This week's Big Story is sponsored by MONEY - IT'S DIRTY AND FIFA WANTS IT
1st and 10 Sports has never been one for stereotypes. So as World Cup Weekly kicks off the first of many editions bringing you everything you need to know about the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 All In One Rhythm™ there will, under no circumstances, be any mentions of samba, rainforests, cocktails, ladyboys or soccer.
Well, WCW (oh grow up, that was all over years ago) may have to occasionally mention soccer if it is to serve any useful purpose. However, there is one organization which is doing a fine job of helping WCW fill its pages with anything but the beautiful game itself, such is its penchant for buffoonery, corruption, incompetence, corruption, fat-cattery, corruption and when it has time, a bit of corruption. Sadly that organization is bound to have at least a passing degree of influence on the summer's tournament. Because it's Fifa.
Fresh from awarding the 2022 World Cup to Qatar under mysterious circumstances and then taking three years to realize that 120°F desert heat might be a tad on the warm side for playing soccer, the latest development is that the game's governing body's version of Jabba the Hut, Sepp Blatter, is annoyed.
He's annoyed because the Brazilians are not ready. Much in the way that Sepp enjoys a good sirloin or seven, he insists that the tournament will be "well done". However, what has really got Sepp's goat is that the Brazilian authorities are not doing enough for the safety of its workers. So far, seven people are thought to have died as a direct result of Brazil's world cup preparations, the latest being a worker who was killed in Sao Paulo during construction of one of the stadiums which another Fifa suit has declared may not be ready for the start of the tournament.
"Who is responsible for this?" Blatter shrugged. "Is it Fifa? They are pointing at Fifa, and it's not true. It's basic to provide workers with safe conditions to do the work. We can't go and watch at every construction site."
Blatter was speaking as he attended the Under-17 Women's World Cup. Considering his notoriously, erm, progressive views on the women's game, WCW would prefer not to think about his primary reason for attending that particular tournament lest it be compelled to take three showers in quick succession.
More to the point, it is more than a little galling to hear the man who endorsed and oversaw the awarding of the 2022 World Cup to Qatar - a country the International Trade Union Confederation says has been responsible for the deaths of more than 1,200 migrant workers since it was awarded the World Cup in 2010 and featuring conditions variously described as "appalling", "abusive" and "sub-human" - blame the Brazilians for a lack of safety in the workplace.
Actual Soccer News:
Belgium (Group H), who currently sport a squad more talented than many nations with a more illustrious history, will be without star striker Christian Benteke for the tournament after the Aston Villa man tore his Achilles tendon.
England (Group D) may also be without a young starlet of their own, as Southampton prodigy Jay Rodriguez this weekend looks to have torn his ACL. England are already without Theo Walcott, who suffered a knee injury in January.
Finally, Fifa has announced that you fellas USA (Group G) fans have thusfar bought the most tickets for the World Cup - 154,412 and counting - so jolly well done for getting into the spirit of things. Shame people can't get more excited about Greece vs Ivory Coast (Group C), currently the least in-demand game of the tournament. Snobbery!
Top 5 teams most likely to actually win (via Oddschecker):
Belgium (yep, really) 14/1