Jul 14

Pop World Cup 2014: Tournament Review

Pop World Cup 201415 comments • 1,100 views


ENGLAND are the winners of the Pop World Cup 2014. Congratulations to manager Ronald and the team: Disclosure, Natalia Kills, Mutya Keisha Siobhan, AlunaGeorge, Years & Years, Foals, and Katy B and Jessie Ware.

Nigeria (managed by Cis) are runners-up, and Chile (managed by lartsaegis) take third place.

The GOLDEN MIC for the highest-scoring individual track (pitch invasions disqualified) goes to Japan’s BiS, for “Stupig”.

The GOLDEN MIXER for the highest-scoring team (best average scores across matches played) goes to South Korea.

Nominations for Team of the Tournament are open in the comments box.


It’s been an entertaining and fast-paced Pop World Cup. The controversial rule change allowing only songs from the 2010s ultimately lifted the tempo and freshness of the play, and had several interesting tactical effects.

It helped confirm the huge threat posed by African teams. If the Pop World Cup wasn’t based on the football one, it would by this time have a lot more than five African qualifying places. As it is, the five African nations all made it to the knockout stages, and Nigeria came within ten votes of retaining its title. West African pop, with its playful, dancefloor-led local takes on hip-hop and ragga, is in particularly strong shape and from the start this tournament proved an especial showcase for its awesome frontwomen, from Cameroon’s Naomi Achu to Ghana’s Itz Tiffany.

Asian teams also had a terrific tournament – though frustrating, in the case of Japan and South Korea, who both fell to shock eliminations in the quarter-finals. The statistics tell their own story – even defeated, both these teams had higher average scores than anyone else in the competition. Meanwhile, Iran’s low-key but bewitching tactics took them to a second semi-final – Japan and Korea have yet to reach one between them, despite the quality of their play. If they reach the 2018 Pop World Cup, both sides will be under pressure to break the quarter-final jinx.

South and Central American teams continue to be the Pop World Cup’s whipping boys, with the startling exception of Chile’s remarkable run to third place. Minnows Costa Rica and Honduras toiled mightily to little reward, while other South American teams had flashes of inspiration for a game or two but no consistency. The host nation was on the receiving end of one of the great Pop World Cup shocks, crashing out of the group stage from a commanding position thanks to Croatian ingenuity.

Croatia had one of the better performances from Continental Europe, which mostly endured a torrid competition. Their ageing squads were hit particularly hard by the 2010s only rule, which left many sides staring at a bunch of Route 1 EDM merchants and indifferent indie rockers. Solid performances from France and mercurial selections from Switzerland both fizzled out in the second round. If Sweden had qualified, would things have been different? We will surely get a chance to see some Scando pop magic in Europop 2016.

But ultimately this was England’s tournament. There are two ways to do well at a Pop World Cup – consistency (Nigeria in 2010 and 2014, Iran in 2014) and surprising variety (Germany in 2010, Iran in 2006, Chile in 2014). The latter option is often forced on smaller countries, the former really needs a strong squad in depth to work. For the “Big Two” Anglophone pop nations, there is a temptation to go for variety – with such a range of talent on offer, it’s possible to switch tactics match to match. But is it desirable? The USA had plenty of variety, began the 2014 tournament very brightly, but were out-popped by the Koreans shortly after. England, on the other hand, stuck with the manager’s preferred tactics and it paid off for them. There were no extravagantly talented stars in the England side, but a lot of young, dynamic players who consistently pleased the fans. Best of all, whoever manages England next time will surely still have most of this side to draw on.


Attendance was up on the 2010 competition, and places filled very quickly – this is partly thanks to an increased Tumblr presence and a lot of new managers coming in from that platform.

There were very few problems with late track delivery, and using YouTube meant matches could be put up quickly. We could, however, improve on playlists.

There were significant match delays – particularly before the final. This is down to only having one administrator, and next time I’ll get a backup.

Comments were down – partly due to the FT login and site loading being very sketchy at the moment.

The reformatted group stage worked quite well – almost every team was still in with a shout (however remote) for its third game. But it’s still a match-heavy format, and some of the tactical nuances of one on one games were lost. Europop 2016 will have a difficult structure to cope with anyway (thanks to FIFA) so suggestions for how to handle the group stages without short-changing players are very welcome.

For the second tournament running, we didn’t have any penalty shoot-outs, so luckily I still didn’t have to work out how to do them!

Thanks again everyone, it’s been grand.


  1. 1
    lartsaegis on 14 Jul 2014 #

    Just some preliminary awards before a more in depth review:
    Personal 8-Track Minimegamix Award (feat. Favourite Group Stage Tracks, sponsored by Boiler Room)
    1. Reniss | Ces’t La Vie (Group A – Cameroon)
    2. Astro | Coco (Group B – Chile)
    3. BiS | STUPiG (Group C – Japan)
    4. Patterns | Martian (Group D – Costa Rica)
    5. Eluveitie | Kingdom Come Undone (Group E – Switzerland)
    6. Leila | Eight (Group F – Iran)
    7. Trina ft. Gunplay & Iceberg | Beam (Group G – USA)
    8. Girls Generation | I Got A Boy (Group H – South Korea)

    Primera Estrella Award (ft. Favorite Track of PWC Winner England, sponsored by Estrella Damn)
    1. Alunageorge | You Know You Like It (has grown a lot on me)

    Instant Crush Award (ft. Favorite Match, sponsored by Match.com)
    1. Chile v. Japan in the Quarter-Finals

  2. 2
    Erithian on 14 Jul 2014 #

    My top 10 of the tournament in no particular order and allowing one nomination per country:

    Dubidup – Stampedo & Deafness By Noise (Croatia, group A match 1)
    Love Dagger – Rimer London ft Cata Pirata (Netherlands, group B match 3)
    Cin Cin – Tarek ft Marietta Fafouti (Greece, group C match 3)
    100 Baar – Baran (Iran, group F match 3)
    Kazu – Dubiosa Kolectiv (Bosnia-Herzegovina, group F match 3)
    Tous Les Memes – Stromae (Belgium, group H match 1)
    Loft De Benni – Amanitas (Chile, second round)
    J’me Tire – Maitre Gims (France, second round)
    Kedike – Chidinma (Nigeria, second round)
    All Die Buecher – Lo and Leduc (Switzerland, second round)

    – and the France-Nigeria classic in the second round the match of the tournament.

  3. 3
    jeff w on 14 Jul 2014 #

    I would like to thank the Administrator (who is too hard on himself above) for a beautifully organised tournament and for taking on board my occasional whinges in the comments box. I’d also like to thank Hammersmith and Fulham libraries without whom I’d have failed to hear most of this wonderful music. I’ve said elsewhere that the bar was as high as it’s ever been for a PWC (I still think PricewaterhouseCoopers whenever I type that) and I stand by that.

    I still want a souvenir CDr though. Prepared to pay a reasonable fee!

  4. 4
    tonya on 14 Jul 2014 #

    Do the Brega! I really enjoyed the group stages, but once we got to the knockout stages I felt an England victory was predetermined. That made the competition side of it less fun, although it was still great to hear tracks I hadn’t heard from other countries.

    Playlists help a lot, wish we could have more of those.

  5. 5
    lonepilgrim on 14 Jul 2014 #

    many thanks to Tom and the FT team for putting this together – it’s been hugely enjoyable. Many thanks to all the managers. I’ve not kept track of all my favourites but I have become besotted with Stromae and enjoyed Jonathan’s selections for Ghana in particular

  6. 6
    lockedintheattic on 15 Jul 2014 #

    Thanks Tom – didn’t get to comment as much as I’d like as I’m so busy right now, but I thought this was the best Pop Tournament so far. Great range of music, and all the African teams in particular dazzled. Was even surprised by the choice of music from the UK & USA, which is a real credit to the managers for avoiding the obvious. Can’t wait for Europop 2016 now (and hopefully I’ll get in there in time to be a manager again!)

  7. 7
    Kat but logged out innit on 15 Jul 2014 #

    My top IX of the tournament:
    – AlunaGeorge (c) (ENG)
    – StuPIG & Nami Tamaki (both JPN)
    – Kali Mutsa & Javiera Mena (both CHI)
    – Itz Tiffany (GHA)
    – Temi Dollface (NGA)
    – Dijana Bliznac (BHZ)
    – Cheb Houssem (ALG)
    – Maitre Gims (FRA)
    – Girls’ Generation (gk – they’re not letting anything past!) (KOR)

    Plus plenty of other cracking subs on the bench. And my best team talk award goes to… Chilean gaffer, Lartsaegis! Well done everyone!

  8. 8
    Ronald on 15 Jul 2014 #

    Hmm, I think if there is a 2018 version, I’d like to coach Japan if possible, seeing as how most of the music I listen to is from there.

    But yeah, I think my favorite song here (outside of my own) may be Reniss’ C’est La Vie, followed by Perfume’s Hurly Burly (I pray they perform in in New York in November).

  9. 9
    Chelovek na lune on 15 Jul 2014 #

    Thank you to the organizers – clearly far less corrupt and dodgy in all regards than FIFA…
    It has been fun…

    Favourite teams: Chile, Iran, Croatia.
    Favourite tracks: France’s Maitre Gims J’Me Tire, and that Cote d’Ivoire number with Biggy Biggy Boss in, and Stromae’s Tous Les Memes . Francophonia FTW.

  10. 10
    Tom on 16 Jul 2014 #

    #8 I think the champion’s manager should certainly get first pick next time. Of course, Japan have to qualify first! (They usually do, though)

  11. 11
    Kat but logged out innit on 16 Jul 2014 #

    *starts researching Faroese folk-metal*

  12. 12
    Garry on 16 Jul 2014 #

    I’d like to thank Tom and everyone else who participated who made it so much fun. I’m grateful to have to leap into the music of Cote D’Ivoire and I’m still trying to piece together what makes it so distinct from the excellent music of it’s neighbouring (and no so neighbouring) West African countries.

    My favourite tracks (in no order were) from the top of me head are:

    Ricardo Villalobos ft. Washington Miranda (Chile)
    Stampedo & Deafness By Noise (Croatia)
    Leila (Iran)
    Stromae (Belgium)
    Yemi Alade (Nigeria) and
    Boris Blank (Switzerland) – because it’s Boris.

    Overall my favourite team was Chile with Croatia a close second, while I agree with Kat that best team talk goes to Lartsaegis.

    So onwards towards future Euros and PWCs (and I hope I can be quick enough off the mark to go around again)

  13. 13
    speedwell54 on 16 Jul 2014 #

    I found it quite a commitment just to vote, so hats off to you all.
    I heard loads of stuff I would never otherwise would have, and it started me off on many little journeys .

    Favourite match -I am with Erithian on this one, France-Nigeria.
    Favourite track – Maitre Gims -J’me Tire

  14. 14
    koganbot on 17 Jul 2014 #

    1. Boris Blank “Random Tox” (Switzerland)
    2. BiS “STUPig” (Japan)
    3. Kali Mutsa “Quispe” (Chile)
    4. Sarkodie ft. El “U Go Kill Me” (Ghana)
    [Shout out to Ayigbe Edem who featured Sarkodie on the excellent “Give It Up” in the Group D opener, 2010.]
    5. Edu K “Do The Brega!” (Brazil)
    6. Javier Mena “Luz De Piedra De Luna” (Chile)

    Team of the tournament: Ghana
    Group of the tournament: Group H (South Korea, Algeria, Belgium, Russia)
    Match of the tournament: Group A Finale (I voted for Brazil’s “Smoking Sensi” as my #1 but it was my vote for Croatia’s “Cuvaj Me” as my #2 that won it for Croatia and sent Brazil home, and I have no regrets. Would’ve easily voted the Cameroonian or the Mexican track if it’d been any other group.)
    Best team not to make it to the knockouts: Brazil
    Manager of the tournament: intothefireuk (Croatia)

  15. 15
    dollymix on 17 Jul 2014 #

    Match of the tournament – England vs. Cote d’Ivoire, Round of 16 (AlunaGeorge vs. Bebi Philip)

    Best round of fixtures (Group Stage) – Group D, Match 2 (Natalia Kills, Carmen Sandiego, Patterns, Baustelle)

    Manager of the tournament: Wichita Lineman (Iran)
    Runner-up: intothefireuk (Croatia)

    Team of the tournament (highest-ranked first):

    Katy B x Jessie Ware – “Aaliyah” (England)
    Javiera Mena – “Luz De Piedra De Luna” (Chile)
    AlunaGeorge – “You Know You Like It” (England)
    Persian Empire ft Rai – “You” (Iran)
    Bebi Philip ft Debordeau – “On S’Eclate” (Cote d’Ivoire)
    Batida – “Uspomena” (Croatia)
    Meiway ft Black Kent – “Couvre Feu” (Cote d’Ivoire)
    The Preatures – “Is This How You Feel?” (Australia)
    Chidinma – “Kedike” (Nigeria)
    Sophie Hunger – “Le Vent Nous Portera” (Switzerland)
    Youssoupha ft Ayna – “On Se Connait” (France)

    Subs (highest-ranked first):

    Temi Dollface – “Pata Pata” (Nigeria)
    Shakira – “Empire” (Colombia)
    Mayales – “Ti Dobro Znas Kome Pricam” (Croatia)
    Moullinex – “Sunflare” (Portugal)
    Carmen Sandiego – “Generacion 2002″ (Uruguay)
    Nami Tamaki – “Paradise” (Japan)
    Naomi Achu – “Alhadji” (Cameroon)
    Pavel – “Cuvaj Me” (Croatia)
    Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – “Ninja Re Bang Bang” (Japan)
    BiS – “StuPIG” (Japan)
    Leila – “Eight” (Iran)

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