Around three-quarters of matches of the World Cup have now, sadly, been played, as we leave the Group Stages behind and go into the more exciting knock-out rounds. And, even more excitingly, this means an update to the LabourList Political World Cup Guide.
Before the tournament began, I reported that there was a 16/16 split between left wing countries and right wing ones – unfortunately, this was wrong. I had been fooled by Portugal’s misnomered Social Democratic Party, who are actually a right-of-centre conservative party, meaning that it was a 17/15 split in favour of the right wingers. Thankfully, Portugal have now been eliminated, surprisingly edged out by the democratic left USA in Group G.
And it’s not just USA – left teams have outperformed across the board, pushing into the lead. Of the 16 teams remaining, nine have left wing governments, with Chile, Algeria and (as well we know) Costa Rica all confounding expectations to qualify for the next stage.
Happily, democratic governments have asserted their dominance early on, and the widely recognised “Worst Match of the World Cup” has so far been the all-authoritarian right tie between Nigeria and Iran, which ended a turgid a 0-0.
Of the nine left countries, eight have fully democratic government, with Algeria the only authoritarian left government remaining. Similarly, only one authoritarian right still harbour hopes of parading the trophy in front of murals of their glorious leader: Nigeria (who progressed from the least democratic group). In the unlikely event that Nigeria defeat democratic left France and Algeria progress past democratic right Germany, the two will meet in the Quarter Finals, so it is impossible for more than one non-democratic team to still be in by the Semis. Although, given these fixtures, we’ll actually have a wholly democratic World Cup by the next round.
But who is likely to win? Of the progressive favourites I outlined last time, only Italy have failed to, er, progress – while Brazil and Argentina look like they could go all the way, despite some difficulties. In fact, the next batch of favourites for lefties, France, Chile and Belgium, have all been more convincing so far. It’s difficult, however, to see how Uruguay, missing their banned biting talisman Luis Suarez, will get past Colombia.
Up ’til now, the right has thrown up both the best performers and the biggest shocks: while Germany, Colombia and the Netherlands have blown away all opposition, the globe has been left aghast at the premature departure of Spain, Portugal and England. Stop smirking.
So, to the fixtures. The first and last games of this round see democratic left teams face off – Brazil v Chile and USA v Belgium. For the better football, Chile and Belgium might be worth your support. The only all-right match this time around is the Netherlands v Mexico, so for the purists among you, it might be worth making plans tomorrow at 5pm. All the others are straightforward right v left games, except Germany against Algeria, where the pesky democratic question rears its ugly head.
Democratic left Brazil v Democratic left Chile
Democratic right Colombia v Democratic left Uruguay
Democratic left France v Authoritarian right Nigeria
Democratic right Germany v Authoritarian left Algeria
Democratic right Netherlands v Democratic right Mexico
Democratic left Costa Rica v Democratic right Greece
Democratic left Argentina v Democratic right Switzerland
Democratic left USA v Democratic left Belgium