Paul the Oc­to­pus has got noth­ing on FFT

Mol­lusc re­an­i­ma­tion, bone-crush­ing mas­cots and Marouane Fel­laini an­ni­hi­lat­ing VAR with a colos­sal head­butt – FFT pre­dicts the sum­mer chaos to come

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In the dis­torted minds of chair-lob­bing hordes who have com­prised Eng­land’s trav­el­ling charm of­fen­sive over the past five decades, it’s a laugh to pop over to France or sim­i­lar, where you can be­foul civilised, cob­bled streets, yell stuff about the Frogs and chuck some Kro­nen­bourg around with­out too much re­sis­tance. But do they fancy the Nizhny Nov­gorod Sta­dium on a Tues­day night – up against froth­ing Rus­sian ultras who train in the woods by grap­pling brown bears, have mus­cles on top of their mus­cles and are armed to the teeth with scythes? Nah, thought not.


Fif­teen per cent of Ice­land’s pop­u­la­tion are in the Strakarnir okkar squad, and a fur­ther 80 per cent are their brothers, sis­ters, ssons and dot­tirs, who will be in the crowd look­ing like White Walk­ers from Game of Thrones and per­form­ing the big scary clap­ping thing. Which only means one thing: Heimir Hall­grims­son’s house is get­ting turned over by the five clever crim­i­nals left be­hind…


It’s re­ceived wis­dom that Maradona’s in­sane solo goal against Eng­land will never be topped, but the per­son­nel are in place in 2018 for a new goal of the cen­tury. Put your money on Leo Messi repli­cat­ing Diego’s strike – but run­ning back­wards; CR7 cross­ing the ball in for him­self and scor­ing with a round­house; and Mo Salah zig-zag­ging in a man­ner so be­witch­ing that it im­me­di­ately es­tab­lishes peace in the Mid­dle East.


The 2010 tour­na­ment in South Africa was a dream for mar­keters, TV chiefs and chortling com­men­ta­tors – be­hold Man­dela’s mighty vu­vuzela! Brazil 2014 was even eas­ier – crack out the car­ni­val footage! Let’s go to a favela! But how in the name of Dos­to­evsky are they meant to make Rus­sia work? We’re not see­ing Gary Lineker in a Red Army hat, Pussy Riot-themed foam hands or jokes about the gu­lags from Clive Tyldes­ley. Per­haps Vladimir Putin will choose to amp up all of the strong­man bravado and ex­e­cute a few busi­ness ri­vals dur­ing the open­ing cer­e­mony, with of­fi­cial mas­cot Zabi­vaka force-feed­ing them polo­nium and then crush­ing their bones? Or maybe we’re just go­ing to have to hold our noses and con­cen­trate on the foot­ball?


Foot­ballers are of­ten ter­ri­bly ir­ra­tional, with their lucky pants and pre-game rit­u­als – but Ger­many’s are surely the barmi­est, from Mario Gomez’s re­fusal to sing the an­them (he claims it stops him scor­ing goals), to Jogi Löw’s blue V-neck jumper be­liefs. Ex­pect them to some­how pull off a Juras­sic Park-style DNA re­an­i­ma­tion of Paul the Oc­to­pus, forced to fore­cast con­sec­u­tive World Cup glory for his over­lords.


Our po­lit­i­cal and royal lead­ers all want a bit of World Cup feelgood fever this month. So, eyes peeled for cringe­wor­thy photo ops of Prince Harry get­ting Gareth South­gate in a head­lock and Theresa May try­ing to jug­gle a Tel­star 18 in her kit­ten heels – and, of course, a rogue’s gallery of po­lit­i­cal lead­ers sit­ting next to big bad Vlad as he plots to seize the Eng­land Band’s trom­bones.


Oh, how we needed the as­sis­tance of video ref­er­ees af­ter Har­ald Schu­macher de­cap­i­tated Pa­trick Bat­tis­ton, af­ter the Hand of God, af­ter Lam­pard’s wal­lop in 2010 clearly crossed the Ger­man line. But now it’s here, are you happy? Eh? The machines are al­most cer­tain to ruin a game at some point, and who will blame foot­ball’s lead­ing nutters if they de­cide to turn Lud­dite? Fel­laini nut­ting a mon­i­tor, Luis Suarez gnash­ing a cable and Casemiro tear­ing VAR a new USB in­put – you know it’s go­ing to hap­pen.

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