Top of the World

27 of the 32 nations at this year’s World Cup originate in Europe, Africa and the Americas. The remaining five participants are Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and North Korea. They’ve all played on the world stage before, but will be doing well to win a match or even pick up points in South Africa. Japan first qualified for the World Cup finals in 1998 and this is their fourth in a row. Their best performance was as co-hosts in 2002 when they qualified for the knockout stages following victories over Tunisia and Turkey. They’ve only picked up a solitary point in the six games they’ve played outside of Japan. Most likely, they’ll also draw a blank this year as they share a group with Holland, Denmark and Cameroon

This is Australia’s third time at the finals and their two previous outings have taken place on German soil. They lost to both East and West Germany in 1974 before being involved in a scoreless draw with Chile in their final game. They scored their first goals in 2006 when they beat Japan in their first game and eventually made it out of their group where they were unlucky to lose to Italy in the first round. They renew acquaintances with the Germans this month and will be fighting with Serbia and Ghana to see who makes it out of the group

In contrast to the All Blacks rugby team, New Zealand’s football team is known as the All Whites. They also have contrasting fortunes to their rugby counterparts as their only previous qualification in 1982 saw them lose all their games in a tough group that included Scotland, the Soviet Union and Brazil. They seem to have an easier group this time, but may not do any better against Italy, Paraguay and Slovakia

South Korea are appearing in their sixth consecutive finals and their seventh in total. Their first victory at the finals didn’t come until their fifteenth attempt when they beat Poland in their opening game as co-hosts in 2002. Another win against Portugal carried them to the next round where they defeated Italy in extra time and Spain on penalties before losing by the only goal of the game to Germany in the semi-finals. They are in Argentina’s group and will be hoping to get the better of Nigeria and Greece if they want to stay in the tournament

It’s North Korea’s second time at this stage and they also upset Italy on their way to a quarter-final tie against Portugal in 1966. In that match, they were 3-0 up after less than half an hour, but four goals from Eusebio inspired the Europeans to a 5-3 victory. They face Portugal again this time and have their work cut out as Brazil and the Ivory Coast will also make life difficult for them

I first came across Japan’s Shonen Knife (pictured above) in 1994 when I heard their brilliant version of Top of the World on a Carpenters’ tribute album (the band, not the profession). It’s one of my favourite songs ever and I still love it from its opening sound of a record crackling to the double-tracked punky guitars to the simple but effective rhythm section that drives it along to Naoko Yamano’s sprightly vocals. For me, it pisses all over the original version and it always puts a smile on my face. The next two bands do the same. The Go-Betweens are my favourite band from the land down under and Streets of Your Town is a nice little summer tune from them. Flight of the Conchords are not Australian, but are surely the funniest thing to have ever come out of New Zealand. It wasn’t so easy to find stuff from the two Koreas, but I really liked the guitars and breezy air of Korean Girl’s Winter by Julia Hart. You can find the track on an album called 돌아와 / 한국 소녀의 겨울. The popular music scene in North Korea seems to consist of poppy, keyboard ditties that sing the praises of their leaders. I’ve included one from a crowd called the Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble that didn’t make me cringe as much as the rest of the stuff I listened to from that country. I can’t wait to hear their national anthem

Top of the World (Carpenters cover) – Shonen Knife (Japan)

Streets of Your Town – The Go-Betweens (Australia)

Business Time – Flight of the Conchords (New Zealand)

Korean Girl’s Winter – Julia Hart (South Korea)

Reunification Rainbow – Pochonbo Electronic Ensemble (North Korea)

Previously on World Cup 2010:

Give Him a Ball (& a Yard of Grass)

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8 thoughts on “Top of the World

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    • North Korea and Honduras were the two countries that I found it really hard to find decent music from. Maybe one day I will

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