Jun 18

Pop World Cup 2018: Group A Match 1

New York London Paris Munich/17 comments • 1,263 views

It’s here! The opening game of the Pop World Cup finds the four teams of Group A raising the curtain on the tournament. Pop football veterans Russia and Uruguay meet two Arab states – Egypt and Saudi Arabia – with less of a record at this level. Who will prevail? You decide. Spotify playlist and YouTube links below the cut with the team talks – go listen and vote for your favourite TWO tracks.

Pop World Cup 2018 Group A Match 1: Pick TWO tracks

  • SAUDI ARABIA: Majed Al Esa 72%
  • RUSSIA: Oligarkh 46%
  • URUGUAY: Luciano Supervielle 44%
  • EGYPT: Moustafa Elshoaiby 25%

Total Voters: 57

Poll closes: 24 Jun 2018 @ 11:00

Loading ... Loading ...

RUSSIA (Manager: Sarah): Oligarkh – “Rechka”

“We meean it, maan! Eastern orthodoxy meets the banger with our serious-faced young squad chomping at the bit to take Group A to church. The Russian manager has been delving deeply into the Russian charts with super interest to see: what influences and differences are arise in the Russian charts (or is it just Calvin Harris stomping on your face forever?) Is there such a thing as a concept of a distinctly Russian feel or identity in pop which isn’t a/ stereotyping b/ horribly nationalistic? Oligarkh have a go with prayer chants, orthodox church bells and traditional music samples (if anyone has the SOURCE material for the sample in Rechka, let me know!) which is definitely an interesting place for our team to kick off in the PWC!”

SAUDI ARABIA (Manager: Tom): Majed Al Esa – “Hwages”

“For the avoidance of doubt and the establishment of harmony in the Saudi camp, the management would like to note that reports of talented midfielder Majed Al Esa’s criticism of the regime are based on pure misunderstanding, that the nimble strikeforce this playmaker has assembled are certainly not chanting “Men should be extinct”, and that any resemblance of a character in the video to a certain prominent friend of Saudi Arabia is purely coincidental. Thankyou and enjoy the game.”

EGYPT (Manager: Kat): Moustafa Elshoaby – “Ya Qloub”

“The Egyptian management is proud to present its starting line up! Moustafa Elshoaby takes us smoothly and confidently to “Ya Qloub”, but there’s more to his slick yacht-rock moves than meets the eye: vocals, strings and guitar weaving around the opposition’s defences in a triple attack, and before they know it they’re two goals down. It’s going to be a long hot summer, Brian, and this squad are ready to go all the way!”

URUGUAY (Manager: Lucazm): Luciano Supervielle – “Sublimacion”

“Starting with an instrumental song is probably a risky move, but let’s face it, Uruguay won’t win by playing it safe. Luciano Supervielle is a DJ, producer and pianist from electronic tango project Bajofondo, and this is the opener on his latest solo album, starting very piano-heavy and slowly lettting the electronica sweep in.”

Good luck to all competitors – and voters, you have until next Sunday morning (24th) to make your picks.


  1. 1
    Jonathan Bogart on 18 Jun 2018 #

    Well, as the players have taken the field in Moscow we have quite an opening match in this most beautiful of sports. Four different teams, four very different approaches to the game: surprisingly, however, Russia and Uruguay are fielding similar formations (though playing at very different levels of intensity), while Egypt and Saudi Arabia, despite what you might assume would be a natural cultural and geographic affinity, could hardly be more dissimilar.

    The host team has gone for a daring move, an EDM formation with traditional sonic patterning. Playing without a striker save for some chopped-up samples has traditionally been a high-risk option in the Pop World Cup, but they soon find a rhythm. I’m pleased to see that they forgo the easy drop-based tactics common in the EDM leagues for more agile, not to say skittering play.

    Egypt is playing the very traditional defensive game at which they excel, low-impact and wiggling just enough to catch their opponents off-guard. The beachy disco formation has life in it yet, but from my eyeline the striker is just a shade too bashful: his footwork is exceptional, but will he ever take a shot?

    Uruguay has also gone high-risk here, perhaps the highest-risk formation I’ve ever seen in a Pop World Cup game: not just instrumental, but jazz-lounge instrumental! The squad is composed of gray-haired players from the global-fusion leagues some twenty years back, and you can see at a glance that (when they do manage possession) they haven’t lost their elegant method of handling and passing, but this is the Pop World Cup, not the Muso Commemorative, and they’re just too slow and polite to stand a chance against bruisers like Russia or clippers like Egypt.

    Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia have fielded the team of the group: the first half is all sly grins and sparkle, the sort of cheeky play that does one good to watch, low-scoring maybe but beautiful. But then after halftime, they drop all their cheek and play in deadly earnest, showing both amazing vulnerability (that striker is all out their on her own) and intense support — it’s been a long time since unassisted handclaps worked as a defensive line, but by God they pull it off here.

    It’s good to have the Pop World Cup back, Brian. Cheers.

  2. 2
    Tom on 18 Jun 2018 #

    FIPA apologise for the heavy handed comments security. If you find yourself in the holding pen, I mean, Fan Zone, please alert the tournament organisers elsewhere if you can!

  3. 3
    Tom on 18 Jun 2018 #

    Not that the Saudi management wish to talk up the chances of our group rivals, but this is a blistering opening match. Russia build from the back with those big chunky synths and bosh the ball forward onto the sampled front line in a very pleasing fashion. Uruguay field 11 Jazz-Funk Greats – their elegant play will win them many fans, I was delighted by the 80s cop show vibe. As for Egypt, I look on their squad with a certain amount of envy – this style of play reminds me of many of the young lads who have shown up eagerly to the Saudi training camp, except it’s good. :(

  4. 4
    Job on 18 Jun 2018 #

    An unexpectedly strong opening effort from Saudi Arabia, but one has to wonder: will they be able to keep up this level of play?

  5. 5
    Tom on 18 Jun 2018 #

    #4 we are AT LEAST one track away from needing to play the underground black metal band. (Every country has one by Pop Law).

  6. 6
    The Pre-Match Piroshki And Lucozade Regime of Champions on 18 Jun 2018 #

    The Russian manager has spent a lot of time on the field with its power hungry first eleven and has been delighted with how everything combines just right for these tracksuited teens (you may not see the last of the trackies mind you). The Russian coach is grumbling quite what the other tracks have to be so chirpy about, and wonders whether the Uruguayan manager pre-emptively decided to send its vocalists to re-education camp. Meanwhile, the Russian Team Chef has been overheard humming the jaunty Saudi track from the catering van and may well be demoted to the remedial Nizhny Novgorod school of “Chopping up those orange slices that foopballers eat – you know the ones – or is it lemons – who cares” for pop offenders.

  7. 7
    lonepilgrim on 19 Jun 2018 #

    A muscular and compact Russian team bully the opposition with their physical play but lack a proven goal scorer. Saudi Arabia play entertainingly but can’t get in sight of goal until an inspired substitution brings a change of shape and a matchwinner. Egypt place too much confidence in the silky moves of their talismanic frontman and make it too easy for the opposition to pick their pockets. Uruguay appear to be playing a different game but one that I find hugely appealing. There is elegance and charm to their movement allowing them to slide between their more predictable opponents and take the points.

  8. 8
    Edward Still on 19 Jun 2018 #

    Well it’s perhaps a surprise to some, but the Saudis are the standout team here. They do lose a bit of energy and momentum in that second half but they have done enough with a pulsating first half showing to take the plaudits here.

    After them it’s a much harder call. Uruguay have experience and quality, but not playing anyone up front means they are really struggling to find a telling shot on target. They could probably do with Egypt’s silky frontman, especially as he is getting precious little support from his own teammates. Russia meanwhile seem to be trying to a mix of homegrown and imported styles. I have to say they almost almost nail it, but just fall short of convincing. Maybe in 4 years they will have something really special but for now it’s missing by a whisker.

  9. 9
    Ed on 20 Jun 2018 #

    Group of Death. Those are four terrific performances. Who knew Saudi Arabia could come haring out of the blocks like that? Russia and the Saudis edge it on goal difference for me, but really it’s a shame that any of these teams have to go home early.

  10. 10
    Matt DC on 20 Jun 2018 #

    Russia, perhaps with one eye on opening ceremony bombast, give it a big EDM festival vibe, it shouldn’t be a risky tactic at this level, in fact it might be playing it too safe, but that sample might just nick a late goal for the hosts.

    The Saudis wrongfoot PWC pundits everywhere by doing the one thing no one expected them to do – field a jaunty indie-pop formation. Two thirds of the way through I thought they were likeable enough without doing much to vary their game, but then a sudden substitution and a complete change of tactics changed everything. GOAL!

    Egypt are certainly slick, showing some lovely patterns of play, but they seem a little too content to pass it to one another without ever really threatening. It might have worked, but this is a very strong group so far.

    I’d like to applaud the Uruguay manager for his bravery but such languor is bound to be punished at this level, and before they know it they’re two goals down. They’ll need more than this if they’re going to avoid being on the first plane home.

  11. 11
    weej on 20 Jun 2018 #

    Brilliant opening match, pleasantly surprising play all round, though interesting that only one team seem to have remembered to bring a striker.

    Russia play with all the exuberance of a Brazilian squad, though it’s only at the close of the match that they manage to step up the pace and snatch a winner. Great play from the Saudis too, though for all their elegant passing they don’t seem to be able to get any decent shots on goal

    Egypt are the only team to bring along a proven goalscorer, but while he is doing all the work his teammates are too busy tapping the ball between themselves to get him more than a couple of decent passes in. Not as scrappy play as their non-pop-equivalents, but lots of similarities otherwise. Unlike Uruguay, who decide to leave their strikeforce on the bench entirely (a wise move if it’s their Suarez – don’t think that sort of play would fit in here) instead smoothly juggling the ball around until it somehow finds itself in the opposition net.

  12. 12
    koganbot on 21 Jun 2018 #

    Back when I was trying to use futbol metaphors I’d have said that Russia was bringing so many shifts and formations that not only did they wear out their opponents, they wore out the spectators too, though even that botches the metaphor since you don’t lose style points in soccer. I decided I could not do this contest alone, so I brought in Clare and Zaza, Clare to vote with me and Zaza to provide tiebreakers if necessary. I’ll start with Zaza: she seemed uninvolved with the Saudis, while as Egypt controlled the ball, she knocked over the waste bin and began gnawing on raw chicken. We interpret this as her being inspired by Egypt’s tasty chops. She cleaned herself vigorously during Russia, licking paws and legs; did the same for Uruguay. I believe this means she was pondering those two sides without developing a clear favorite.

    As it turns out, her tiebreaker was not needed, but we appreciated her input.

    I liked Russia straight out the gate – or tunnel – but then they got heavy and cluttered. I admired the clutter but was overwhelmed as well. Clare adored the Russian uniforms and (or but) found the performance to be dancing, numbing, dreaming.

    The cheeky Saudis showed Trump without cheeks, were a playful, fun carnival ride, says Clare, and I concur, though for me the gorgeous trip to the rehearsal tent put them definitively over.

    Egypt has a beautifully gentle singer who sometimes was too gentle to cut through the accompanying sound wash, but persisted in his gentle way. He reminds Clare of Marvin Gaye; he probably attracts the ladies.

    Uruguay, came out tastefully slow but then surprised with a funk bump that’s the stage’s fun moment so far, romped along after that (well, I thought the romp was half okay while Clare liked it a lot more, thought it was very beautiful).

    Clare’s order: Saudi Arabia, Uruguay, Egypt, Russia.
    Frank: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Russia, Uruguay.

    By my scoring system, our votes go to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. Clare thinks Uruguay got a raw deal.

  13. 13
    speedwell54 on 21 Jun 2018 #

    Well, there are no easy games. A surprisingly competitive group with all teams giving 110%. It’s quite hard to judge chalk and cheese and two other different things. After several listens I think I have to rule out Egypt, who gave a great confident display but ultimately, no-one gambled and they failed to put the ball in the back of the net.

    Russia go with an East West fusion with a side of pungi thrown in for a high tempo game which doesn’t ease up. Predictable and rewarding, no schoolboy defending here.

    Saudi Arabia go quiet quiet bang, hand clapping their way to a chant, and this is irresistible. I’m not sure if they are modelled on the Bloodhound Gang or Flight of the Conchords. At half time they illegally make 11 substitutions and totally change their pattern of play. In a game of two halves they retain possession, look threatening on the break, but at the end of the day just see out the game.

    Uruguay put out an unconventional formation and impress everyone and then they go one better. They suddenly pick up their game and the depth of sound just fills the room with oranges and browns and you’re wrapped in a blanket of warm moss whilst being gently rocked. I wake up in a daze I think I’m listening to a remix of the theme tune from Taxi. All is good.

    Shame one of these teams has to go home early doors.
    This is a great start to the tournament and I’m looking forward to hearing your Germanys and your Brazils. (I think I’ve used all mine up now)

  14. 14
    Jonathan Bogart on 25 Jun 2018 #

    Well, the results are in and I must say Egypt did not deserve that placement, even in such a competitive group. Here’s hoping they can pull out something stronger in the second round. Uruguay’s high-risk formation surprised this commentator by pulling within a whisker of the host’s bloc-rocking beats, but there seemed destined to be only one clear winner in this match. Have the Saudis peaked too early? Only time, and moar Pop Football, will tell.

  15. 15
    Kat on 26 Jun 2018 #

    Suez in crisis! The team is disappointed, of course – we were spoilt for choice with our starting lineup and opted to show how well our team flowed together, but it just wasn’t good enough to score on the day. However as a proud gaffer I can say this: Egypt are fully fit and ready to progress to the final rounds with a whole range of talent at our disposal. Watch out Saudi Arabia, we’re coming across the Red Sea for you!

  16. 16
    LucaZM on 26 Jun 2018 #

    Well, that didn’t go as bad as I suspected it might from the comments. I don’t regret the way I played, but I’m definitely gonna change tatics for the next round!

  17. 17
    Tom on 26 Jun 2018 #

    A glorious day for the humble and peace-loving Kingdom of Saudi Arabia! The promise of a rolls-royce each for the squad clearly did the trick. The Desert Knights are keeping a clear head as we look to consolidate our win and the snatches of noise coming from the manager’s office are certainly NOT him desperately attempting to find a second decent track.

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page