As far as World Cup draws go, both England and the U.S. have been dealt tough hands. Here’s a team-by-team guide to the two nations’ groups:
Group D: England, Italy, Uruguay, Costa Rica
England: There is little doubt that Group D will be a tough test for England. Coach Roy Hodgson has selected a youthful, relatively inexperienced squad, only six of whom have played at a World Cup before. The weight of the country’s hopes will fall heavily upon the shoulders of Scouse duo Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney. Both will be playing in their third World Cup, and for 34 year-old captain Gerrard, it will most likely be his last. Rooney, meanwhile, will be hoping to break his World Cup scoring duck of eight games without a goal. FIFA ranking: 10
Italy: Four-time world champions Italy comfortably qualified for Brazil with two games remaining. In order to get something out of this game, England will need to contain midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo and powerhouse striker Mario Ballotelli. Adding to England’s already difficult task will be the tropical monsoon climate of Manaus, which could be particularly draining if Italy plays their possession game and makes England chase the ball for ninety minutes. The last time these two sides met at a major tournament was during the Euro 2012 quarterfinals. The Three Lions lost that game on penalties (inevitably) as Italy went on to eventually finish runners-up to Spain. FIFA ranking: 9
Uruguay: For a squad as rich in talent as Uruguay’s, they made a real meal out of qualification. After finishing fifth in the South American table, they then had to beat Jordan in a two-legged playoff to be sure of their place in Brazil. In Luis Suárez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Forlán they have no shortage of firepower up front; however, defensive frailties were exposed during a qualification campaign that saw them concede 25 goals in 16 games. They are the current Copa América holders, reached the semifinals in 2010 and the last time a World Cup was held in Brazil in 1950, Uruguay won it. FIFA ranking: 7
Costa Rica: Costa Rica will consider themselves a little unfortunate to have been drawn in such a tough group, especially after they breezed through qualifying with a couple of games to spare. During that impressive campaign they won all of their home games (including notable victories over the U.S. and Mexico) and only conceded seven goals, giving them the best defensive record in the CONCACAF Hexagonal. Sadly, however, it does look as though Costa Rica will be the proverbial whipping boys of Group D due to the caliber of their opponents. When England play Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on June 24, it will be the first time in history the two teams have met. FIFA ranking: 28
Group G: United States, Ghana, Portugal, Germany
United States: Drawn into “The Group of Death” (every World Cup has one), the U.S. will need to be firing on all cylinders if they’re to advance to the second round. Coach Jürgen Klinsmann brings a wealth of World Cup experience to the helm; he played in three for Germany (winning it in 1990) and coached them to the semifinals in 2006. However, Klinsmann raised a few eyebrows by choosing to leave all-time USMNT leading scorer Landon Donovan out of his 23-man roster. The onus now will be on players such as Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and goalkeeper Tim Howard who will certainly have his work cut out. FIFA ranking: 13
Ghana: America let out a collective national groan last December when they were drawn against Ghana in Group G. The Black Stars have been the bogey team for the United States at the previous two World Cups, eliminating them in 2006 and 2010. This is a game that both sides will feel they can win, and how crucial those three points could be come the end of the group stage. FIFA ranking: 37
Portugal: While it would be unfair to label Portugal a one-man team, Cristiano Ronaldo is almost certainly the only reason they made it to Brazil. After finishing second in their qualifying group, it was Ronaldo’s four goals in their two playoff games against Sweden that booked Portugal on the plane to South America. Ronaldo is arguably the greatest player of his generation (Lionel Messi causing said argument) and possibly even of all time, so stopping him will be key to the U.S. getting something out of this game. Portugal will enjoy the added bonus of home-like support given their Brazilian bonds. FIFA ranking: 4
Germany: The prospect of Jürgen Klinsmann taking on his beloved Germany is so mouthwatering it’s enough to make you choke on your hot dog with sauerkraut. This German squad is laden with attack-minded players (they scored an astonishing 36 goals in ten qualifying games) and their midfield in particular is a veritable arsenal of offensive options, including Lukas Podolski, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Müller, André Schürrle, Mesut Özil, Mario Götze, Sami Khedira, Toni Kroos, Marco Reus and Julian Draxler. If there is a weakness—and that is a big if—it’s possibly at the back. In a 4-4 qualifying tie with Sweden they surrendered a four-goal lead in the final 30 minutes, but this was the only blemish on an otherwise 100% record. FIFA ranking: 2
@MindtheGap_BBCA is live-tweeting England’s World Cup matches, starting with England vs. Italy on Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm ET. Tweet along using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Doctor Who Season 7 on DVD.
How do you think England and the United States will fare in Brazil? Tell us in the comments below:]]>
It has often been said that “Americans don’t care about real football.” Thankfully, this assertion continues to carry less and less weight these days. NBC’s successful live coverage of every game during the 2013/14 Premier League season proved that football’s reputation is growing in the United States. Thankfully for British expat soccer fans, an even greater level of coverage is expected ahead of the biggest tournament in world football: the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Kicking off on June 12, the World Cup will be aired in its entirety on ESPN and two of its sister channels (ESPN2 and ABC). So for those of you with a cable subscription, you can catch every single game—including all seven of England’s World Cup matches (it doesn’t hurt to be optimistic, right?)—from the comfort of your own living room. And just in case you’re as obsessed with football as I am, the same network is rolling out daily 24-hour news coverage, analysis and commentary of all the happenings from Brazil, via ESPN3 and WatchESPN.
Meanwhile, in what will likely come as a refreshing change for Americans and British expats alike, the matches will also be viewable live stateside at a reasonable hour this time around. In the years since the U.S. itself hosted the 1994 World Cup, football consumers across the nation have had to contend with impractically late (or early) kickoffs, with the last four tournaments being held in France (1998), Japan/South Korea (2002), Germany (2006), and South Africa (2010).
For the most part, Brazil’s time zones are not wildly off balance with those of the United States (Alaska and Hawaii notwithstanding). Indeed, those of you on the east coast will be able to catch England’s first group match against Italy starting at 6 pm ET on Saturday, June 14, while England vs. Uruguay kicks off Thursday, June 19 at 3 pm ET, and England vs. Costa Rica takes place Tuesday, June 24 at 12pm ET.
Those last two matches, of course, take place on weekdays, meaning that there’s one thing not even favorable time zones can overcome: your job. Thankfully, if you’re fortunate enough to have unrestricted access to the internet at your place of work, ESPN is your friend. In addition to its comprehensive television coverage, the network is set to stream all 64 matches live on WatchESPN.com (note: you will need to provide the login details that accompany your cable subscription).
And, because this is the 21st century, wholesale internet coverage means every match can also be watched on your smartphone or tablet. Indeed, if either of these are your prepared viewing method, ESPN is making all matches accessible via its WatchESPN app for iOS and Android.
At the end of the day, however, if you’d just rather watch the World Cup in a manner more befitting of the British way of life, there is no better place for revelry and live action than the pub. Thankfully the U.S. is replete with British-style establishments. That said—and this works in your favor when it comes to football—a not-so-authentic aspect of American pubs is their abundance of television screens. But even in America, pubs can become quite packed during a match—especially if that match features England or the U.S.A.—and multiple screens allow for easier access during those crucial 90 minutes of football.
Follow @MindtheGap_BBCA on Twitter, as we’ll be live-tweeting England’s World Cup matches this summer, starting with England vs. Italy on Saturday, June 14 at 6 pm ET. Join in using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win Doctor Who Season 7 on DVD.
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The other night, bidding farewell to my guests following a meal, a heavy hand grabbed my shoulder from behind. It wasn’t an old friend who had s ]]>
It was a waiter who, after accosting me in this fashion, explained his angst: “Hey! You didn’t leave me enough tip!”
Now, we weren’t in a strip club in Lewisham. No, we were in an elegant restaurant in a posh part of Beverly Hills adjacent. Furthermore, we had left about seventeen percent, on the full $200 amount of a discounted check (it was half-price night), even though we received horrible service, which his actions outside only served to punctuate. Yes, we left $35 on top of a $100 check, effectively a 35 percent tip, and Dude still wasn’t happy.
It led me to thinking, would the same situation happen in the U.K.? There, a place where tipping happens but not in an excessive way, we tip for truly good service or in high-end places, where the experience allows for the gratitude. Certainly, if a waiter behaved this way in a place like that, they would be fired for misconduct. But here in America, tipping, though subtitled “optional,” is absolutely expected, thus giving the receivers a righteousness over my extra dollars.
The honorable level is something of hot topic, especially amongst service workers or expats, who debate amounts with the fervor of two delinquents over a video game score. Some say at least 15 percent—18 percent is fair, 20 percent is good. Others conclude that leaving a tip of 15 percent or less shows them the service was bad. If it was bad, why are we giving anything? If the new toaster you bought didn’t brown bread, you’d take it back for a refund. And you can always count on the high-rolling douchebag to ruin all equations with a palm-gracing equivalent of a small country’s GDP, setting new precedents in the waiting world.
I’ve noticed in America there are three species of tippers.
Guilt Tippers are the empathizers: they’ve “been there themselves” or “seen the struggle” or simply are uncomfortable with the extra cash that’s bulging out of their allowance. They sympathize with the server, knowing that their contribution will help the person get a step closer to that Lamborghini / yoga pose / Arbonne goalpost on his or her vision board.
Ego Tippers are those that loudly proclaim how much they’re putting in, or drop a hundy at the bar for a beer, and reconfirm to the bartender (usually a hottie) that they can keep the change, three or four times. These types should generally be avoided if you wear highly flammable clothes, as bottle service sparklers are often nearby.
Then, Fear Tippers follow trends reluctantly to secure their dignity, shun conflict, nurture relationships, or to avoid a bogey sandwich next time at their favorite eatery. These poor souls feel the further wrath of the modern payment app, requiring them to add tip and sign right in front of the intimidating employee.
Here’s what also strikes me as bizarre: if two people sit at the same restaurant, different tables, both have the lasagna and a bottle of wine, why does the guy with the expensive palate and job promotion pay more tip? It takes exactly the same effort and time to pop and pour the vintage Puligny Montrachet as it does the house Fetzer, yet the enjoyment of our hard-earned wealth is democratically shared with the cork-popper.
I have numerous friends that work in restaurants. I’m an actor in L.A.; it’s like having a Chihuahua in Beverly Hills. Many of them actually are well-compensated by their server jobs, often much more than nurses, doctors or other professionals back home. It’s an interesting conundrum, as these high potential earnings make it a somewhat aspirational position, with countless getting waylaid from their true goal. On the flipside, I think this optional/obligatory tipping equally encourages establishments to underpay their staff, expecting patrons to make up the deficit. Besides, if you’ve ever been to dinner with a server in America, you’ve probably seen them give back most of their wages in a ludicrously geared tip.
Where does it stop? Restaurants expect tips; that’s normal. Coffee shops now have a little pot, often with Guilt-Tipper-targeted taglines of “Karma” or “Tipping Makes You Sexy” inscribed. Hotels have various interaction points from valet, to bellboy, to cleaner to concierge that could wind up doubling your bill. Do you tip the guy that packs your grocery bag? The bank manager who approved your mortgage? The car mechanic that didn’t screw you (he said)? I’ve long thought it would be an interesting exercise to dedicate a week to over-tipping all these unsung heroes instead.
So what are my top tips for tipping? Well, whatever your stance, if you’re in another country and it’s customary to tip, then that’s what you should do. Find your point of comfort though and tip reasonably based on that. Factor it in before you decide where to go, rather than getting a shock when you get the check. If you’re in a group splitting the bill, calculate the average amount of tip before you leave someone else to pay. Don’t rely on discount vouchers or Groupons for a cheap night out—the tip will ensure it’s still pricey. Make more money, so giving gratuity doesn’t hurt as much.
Or just switch teams and follow your own patrons aggressively into the parking lot for that extra two percent.
What IS the correct amount to tip and to whom? Join @MindTheGap_BBCA and etiquette expert @DebbyMayne tomorrow (Wednesday, June 4) at 2 pm ET on Twitter to discuss using hashtag #MindTheChat for a chance to win a Ripper Street Season 2 download from iTunes.
Don’t get me wrong: there’s lot to love about a summer in the U.S.—especially if you’ve just emerged from a brutal northern winter. For the most part, we have what they call “guaranteed summers” while our friends and loved ones back in Blighty usually hope (often against hope) for one or two weeks of good weather. Once in a while though, I’ll be on the phone with family members, all sitting outside in someone’s garden on a warm summer evening, and the pangs and memories come flooding back.
The smell of an English garden in the evening—there’s nothing quite like it. (Don’t know about anyone else but my Chicago roses barely smell of anything.) It helps to be quaffing a glass of Pimm’s too, or perhaps, to my American husband’s disgust, a lager shandy. (And please, none o’ that Leinenkugel rubbish.)
Talking of booze, I also fondly remember standing outside 400-year-old London pubs with workmates (again—has to be on a summer evening.)
Or sitting in the beer garden of a country pub till the light starts to fade—about the same time as a lot of pubs closed. I mean, come on, how can you beat these beauties?
And isn’t there something magical about it still being daylight at night? Up in the far north of England and beyond, it stays light well past 10 pm. Admittedly it’s not so much fun when you’re trying to get small kids to bed who are insisting that it can’t be bedtime because it’s too light.
Then there’s your 99 ice cream cone. Delicious! In the northeast of England, we had Mr. Whippy vans, selling the creamiest of creamy ice cream with a delicious Cadbury’s flake sticking out. (Sometimes we had red, sticky “monkey’s blood” too.) Sadly, according to the people at Cadbury’s, the origin of the name has been “lost in the mists of time.” My American kids always have to have a 99 when we’re back in England, whether it’s boiling hot or freezing cold.
What about British beaches – with their beach huts, buckets and spades, windbreakers and the occasional donkey? I have to admit, although we visit the beach a lot on our trips over, we’re usually fully clothed and dodging rain showers. I remember one particularly cold summer, visiting Walkworth beach in Northumberland, we actually had to take cover from the howling gales by sitting deep in the dunes!
By the way, beach huts aren’t quite as basic as they used to be. Apparently there are now waiting lists to buy them, and one in Dorset was recently sold for £170,000 ($284,000). And did you also know that the approximately 850 working beach donkeys now undergo an annual MOT (fitness test) to make sure they are up to the task, and weight limits are in place to prevent overweight children from riding them? The UK Donkey sanctuary has developed a Code of Practice to ensure beach donkeys are kept safe and healthy.
I even miss British rain showers. OK, not rain as such; I’d much prefer it if we didn’t have to think about the rain, but even in many U.S. regions, summer can equal rain aplenty. The great thing about British rain showers, though, is that they can be over in two minutes. It can also be raining in your garden and not in the neighbor’s, so fast do they move across the country.
Or is this a case of looking back through rose-colored spectacles?