The Marble Column Countries: Greece, Italy, and Andrea Pirlo (World Cup 2014)

Italy - World Cup


World Ranking: 9


Don’t care about the world ranking – Italy is Italy. What can FIFA tell you that four World Cups can’t?

The Italians like to defend. Well, maybe they hate it. But they’re good at it. And yet, it’s not like they’re some trap defence. The Azzurri (see, I use their nickname so now I sound like an insider) make defence look good, either because their jersey are so tight or because their hair is so long. But they move. They dance. Whenever they pass, I imagine Kenny G hitting the high note on his sax.

Italy sucked a major something four years ago when they were bounced in the knockout group. They made the final at Euro 2012 but were swiftly slapped down by Spain in the final, 4-0. Watching Italy play Spain then was sort of like watching the New York Rangers play the L.A. Kings over the past two weeks – yeah, you know they deserve to be there, but you just feel the sport will be cheated of a worthy champion if they actually win.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yes. And it was traumatizing.

Mouth-Watering Food:

The entire menu.

The Crystal Ball:

I expect the best. They’ll win Group D, and they’ll advance.

A (Mancrushy) Question:

Andrea Pirlo, can you follow me on Twitter? I’m really cool… like you.


  • vs England: Saturday, June 14 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Costa Rica: Friday, June 20 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Uruguay: Tuesday, June 24 (9:00 a.m. PST)

Greece - World Cup


World Ranking: 12


I don’t know how the Greeks always do it. I don’t know why they won’t just lose. I still have no idea how they won the European championship in 2004, spoiling Figo’s only legit chance to win a major tournament, and to do it at home in Lisbon, no less. I can’t understand why they always get such great draws, or how they’re ranked 12th in the world and ahead of storied football nations like the Netherlands and France. (Well, France is only storied if you’re under 25 years old, I guess.)

So, I fully expect to see them escape their group. Which means, right when I finally do, they’ll no doubt lose and infuriate me in a completely new way.

Has Anthony Bourdain Been Here?

Yeah, but he went to the Greek Islands… ironically, the kind of place you’d definitely need a reservation.

Mouth-Watering Recipe:

Olives. What else would it be?

The Crystal Ball:

I’m not taking a risk picking them to move on. So I’ll take them to finish first. Their defence could stifle the very quick Japanese, and that might just be the win they need.

A (Mean) Question:

Will the heat punish the Greeks?

Well, they get along just fine with all that body hair back home. They should be fine down south, too, if anyone is.


  • vs Colombia: Saturday, June 14 (9:00 a.m. PST)
  • vs Japan: Thursday, June 19 (3:00 p.m. PST)
  • vs Cote d’Ivoire: Tuesday, June 24 (1:00 p.m. PST)