Friday, June 02, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Serbia and Montenegro

On June 11, eleven players will step onto the pitch to play beneath the flag of a country which began its final disintegration nearly two weeks ago, following a referendum which gave Montenegro its independence for the first time in ninety years. What you will see in this year's tournament, then, is a country which has never qualified before, will never qualify again, and in fact does not exist, a squad representing a phantom, if you will.

Of course, the real question is: in the divorce, who gets the better football team? Might some football-mad Slovaks even today regret the split that now sees their former Czech brethren qualifying ahead of them? No question the Serbs and Montenegrins will need the best of both countries as they unfortunately drew the Group of Death, leading Belgrade's paper Blic to cry, "Heidi Klum has sent us to hell!" To hell, people. It turns out, hell is made up of Argentina, Holland, and the Ivory Coast. Who knew?

Serbia and Montenegro remained unbeaten through ten qualifying matches, but their mettle will be tested by Holland in a week and a half . . . or will it? Will Holland reveal itself as a mere present-day shadow of its past Clockwork Orange glory? Will Argentina sputter and choke as they did 4 years ago? Some say this is a squad not to be underestimated, while others predict a quick and merciless exit. We here at a pretty move know better than to make forecasts of a dogmatic nature. We wouldn't necessarily be placing a bet on Serbia and Montenegro's chances to struggle past the group stage, but perhaps Ms. Klum has only sent them to be forged and tempered before moving on to greater things in the round of sixteen.

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