The greatest tournament on earth – no, not Super League – has kicked off, and it’s hard not to be impossibly excited. World Cups are evocative occasions, summoning up memories of competitions past and a time of your life long gone.
You never forget your first World Cup. As a member of Club mid-30s, it’s always going to be Italia ’90. I don’t care that older viewers sniff about the quality of football, and anyway, retrospective viewings support that analysis. I only need to hear the opening bars to Nessum Dorma, the Puccini aria that BBC Grandstand and Luciano Pavarotti made famous in UK households, to be transported back to being a wide-eyed eight year old discovering football for the first time.
They still quicken the pulse. There’s nothing quite like a World Cup – and FIFA’s sordid machinations, the astronomical sums of money involved, the nefarious antics of pantomime villain players, nothing can remove all of the lustre associated with Jules Rimet’s gift to the world.
But one thing has different changed for City fans in adulthood and beyond: the merging of two different components of our football-watching lives: City, and the World Cup.
You don’t have to go back too far for the World Cup and Hull City AFC to have nothing to do with each other. The demarcation zone was stark and the reason obvious: we were nowhere near good enough to have anyone involved. After all, Italia ’90 coincided with the beginning of the worst decade (so far) in City’s history as we tumbled down the divisions and into semi-permanent financial disarray.
But now look at us! Stricken as we are now, we’re about to enjoy another World Cup with Hull City involvement. The novelty has not quite worn off, but it’s still a real pleasure. But what are the chances of a Hull City player WINNING the World Cup?
They’re obviously not great. Australia are a remote 1000/1 to win the tournament; Jackson Irivine is unlikely to return to East Yorkshire adorned with gold and with tales of antipodean glory. Escaping a group in which they look distinctly fourth best would be a significant achievement for the Aussies. Advancing into the latter stages looks frankly impossible.
But what of Kamil Groscki’s Poland? Progress from a weak group H is probable, and assuming England and Belgium both qualify from neighbouring Group G, they’d hardly be rank outsiders against either. At 80/1 to go all the way, they’re scarcely a shoo-in, and you’d expect them to come unstuck when they encounter the tournament’s serious big hitters. Still, it’s roughly akin to Brighton winning next season’s FA Cup. Even a no deposit free bet may not have you scampering to the bookmakers, but if it happened, it wouldn’t be seismically shocking. Denmark and Greece were even bigger outsiders win Euro 2004 and 1992 respectively.
And even if Grosicki grates, there’d be something exciting and new about City having an actual World Cup winner (though you can already see the pound signs in Ehab’s cold eyes) – even if he didn’t feature in our hypothetical final. Then again, as he’s just left, wouldn’t there be something magnificently TypicalCity about Seb Larsson lifting aloft that magnificent trophy in July…