, Paolo Wanchope’s goal for Derby against Manchester United; it’s the one piece of footballing trivia that pretty much every fan knows about the lowest ranked team in England’s group. It’s this which makes Rick Astley a match for the ‘Ticos’: just the mention of his name a flood of nostalgia (and internet gags) will wash over anyone involved in the conversation.
Kate Bush is England
The drama queen of football: England’s illustrious history and love of the game but lack of success in its premier competition has always been one of the great enigmas in world football and makes them particularly difficult to match in this list. There is one theme that has followed the Three Lions: Drama. Whether it’s the ball that didn’t cross the line in ’66, penalty shootout failures, Beckham’s red card, Lampard’s goal that wasn’t given or any number of other highs and lows in between, there is no other team which does tragic drama quite like England. It’s for this reason that melodramatic music of Kate Bush is the perfect match for the inventors of the beautiful game.
Radiohead are Italy
Always ready to deliver another hit: Often accused of dull, slow and relying on negative football to win games, the stereotypes that follow the Italian game are as misguided as the people who merely refer to Radiohead as “depressive music”. Having won the biggest prize on no fewer than four times the Azzurri have sustained success throughout the decades, moving with the footballing times whilst keeping the nation’s own unique way of playing. Playing it safe in some ways (a belief in their methods), whilst taking risks in others (think ‘In Rainbows’ and the continued selection of Mario Balotelli) both Radiohead and Italy are a class act and no one will be too surprised if they lifted the biggest prize yet again.
Los Campesinos! are Switzerland
Improving all the time: Unbeaten in qualification, Switzerland are another team who it could be argued will be sending the country’s best ever team to the World Cup. With exciting young players like Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka coming together with more experienced players like Tranquillo Barnetta and Gökhan Inler, they are the Los Campesinos! of world football, a band whose experience and undoubted talent gives them the platform to earn a cult following and, just maybe, the chance to one day win big.
Sash are Ecuador
Dame tu mano / y venga conmigo / Vamonos al viaje para / buscarlos sonidos magicos: Ok, Ok, this one is a lazy choice but I just love how shit late 90s dance pop really was.
Oasis are France
Headliners always on the verge of breaking up: Euro 2008 and the World Cup 2010 were chastening experiences for France. The team which only eight years prior were coming off the back of a World and Euro cup wins failed to get out of the group stages and even staged a training boycott. Although Didier Deschamps seems to have instilled much better discipline this time around; much like the Gallagher brothers cycle of success, bratty infighting and reformation (and the likelihood of a well placed Mancunian headbutt) there is a sense that it could all fall apart at anytime.
The Bravery are Honduras
No one told them they are shit: The music business is full of hard luck stories; the bands that should have, could have, would have made it if the chips had fallen their way and Honduras are no different. They’re the Bravery, a band who won the BBC Sound Of list and then went on to do, well, fuck all really.
Kanye West is Argentina
Flawed genius: No one team should have all that prowess, Opta watching, they just count the passes. Sorry bad rhyming, but no less true. Despite the fact they have a shoddy defence, Argentina are contenders because of a prestigious array of attacking talents including a quartet of Gonzalo Higuain, Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and, of course, Lionel Messi. This is a team of maximalist artists; whose potential seems limitless and whose flaws make them compelling to watch, or in other words the very same reasons we love to listen to Kanye West.
New Order are Bosnia and Herzegovina
Formed from the remnants of a great loss: Another fully signed up member to the tenets of the Danubian School of football, Bosnia and Herzegovina are entering into the country’s first ever World Cup with a surprising amount of expectation. Formed out of the ashes of Yugoslavia, the teams heroes – talented playmaker Miralem Pjanic and the lethal Edin Dzeko – are charged with forging a new legacy for expectant fans, which is something that New Orders Bernard Sumner and Peter Hook know all about.
Jandek is Iran
The outsiders: As a nation shrouded with an infamous past, Iran are most definitely an outsider in the world of football. With scant information about quality of the teams players or how they set themselves up to play, they are akin to Jandek. A blues musician from Texas who has self-released some 70 albums that very few people have listened to and even fewer would care to try.
The Happy Mondays are Nigeria
They just seem to hang around and not do much: If ever a World Cup team could be summed up by the selection of one player it would be Nigeria. I mean any team that thinks Shola Ameobi is going score the goals to propel you through the World Cup has some serious issues (and that’s coming from a Newcastle fan). So that earns Nigeria the dubious title of World Cup hangers on, which is a shame because their nickname the ‘Super Eagles’ makes them sound so cool.
U2 is Germany
The pragmatists: Say what you like about Bono and U2 but they know what it takes to be successful in the music industry. Whether it’s writing stadium filling classic records like the ‘Joshua Tree’ or ‘Achtung Baby’ or releasing cynical tracks that are guaranteed royalty spinners like ‘Beautiful Day’, everything they do is to keep them at the top of their game and it’s much the same with the German national team. Always playing to their strengths (the uncharacteristically defensive football that took them to the World cup final in 2002) and recognising when they need to change (the renewed focus on the production of quality youth players after poor performances at Euro 2000 and 2004), it will come as little surprise if the Germans end up with the trophy that their push success demands.
Florence and the Machine are Portugal
Defined by the success of an individual: Whilst it really is spectacularly unfair to call Portugal a one-man team, whenever anyone says that have a chance of winning, it’s always with the caveat “as long as Ronaldo plays like he does for Real Madrid” and it’s that which makes them Florence and the Machine. For whilst the machine might be well practiced, well drilled unit, Ronaldo and Florence are the reason people really take notice.
Drake is Ghana
Everyone secretly likes them: Often deemed inauthentic for his middle-class roots and mocked by rap purists for acknowledging that he actually has emotions, admitting you think Drake’s music is great can often lead to derision from friends. It’s the same when anyone suggests that Ghana have a chance of winning the World Cup, notwithstanding the fact they have a squad of talented and athletic players that will push any team they play to its limits. The thing is despite all the arguments against both; EVERYONE will be able to name one of Drakes songs or Ghana matches or players as one of their favourites.
She & Him are USA
Let’s be honest, it’s not their top priority: Let me ask you a question. What do you know Zooey Deschanel for? The s(h)itcom New Girl right? It’s this reason that her twee indie band She & Him are the perfect match for USA’s soccer team. For Deschanel and the United States, music/soccer are a secondary thought behind the thing they really love, acting/American Football and as such they’ll never be great at it.
Vampire Weekend are Belgium
The hipster choice for world cup winners: Unbeaten in the qualification campaign and featuring some of the best young footballers in world football (Hazard, Lukaku, De Bruyne), Belgium are the choice to win the competition outright for those who consider themselves football experts. It’s this mixture of talent, burgeoning popularity and critical backing that make Vampire Weekend a match for Belgium. They’re on the cusp of becoming truly mainstream and topping the charts for months on end, all the need to that career defining hit.
McFly are Algeria
Just happy being involved: Between their use offloating stages, their Back to the Future style stage entrances or a collaboration which sounds that McDonalds has finally been arrested for serving terribad food; but there is a sense that McFly really understand their position in the music industry. Tom and co. know they’re never likely to win an award for artistic merit and as such never pretend to, choosing instead to continue unabashed whilst, like Algeria, they pump out consistently identikit performances.
Pete Doherty is Russia
Waiting to re-emerge as a world star: There were some decent Soviet Union teams in the 60s and 70s; winning the European Championships and the final twice. After the countries break-up they’ve been less successful and despite a wealth of opportunities to perform, they yet to pull themselves back together, much like Doherty trying to find his way in his post-Libertines career.
Jetplane Landing are Korea Republic
Plucky underdogs, doing things their way: They’re not popular or playing music that is ever likely to be (genre melding, political post-hardcore), but you can do nothing but admire Jetplane Landing’s work ethic and determination to do everything on their terms. Releasing all of their own records via their own record label – Smalltown America – the Northern Irish band are a great match for South Korea, their mixture of ultra-hardworking, organisation, talent and obsession with politics will constantly win them discerning admirers.