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A bluffer's guide to the 2018 World Cup


world cup footballIf your knowledge of the beautiful game is limited and you'd like to be able to take some small part in football conversation at home or work during the coming month, then take heart. We've football-pooled Mumsnetters' knowledge to shine a light on football rules, World Cup facts and team backgrounds. 

The basics | What to say/not to say | Formation flannel | Other teams | England's chances

The basics

If all else fails, these are two things you should do/know.

"Hide the remote (obviously only works if you put something different on TV first)." Saltire

"As far as I can tell, there's lots of men falling around on the floor doing BAFTA-award-winning impressions of serious injury for a little knock your toddler wouldn't even need a cuddle for." missorinoco

What to say / not to say

Eschew the obvious "Well, all credit to the lads" and instead show off your superior soccer knowledge.

"I can recommend a couple of phrases:
'Playing a long game' = kicking the ball as far as you can in the hope that one of your team will be able to run fast enough to get to it.
'Keeping it tight' = lots of little short passes between players of the same team, which results in them keeping hold of the ball (aka 'possession').
Prefix either of these two phrases by 'I can see that xxx (substitute name of team) is...'" MaryBS

"Remember whenever a player fluffs a kick/goal etc they are officially known as a donkey or a muppet and must be referred to as such as in the following example: 'Oh FFS, what a donkey/muppet'." bunjies

But beware: there are some things you should never say. Under Any Circumstances.

"Don't say, 'Never mind, it's only a game' when England lose in the semis. Especially if we had a perfectly fine goal disallowed at the end of normal play." LeninGrad

Formation flannel

Understanding what the most commonly used footie formations signify is key to understanding the beautiful game. Here are a few Mumsnetter facts on formation and tactics to bandy around knowledgeably at half time.

"Capello prefers a 4-4-2 system, although it's proving difficult to decide who to play up front with Rooney, and he may still opt to play him up front as a lone striker, following his successful season in that position at Manchester Utd." DoNotFeedMeBiscuits

"If you drop in a quick 'jeez, they really need to bring Wright-Phillips or Lennon on for a bit of width' when England are struggling or 'it's true, Lampard and Gerrard can't play together', you'll probably get a shag later on in the evening." WilfShelf

The other teams

Although all the media coverage would suggest otherwise, there are in fact 31 teams other than England competing in the World Cup. Given that one of them will no doubt actually win the tournament, it's worth knowing a few things about England's competitors. 

"Scotland aren't in it. Do not ask Scots if they will be supporting England instead." smallorange

"If you want to be really clever, you could gloat that Ballack won't be fit to play for Germany, plus they are missing two other key players, Adler and Tasch. You could also drop in Portugal's goal-less draw with the tiny Cape Verde side." ShadeofViolet

"However promising Spain look in the early rounds they will always bottle it in big games.
All the African sides will be a joy to watch, exciting and exuberant, but lack discipline and fitness. Unlike Germany who play dour unattractive football with Teutonic discipline, and will be there at the end. And, of course, the Brazilians play the beautiful game; no matter that you've just seen the Germans executing exactly the same move, it's only beautiful if accompanied by the yellow and green of Brasilia." HesterPrynne

"Sven-Goran Eriksson is managing Ivory Coast [useless fact] and New Zealand are making their World Cup debut (previously only one team from that part of the world could qualify, it changed to two this time round)." jenniferturkington

"Don't ask if Ruud Guillit/Lothar Matthaus/Pele are still playing. And don't remark that the Italian team is definitely the best looking one, even if they do wear hairbands." MmeLindt

"England fans don't want Argentina or Germany to win (or, increasingly, Portugal). Scottish people support whoever is playing England. Irish fans will be boo-ing France (especially Henry) at every opportunity." ZoopAZoopTroupe

England's chances

While any fan will happily be proven wrong when it comes to rating England's chances, the fact that it's been 44 years since the England team hoisted the trophy aloft means even England's diehard supporters are necessarily circumspect about their team's potential.

"England will go out in quarter/semi-finals, yes, most probably on penalties. BUT there will always have been a cheating opposition player (think hand-balled goal, over-dramatic after-tackles to get player sent off) and/or a partisan referee. So we never really feel that we deserve to go out, despite only barely making it to that stage." LizzyLou

"ENGLAND WILL NOT WIN. We will almost certainly get to the knockout stages, probably get knocked out in quarter-finals, maybe semis. Invariably on penalties. This is right and fine, and equates with our placing in world ranking (we are seventh)." gherkinwithapurplemerkin

"England will lose their first two games; the tabloids will call for Capello's head on a plate and a spear up his arse. Some games later, when they have pulled it back, the tabloid will call for his knighthood." WilfShelf

They think it's all over...

"Don't get so carried away with it all and do what I did in 2002 watching England and kindly suggested to DS that he stopped walking in front of the TV. It took me a couple of seconds to realise it was the first time he had stood and walked by himself - ever. He was 14 months."

Extra time

Feel we've missed something crucial, or just want to offer your own sage words of advice on all matters football? Join in the discussions on our World Cup Talk forum.

Last updated: 8 months ago