Friday, 25 June 2010

Left clinches majority in World Cup first round

Six out of eight group winners in the group stages shows that left-of-centre countries have hit form as the World Cup enters the knock-out stages, reports Next Left as we continue our unique political guide to the world's greatest sporting event.

While Brazil, Argentina and Spain were favourites to win their group, strong performances from Uruguay, Paraguay and the USA left the political right trailing, with only Holland and Germany topping groups. There are nine left-of-centre nations in the last sixteen, as Japan's victory to knock out Denmark proved enough for an overall majority, with Ghana and Portugal also qualifying from the group stages. (But Australia's third game victory was not enough to put them through, with prime minister Kevin Rudd falling in a party putsch the same morning).

With the left's South American heartlands in top form, there is even a chance of a centre-left landslide at the World Cup - if Brazil meet Uruguay (or indeed underdogs Ghana or Obama's USA) in the semi-finals, and with Argentina and Spain current favourites to make the other semi-final.

The right, relying heavily on western Europe, has suffered the shock exit of Sarkozy's France and Berlusconi's Italy. England's second place means that either David Cameron or Angela Merkel will see their country suffer a second round exit.

But there was some consolation for the European right in the World Champion's shock defeat - since their Slovakian conquerors were swinging from the centre-left to the centre-right, as the game took place, with the governing Social Democrats unable to form a new administration despite finishing first in the elections a fortnight ago. Coalition talks were interrupted to watch the final minutes of the game.

Meanwhile, Berlusconi's Cabinet minister Umberto Bossi of the Lega Nord had to apologise for saying Italy would "buy the game" and bribe their way into the knock-out round with Serie A contracts for Slovakian players, a "joke" that was rather disproved by events.

Who to cheer for in the Round of 16

Here is a political summary of the democratic left's teams in the second round:

Uruguay to beat South Korea
USA or Ghana [both centre-left]

Brazil to beat Chile
Spain or Portugal [both centre-left]

Argentina to beat Mexico.
England or Germany
[both centre-right: our LibDems are supposed to be to the left of the FDP]

Paraguay or Japan [both centre-left]
Holland or Slovakia [both centre-right: Dutch Labour may join Dutch coalition]

So the centre-left will have at least three and the right at least two of the eight quarter-finalists. The three left-right matches will determine the balance of power.

First round summary

Here's a round-up of the political complexion of the first round. The top two teams from each group qualify, with the third and fourth places teams eliminated.

Group A

Uruguay - democratic left
Mexico - democratic right
South Africa - democratic left
France - democratic right

Group B

Argentina - democratic left
South Korea - democratic right
Greece - democratic left
Nigeria - partially-democratic right

Group C

United States - democratic left
England - democratic right
Slovenia - democratic left
Algeria - semi-democratic

Group D

Germany - democratic right
Ghana - democratic left
Australia - democratic left
Serbia - democratic left

Group E

Holland - democratic right
Japan - democratic left
Denmark - democratic right
Cameroon - semi/undemocratic

Group F

Paraguay - democratic left
Slovakia - change of government from left to right
New Zealand - democratic right
Italy - democratic right

Group G

Brazil - democratic left
Portugal - democratic left
Ivory Coast - semi/non-democratic
North Korea - left dictatorship

Group H

Spain - democratic left
Chile - democratic right
Switzerland - democratic centre
Honduras - semi-democratic right

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