We await the day Western nations opt to default by stealth

Monday, June 21, 2010
By Paul Martin

To continue living beyond their means, Western nations can simply sell their prized assets to those nations with deep pockets.

Stephen King
Monday, 21 June 2010

I was asked the other day how the Spanish should respond to their crisis. “Easy,” I said, “so long as they beat Honduras and Chile, they’ll be fine.” The World Cup is a tricky old thing. Only a few nations have triumphed. Some have managed to win only when playing on home soil (England in 1966 and France in 1998). Others have won both at home and away (Germany, Argentina and, if we go back to before the Second World War, Uruguay and Italy). Only one team has failed to win at home yet has, nevertheless, consistently won everywhere else. That team, of course, is Brazil.

Over the years, the World Cup has become more difficult to win. In 1982, the number of teams competing in the finals rose from sixteen to twenty four. In 1998, the number went up again, this time to thirty two, where it remains today.

That’s hardly surprising. The second half of the 20th century saw the fall of empires and the rise of nation states and, other than the creation of a national airline, soccer offers the best way to advertise your nation state to the rest of the world.

In its early days, the World Cup was almost entirely a European and Latin American affair. Admittedly, there were occasional interlopers. India was supposed to take part in the 1950 tournament although later withdrew, allegedly because of the excessive cost of transporting its team to Brazil, where the competition was being held. South Korea, rather badly bruised after the Korean War, took part in the 1954 competition.

The Rest…HERE

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