From crazy Latin goalkeepers to balloons for balls, the old chestnuts are still doing the rounds at World Cups.
The Italians 'revert to type'
Just about everybody connected with English football believes that when push comes to shove Italy always fall back on defensive-minded cynicism. The finest example of this attitude came from Barry Davies after the Azzurri's defeat by South Korea in 2002: “And you have to say they have got what they deserve, because they just will not learn.”
Italy have won the World Cup four times; England have won it once. This suggests that whatever the Italians have failed to learn was maybe not worth knowing in the first place.
The Germans are efficient. And lucky
It doesn't matter how many players of the calibre of Franz Beckenbauer, Gerd Muller, Gunter Netzer, Jurgen Klinsmann or Stefan Effenberg Germany produces, to the rest of the world they will always be the nation of Berti Vogts.
Furthermore while they are dull workaholics, they are also blessed with remorseless good fortune. The Germans were lucky to beat Hungary in 1954, lucky to beat the Dutch in 1974 and fluked their way to the final in 2002.
But that Germany has not lost a penalty shoot-out since 1976 calls to mind Gary Player's adage: “Lucky? Sure, and you know what, the harder I practise the luckier I get.”
They call this keeper ‘The Crazy One'
The tradition of the madcap Latin American goalkeeper began with Peru's ‘El Loco', Ramn Quiroga, memorably booked in the opposition half by officious English referee Pat Partridge during the 1978 finals.
Since then we have had Colombia's Ren Higuita and the belligerent Jos ‘The Bulldog' Chilavert of Paraguay, who took his side's free-kicks and penalties and threatened to run for president.
Jorge Campos of Mexico was quieter in character but wore outfits so loud Ron Atkinson once observed they looked “like they were designed by Ray Charles”.
Just because something is a cliché doesn't mean it isn't true.
This could be an African team's year
For the past two decades pundits have been confessing pre-tournament to a ‘sneaky feeling' that a team from Africa might just do it this time around.
The sneakiness has hardened recently because nowadays many African players have Premier League experience.
And playing in the English top flight is more or less essential to international success, as England constantly prove.
Brazil are flamboyant and sexy
Brazil are the Germans in reverse. No matter how many times they field dull teams, stuffed with lumpish louts such as Junior Baiano or cynical clodhoppers such as Carlos Perreira (so brutal in 1974 that Jack Charlton felt moved to nominate him as player of the tournament), you can bet that at the first half-arsed step-over from a man in a yellow shirt the pundits will be purring about ‘samba soccer' and getting all misty-eyed about the Copacabana beach and that time Pele didn't score from the halfway line.
This is very much Koeman territory
At every Mondial there is at least one player traditionally a big beast of a fellow with thighs like two oven-ready turkeys whose ability to strike a free-kick thunderously into the defensive wall, the photographers or row Z of the stand behind the goal fills the commentators with a strange and unremitting excitement.
Ronald Koeman, Roberto Carlos and Sinisa Mihailovic are all men who got a powerful dead-ball strike on target once in every 400 attempts and were consequently hailed as dangerous and thrilling by John Motson and his mates. Many believe that Didier Drogba may be about to assume the mantle.
The new ball is too light and swerves around all over the place
Before the tournament everybody asks if the ball will be a factor. The game is called football. I think there's a clue there, don't you?
The new ball is always likened to a beachball. Goalkeepers complain that it is difficult to save and outfield players moan that it is hard to keep it on target. The player most badly compromised is traditionally Frank Lampard.
The officials are just not using their common sense
The World Cup usually begins with Fifa issuing a directive to match officials to clamp down on all manner of foul play, from the tackle from behind to wearing socks at half-mast.
Everybody agrees that this flies in the face of practicality, especially since “they wouldn't even have given a foul for that one in the Premiership”.
The rule that injured players must be removed on a stretcher particularly irritates pundits who learned their trade during the days of Terry Hurlock, though the casual viewer always enjoys the sight of some lanky player such as Jan Koller or Peter Crouch being wheeled off like a giant squid in a wheelbarrow.
Teams from south-east Asia will struggle in the air
In the world of football, people from the Far East will always be characterised as ‘diminutive' no matter how tall they are. It is therefore clear to everyone in the commentary box and on the sofa that they will find it difficult to deal with crosses.
The fact that many Japanese and Korean defenders are actually rather tall is immaterial; on planet soccer knowledge remains long after reality is forgotten.
© Guardian News and Media 2010
Keywords: 2010 World Cup