Financial services firms are cosmopolitan places and while the World Cup has the potential to foster some good-natured inter-office banter, it could also – as passions rise – become an HR issue. The best tactic is to stay diplomatic and have a basic understanding of what it’s acceptable to say about your colleague’s home nation football team. Here’s our comprehensive guide.
Who? Aiming merely to make it through the group stage, Algeria nonetheless possess some pacey wingers in Sofiane Feghouli and Rayed Mahrez and a talented striker in Islam Silmani. In one of the weaker groups, so could progress.
What to say: “If you can beat South Korea, anything could happen.”
What not to say: “I hear your coach once shot himself in the bottom.”
Who? Among the favourites and in possession of the formidable talents of Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero in attack. Will likely go far.
What to say: “Wow, Messi will be fresh after his time out at the end of last season. He’ll grab a hatful.”
What not to say: “Maybe you can score with your feet this year, hand of for god’s sake.”
Who: Yes, they play football in Australia too, but thankfully are not as dominant as they are in rugby or cricket. Used to be a force to be reckoned with, but now among the weaker teams at the tournament, not helped by being in the group of death with Spain, the Netherlands and Chile.
What to say: “Tough draw, mate, but you never know.”
What not to say: “IN YOUR FACE, loser, IN YOUR FACE.”
Who?: A team full of prodigious talent playing at top clubs in the English Premier League, but yet to prove themselves on the big stage.
What to say: “You have bags of potential.”
What not to say: “Choketown. Population: you.”
Who?: Host nation, favourites for everyone from Goldman Sachs to ex-footballers to newspaper pundits. Theirs to lose etc.
What to say: “Your team combines physicality with flare.”
What not to say: “How much are you paying for this again? But it must be good for the economy.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Who?: Star man is Edin Dzeko, who was scoring goals for fun at the tail end of last season for Manchester City, and they could take a gung ho approach to attack with a 4-1-3-2 formation.
What to say: “Bold line-up, could go either way.”
What not to say: “I bet Dzeko plays even if his foot’s hanging off.”
Who? Squeaked into the World Cup through the play-offs after choking an easy qualifying group and, despite the presence of Samuel Eto’o, expectations are low.
What to say: “You have a lot of Premier League talent.”
What not to say: “Does Roger Milla still play?”
Who? In the toughest group with the Netherlands and Spain, but expected to put up some tough opposition with their high-tempo approach.
What to say: “If Pele rates you, so do I.”
What not to say: “You’re not Brazil, though, are you?”
Who? Wild cards with a high FIFA ranking of 8th, who have the ability to tear teams apart on their day, but lack any real household names.
What to say: “You’re going to walk through the group, then it’s a lottery.”
What not to say: “Let’s hope the team don’t get distracted by all those white lines.”
Who? By most reckonings the weakest team in a tough Group D featuring Italy, Uruguay and England, but still possible they could cause an upset.
What to say: “If you defend well, you could catch someone on the counterattack.”
What not to say: “Ooh, I love your coffee.”
Who? Dark horses overshadowed by the fact that the media focus on their group has been on Brazil, but some journalists have tipped them to go all the way.
What to say: “Don’t worry about Brazil, focus on the other two games.
What not to say: “Your best striker plays for Hull City? Oh.”
Who? Ambitiously targeting the semi-finals, despite being among the outsiders of the South American nations, but held England to a 2-2 draw in a friendly, scoring some impressive goals. Only dropped three points during qualifying, largely because of their aerial threat.
What to say: “The conditions will favour your team, which is as good as it’s ever been.”
What not to say: “I hear you’ve got a bunch of lanky players.”
Who? Deutsche Bank believes England will win the tournament, thanks to their abundance of players from Liverpool which, um, bottled the Premier League. For the first time in living memory, few fans agree.
What to say: “If you get through the group stage, you’ll have done well.”
What not to say: “Rooney looks fat.”
Who? Once again scraping into a major tournament through the play-offs despite possessing enough talent to make it through in cruise control. Add in the fact that they’ve lucked out in a ridiculously easy group and they’ll probably make it through to the quarters at least, providing they can avoid the in-fighting that ruined their chances in the last World Cup.
What to say: “If your players live up to their potential, this could be your year.”
What not to say: “What’s the French word for ‘implosion’?”
Who? As ever, a super-gifted German side with strength in depth which are expected to progress with their usual ruthless efficiency (and perhaps even some flare), provided they can cut the humid temperatures.
What to say: “I predict you will make it to the final this time.”
What not to say: “What’s your opinion on the use of goal-line technology?”
Who? Boasting both star quality and experience, the team is still up against Germany, the USA, and Portugal in the group stages, so could struggle to make it through.
What to say: “You have pace, power and experience – don’t worry about Ronaldo.”
What not to say: “This climate is where Asamoah Gyan’s $200k a week playing in the elite UAE leagues really pays off.”
Who? Just 12 goals in qualifying, their approach is simply being solid at the back and hoping to score a goal or two. Never pretty to watch, but they have been surprisingly effective in major tournaments.
What to say: “Solid, defending, solid. I liked that tackle in the first half. Entertaining.”
What not to say: “Has the ECB paid for your team’s plane tickets?”
Who? In-coming Manchester United manager Louis van Gaal’s last hurrah as Holland coach, so he’ll want a good send off. Reached the finals last time, runners up three times, but have never won. The squad no longer boasts as much talent as 2010 and will be reliant on Robin van Persie’s goals to get them out of a very tough group with Spain and Chile.
What to say: “Your group is harsh, but you have the talent to make it through.”
What not to say: “Always the bridesmaid, never the bride.”
Who? Strong, physical and will probably get most of their goals through set pieces.
What to say: “Your group is definitely winnable, and defence is key.”
What not to say: “Fouling is not a laudable skill.”
Who? Generally accepted as one of the minnows in the competition with little attacking threat and, in defence, no firm first choice of goal-keeper. Few expectations.
What to say: “Your team has great passion.”
What not to say: “Your star player is at Charlton Athletic? IN THE THIRD DIVISION OF ENGLISH FOOTBALL?”
Who? Perennial over-achievers in top tournaments, the Italian side’s biggest player is Andrea Pirlo, an undoubtedly talented midfielder who nonetheless tends to draw out stats about completed passes. Tendency to scrape through, but go far.
What to say: “1-0 is 1-0.”
What not to say: “How do your players see the ball if they’re wearing sunglasses?”
Who? Stubbornly clinging to their ‘golden generation’ despite their age, a la England in 2010, Ivory Coast still have some talented players – including Yaya Toure, who had a phenomenal season – and have been thrown into a very easy group.
What to say: “Last chance, but I think you’ll nail it.”
What not to say: “Is Kolo Toure still taking his wife’s diet pills?”
Who? Happy to fly in under the radar, they qualified first (in admittedly easy pool) in June last year and possess skill and pace.
What to say: “Let’s hope Keisuke Honda hits, ahem, top gear.”
What not to say: “Where does Pokemon play?”
Who? Only made it into the tournament via the playoffs and up against Brazil and Croatia in the group stages. Inter-team tension expected to generate results below their potential and a relatively early exit.
What to say: “Five defenders? Better to be safe than sorry.”
What not to say: “Where’s your best player Carlos Vela? Is he injured?”
Who? Supposedly the second youngest squad, with an average age of 25.8. However, many will scoff at this suggestion, given ongoing rumours of docking the ages of footballers in the country. A couple of Premier League players, but expectations are low.
What to say: “Your goalkeeper is excellent; could be the player of the tournament.”
What not to say: “Wasn’t Yakubu, like, 45 when he missed that sitter in South Africa?”
Who? Still ranked fourth in the world despite generally accepted to have declined since the last tournament. They still have one thing going for them though – the formidable talents of Cristiano Ronaldo.
What to say: “Your players are exciting and unpredictable. I’m expecting you to be dark horses.”
What not to say: “Ronaldo? What, that chubby guy from Brazil?”
Who? England fans will be keeping a close eye on the performance of Fabio Capello’s side after his luke-warm reign there. Russia boast a six foot five centre forward in Artem Dzyuba and have one of the easiest draws.
What to say:“Capello has certainly made you difficult to beat.”
What not to say: “Is that Rasputin playing up front?”
Who? Quick, feisty and skillful in attack, but a bit leaky at the back. However, a young squad which struggled in qualifying.
What to say: “Remember 2002? There’s always the chance you could emulate that success.”
What not to say: “I really like Kim, but not Lil’Kim.”
Who? Still ranked number one in the world, and defending world and European champions, but the bookies are tipping Brazil and Argentina ahead of them. The kings of tiki taka close control football.
What to say: “If the opponent can’t get the ball, they can’t score, can they?”
What not to say: “SHOOT, for the love of god just shoot.”
Who? Ranked sixth in the world, they are supposedly the strongest team in Group E, even of France are odds-on to win. Organised and solid defensively, they could do well but are unlikely to set the tournament alight.
What to say: “Your game was very neat and organised.”
What not to say: “Sixth? Haha, where are you really ranked?”
Who? Led by Jurgen Klinsmann, this USA side were hopeful of another strong performance in Brazil, but have been handed a stinker of a draw alongside Germany, Portugal and Ghana. Given the U.S. public’s insular attitude to sport, the ‘soccer’ team would have to do very well to get any attention domestically anyway.
What to say: “Go team USA. Yeah, you can do it! WOOO!”
What not to say: “I bet you’ve never heard of any of your players, have you?”
Who? For many, the strongest in Group D, expected to beat both England and Italy, largely thanks to the scoring form of Luis Suarez, who may or may not make it back from injury in time for the England game.
What to say: “It’s not about Suarez, you have some really great players.”
What not to say: “Dive, dive, dive.”