A bizarre bit of statistical flotsam flitted into my mind about 4am yesterday as the German football maestros were giving the Argentinian handball player Diego Primadona his karmic comeuppance.
It’s so unreal it could be straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
(Make that Ricki’s Believe It or Not.)
It goes like this.
If world number one Spain or three-time winners Germany win the 2010 FIFA World Cup, only one team will finish the tournament unbeaten.
And that team will not be Spain, and it will not be Germany.
(You’ll remember the Spaniards were upset by the Swiss in their first match. And the brilliant Germans suffered some sort of brain explosion against the Serbs in their second.)
Nor will the unbeaten team be five-time champions Brazil or four-time champions Italy, who lost to Holland and Slovakia respectively.
It will not be two-time champions Argentina, or their Falklands foes and Wembley one-hit wonders England, both of whom were blitzkrieged by Germany.
It will not be 1998 winners and reigning runners-up France, who qualfied by dubious means, were smashed by two Mexican waves, then surrendered, squabbling, to South Africa.
It will not be former World Cup placegetters Portugal (edged by Spain), Chile (outplayed by both Spain and Brazil), South Korea (beaten by Argentina and Uruguay) or the USA (yes, they were 3rd in 1930 — beaten this time in extra time by Ghana).
It will not be the back end of the Czechoslovak pantomime horse, since the Slovaks were beaten by fellow former double bridesmaids Holland.
It will not be two-time placegetter Yugoslavia’s latter-day sliver, Slovenia (ousted by England), or its rump Serbia, who went to all the bother of upending Germany, only to succumb to unglamorous Ghana and Australia.
Same story with former hosts Switzerland, who gored the Spanish toreadors, but were burned by the not-so-hot Chile and could only draw with the humble Hondurans.
It will not be those Hondurans, who went down to Chile and Spain, or Spain’s latest Latin victim, Paraguay.
Or two-time hosts Mexico, who fell to that neighbouring pair of one-time hosts and two-time winners, Uruguay and Argentina.
It will not be former European champion Denmark or Greece, each of whom was karate-chopped by an Asian former host (Denmark by Japan, Greece by South Korea), with the Greeks being lassoed by the Argentinian gauchos for good measure.
It will not be any of the Johnny-come-latelies from Asia and Africa:
- Japan (pipped by Paraguay on penalties)
- Cote d’Ivoire (just beaten by Brazil)
- Australia (butchered by Germany)
- Cameroon (who recorded a hat-trick of one-goal losses to Denmark, Holland and Japan)
- Algeria (trumped by Slovenia and the USA)
- Nigeria (nudged out by Argentina and Greece)
- hosts South Africa (gatecrashed by Uruguay 3-0), or
- Ghana (cruelly denied by those greedy Uruguayans on penalties after squandering a spot-kick winner at the death).
It most certainly will not be the outrageously misnamed Democratic People’s Republic of (North) Korea, who were monstered by Portugal 7-0, clobbered by Cote d’Ivoire 3-1, yet, oddly, barely shaded by Brazil (2-1).
Spain and Germany are playing in the semis. That means one of them will end up with two losses.
The other will line up in the final against either Holland or Uruguay — both currently unbeaten.
So the championship decider will be between a team that’s lost once, and a team that’s yet to lose.
If one of the teams that’s already lost (Spain or Germany) lifts the trophy, then the only unbeaten team of the 32 that started World Cup 2010 will be none other than…
… (drum roll please)…
… the 1000-1 rank outsiders…
… a team that conceded ten goals more than they scored in their only previous finals appearance…
… conquerors of Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands and Bahrain…
… everybody’s 32nd favourites…
… New Zealand!
(I might add that those 1000-1 odds were offered by the New Zealand TAB — Lord knows what they were paying overseas.)
At worst, we’ll have to share the unbeaten mantle with one other team.
If the winner of Holland v Uruguay beats the winner of Germany v Spain in the final, then the unbeaten teams will be either:
(I figured it was only fair to put our rivals’ names before our own, since if they win they’ll have won, um… seven matches to our, er… none.)
But on present form, it look like we won’t have to share.
The youthful German juggernaut should steamroll the Spanish the same way they crushed their Argentinian cousins.
The Dutch should have too much flair and/or discipline for Uruguay.
And Germany should be able to outpace their old enemy in a rerun of the epic 1974 final.
If that happens, I repeat… the only team to leave South Africa without a loss to its name will be… ours.
And that’s not all. Oh no.
On top of that wacky claim to fame, Kiwis will be entitled to a special bonus boast…
Having earlier beaten Serbia 1-0, then seen Serbia beat Germany 1-0, and Germany beat everyone else that matters (including Australia 4-0, Argentina 4-0 and England 4-1), we’ll be able to brag with only slightly twisted logic that we’re the Giant-Killer Killers of World Football.
Not a bad outcome from our only actual recent win!
In honour of this remarkable achievement, I suggest this team be christened the Invincible All Whites — a cheeky play on the Invincible All Blacks of 1924.
OK, so those All Blacks won 32 out of 32 and these All Whites drew 3 out of 3. Who’s counting? This is the world game.
Roll on Brazil 2014 and the first All Whites’ victory.
P.S. Aren’t statistics fun? :-)