First published on 19 Jun 2013. Updated on 21 Jun 2013.
Like all Australians, I am a huge fan of soccer now that we have a national team that’s good at it – and I’ll remain a dedicated and lifelong fan right up until the point they crash out of the World Cup.
But when will that be, given the arcane and complex rules governing how a team qualifies for each round? I’ve spent literally minutes on the internet looking at the official FIFA site, Wikipedia, Facebook and pictures of cats wearing scarves and so I think I’ve got a pretty solid handle on how it works – and I’m prepared to explain it to you, because I always seek to infocate as well as edutain.
So, to get everyone up to speed: Australia’s team, the Soccer Kangaroos, have gotten through to represent Asia, the continent of which we’re a part along with Japan (it’s a continent with some fairly large lakes, including the Pacific Ocean). To do that we had to beat our fellow Asian country and virtual neighbour Iraq by scoring at least one goal in the match earlier this week, which means we get to go to Rio for the actual contest.
What happens from here?
Well, in the next round we need to beat one of the teams that qualify from the European region – probably either the US or Iceland – by at least two goals, unless they score one or more goals during the first half in which case we need to score six goals, at least one via a header, in order to progress to round three.
That’s when things get complicated.
"Narnia, Lilliput and Virtual Canada are all fielding strong teams this year"
In round three we face off against the qualifiers from Oceania (frontrunners are Greece and Israel) or Africa (an open field which could see victory for Canada, the Falkland Islands or Atlantis). To progress we’ll need to score at least ten goals in the first eight minutes, two from the opposite end and at least one by a player whose age in months is a prime number. Extra time in this round is given over to coming up with a limerick that contains a fruit, an occupation and a film genre suggested by the audience: most unexpected rhyme gets the team an extra point and pick of the board.
Round four is the real test of our mettle: the Roostersocks will have to score six goals including two for the other team, which will be from either N/C America & the Caribbean (most likely Scotland, although Oz could be a dark horse), or Europe (almost certainly Narnia, though Lilliput and Virtual Canada are both fielding strong teams this year).
If we win this game, we then immediately have to play our evil alternate-dimension selves in a sudden death playoff, which is a notoriously confronting task – especially if the evil versions shave off their tell-tale moustaches at half time.
Round five is the swimsuit round, which requires no further explanation.
There is no round six.
Round seven, therefore, is the big one: all of the teams return and previous scores are wiped from the record as they all play hands of Uno with values reversed. The team with the lowest scoring hand gets to take the team of their choice out for a lovely big lunch, with the bar tab paid by the team with the score that’s most like the head of FIFA’s phone number. The unsuccessful teams then play against their Martian counterparts.
After all that, Brazil and Italy toss a coin and whoever calls it correctly gets the World Cup.
And that’s how it works.