The OF Blog: World Cup of Fiction: June 20 Matches

Sunday, June 20, 2010

World Cup of Fiction: June 20 Matches

Happy Father's Day to those who are fathers and happy sports day to those who are cheering on one or more of the six sides playing today.  Since there are only two sides remaining (Italy and Paraguay) who haven't received a write-up before, I'll do that for those and copy/paste the others for the remainder of the group stages.

Group F

Paraguay - Sports Nickname  Guaraníes.  World Cup appearancs, 8 (1930, 1950, 1958, 1986, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Paraguay has seen a marked rise in its literary output in the past 70 years.  Authors include poets Hérib Campos Cervera, Elvio Romero and Oscar Ferriero, and writers such as Josefina Plá, Manuel Ortiz Guerrero, Eloy Fariña Núñez, Gabriel Casaccia and Juan Bautista Rivarola Matto.

Weaknesses:  Paraguay is the weakest South American side in the literary World Cup, with very few writers enjoying more than regional acclaim and no world-class literary strikers or marking philosophers.

  Slovakia - Sports nickname:  Bojovni Jondovc.  Number of World Cup appearances, 1 (2010). Number of World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  Although Slovakia has only been an independent nation since 1993, there is a rich tradition of Slokavian literature, including several poets and dramatists, dating back to the medieval period.  More recently, Milan Rufus was considered to be a perennial candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature until his death in 2009.  Slovak authors, although not as well-known as their Czech brethren, have written several lauded works in a wide range of genres and literary styles.

Weaknesses:  After 40 years of Communist rule and the paucity of translations into English, Slovak literature is still mostly an unknown quantity in the Anglophone countries.  However, in parts of Central and Eastern Europe, Slovak writers have enjoyed some recognition, albeit of a diminished sort when compared to their larger Czech and Hungarian neighbors.

Prediction:  Slovakia overcomes their shocking performance against New Zealand and rolls to victory on a second half penalty kick.

Italy - Sports Nickname:  The Azzurri.  World Cup appearances, 17 (1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 4 (1934, 1938, 1982, 1986).

Strengths:  Italy has one of the most poetic sides in this literary Cup.  Dante Aligheri is a masterful poet in goal, with Ludovico Ariosto, Giovanni Boccaccio, Francesco Petrarcha, and Matteo Boiardo supplying the backbone for the rugged defense that Italy has made (in)famous in previous World Cup.  Their midfield is manned by Umberto Eco, Italo Calvino, Dino Buzzati, Guiseppe Parini, and Giacomo Leopardi, while the strikers are Niccolò Machiavelli and Primo Levi.

Weaknesses:  As formidable as their side may seem on paper, you can rest assured that the Italians will play a cautious, probing defense, seeking to win the game on a penalty kick or an opportunistic counter-attack.  The Azzurri literary side has the potential to be dynamic, but a tradition of playing in a turtle-like shells renders them less gracile than even the American side.


New Zealand - Sports nickname:  All Whites (soccer/football).  Number of World Cup appearances, 2 (1982, 2010).  Number of World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  New Zealand is a young nation, both in terms of its sports history and its literary heritage.  However, New Zealand does possess a rich history of Maori oral traditions, which if ever translated and put on the written page may prove to be an unknown factor that could surprise unwary foes and readers.  Furthermore, several writers have been influenced by New Zealand and have written tales in New Zealand or based on New Zealand, such as works by Katherine Mansfield and Samuel Butler, whose Erewhon is perhaps the most famous New Zealand-based novel that I have read.

Weaknesses:  As a young and untested literary group, New Zealand has had to rely more upon immigrant or foreign authors mentioning their land than do older, richer literary nations.  There is really not a distinct New Zealand literary scene and the literature, outside of its sometimes rich settings, really has not stood out.  Furthermore, the Kiwis would appear to be matched up poorly with nations that have a more integrated multicultural literary attack.

Prediction:  Italy has the talent to roll to a huge victory, but its cautious play will result in a 1-0 victory that will leave the Kiwis claiming a moral victory.  Oh, and there will be plenty of insults tossed about and Zinadine Zadine will be tempted to run onto the pitch to headbutt another Italian.

Group G

Brazil - Sports nickname:  A Seleção.  Number of World Cup appearances, 19 (1930, 1934, 1938, 1950, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970, 1974, 1978, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010).  Number of World Cup championships, 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002).

Strengths:  Brazil is a lively literary side, led by its most renowned author, Jorge Amado, who has received several accolades and has been translated into several languages.  Independent since the 1820s, Brazil has had the time to develop a variety of literary styles. 19th century Realist writer Joaquim Maria Machado de Assis is another Brazilian author whose works may provide a devastating complement to Amado's more imaginative works.

Weaknesses:  Brazilian authors, especially those writing in speculative fiction, have not yet managed to replicate the unique artistry for which their soccer/football side is renowned.  This is not to say that they are not a dangerous squad, for there are several young and promising authors that are emerging in Brazil that may soon be able to challenge the powerful Argentine literary community for control of the South American literary scene.  Brazil is a fast-developing country and they may provide problems for the other members of Group G.

Côte d'Ivoire - Sports nickname: Lés Elephants.  Number of World Cup appearances, 2 (2006, 2010).  World Cup Championships, 0.

Strengths:  There is still the remnants of a strong oral tradition among the several ethnics groups within the country.  And there is one author of international note:  Ahmadou Kourouma.

Weaknesses:  The combination of a young country with a mostly illiterate population has not produced any significant literary output that has spread beyond West Africa.  May be one of the weakest literary sides in the entire World Cup.
Prediction:  Brazil's literary output is just too much for Lés Elephants.  Brazil steamrolls through and qualifies for the Knockout Stage.

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