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Everything you wanted to know about the World Cup but were afraid to ask

By John Walsh

The comedy writer Armando Iannucci had a terrific TV sketch about his utter ignorance of, and lack of interest in, football and his pathetic attempts to hold his own in laddish conversation when his beery compadres are watching, or discussing, a match.

I'm the same. The footballing gene passed me by, zoomed past me on the chromosomal highway from my father straight to my son, without taking up residence in my DNA.

I can't talk football with confidence to my footie-loving friends, my children, fellow journalists, blokes in pubs or my daughters' prospective suitors. I simply feel hopelessly out of touch.

There are others like Mr Iannucci and me, however. So, to help other ignoramuses who may have strayed by mistake on to these pages, I've trawled through the sporting Press since last weekend to bone up on World Cup 2014:

1. Nobody has the faintest clue about how England will do. Roy Hodgson's team is full of World Cup virgins – only five of the squad have played in one before. England are the most inexperienced team in the whole shooting-match. But everyone's fond of Roy, so this fact has been greeted with delight by commentators.

2. Lower-limb-based wisdom abounds. "Roy's picked a positive squad. A squad full of legs, energy. Older players don't like to play against legs and pace – and we've got that in abundance." (Steven Gerrard). "He is a brilliant striker of the ball with both feet." (David Moyes on the clearly talented Toni Kroos of Germany).

3. World Cup TV commercials: The one for Adidas is apparently set in David Beckham's charming home. He and Zinedine Zidane are chatting in adjacent chairs while Gareth Bale, the Welsh winger with the £15m salary and Paris St-Germain winger Lucas Moura snigger on the sofa over a football videogame. The oldies challenge the young tykes to a proper game and they kick a ball around Becks' mansion, destroying a trophy cabinet and a chandelier. Carlsberg's features an idealised pub where everyone's watching the match. After a handball is disallowed, Ian Wright shouts at the screen in Spanish and the referee changes his mind and awards a penalty. (But don't they speak Portuguese in Brazil?)

4. Oh, and the Chilean TV ad features the 33 miners who were trapped 2,300ft underground for days, before being winched to safety. The catchline is: "Nothing is Impossible."

5. Players with characterful names, to amuse Gary Lineker (left) and Adrian Chiles, include: Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka. Good name for a square-jawed African superhero. Italy striker Ciro Immobile. Do Italian fans sing a certain aria from Rigoletto whenever he scores? Julio Cesar, Brazilian goalkeeper. He came, he saw, he stopped a few penalties. Quincy Promes, Dutch striker. Probably destined to open a chain of slightly precious health-food shops.

6 Shocking behaviour No 1: Did you know that, in the first World Cup, the Belgian team dropped Raymond Braine, their star forward, because he'd opened a cafe? They said he'd broken "the rules of amateurism", which presumably included not making any money.

7. Shocking behaviour No 2: Liverpool defender Glen Johnson was once spotted at a B&Q, sneakily putting a lavatory seat into a box bearing a cheaper price tag. He was arrested and fined £80. These days, he can presumably afford diamond-and-uranium lavatory seats from Harrods.

8. Sports journalists are oddly keen on posh abstractions beginning with "re-". One writer said Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain "continues his rehabilitation", referring to a strained knee ligament, as if he was in treatment for crack addition. Another wrote about Jurgen Klinsmann giving Germans hope – "craving renewal first and performances second". "The downs I've had with the England journey," says Gerrard. "If you are a winner, you want to bounce back and resurrect it." Resurrection, rehabilitation and renewal – is there a theme we're missing here?

9. Shocking behaviour No 3: Mario Mandzukic missed Thursday's game with Brazil, because, during the play-offs, he deliberately stamped on an Iceland midfielder's left knee. Did you know he's the only player ever to receive a yellow card for lying to the referee? In 2009, on being shown a red card for some infringement, he told the ref he'd been hit by a bottle flung from the stands. The ref didn't believe him. He's also notable for being the only player in Croatian football history to be fined (€100,000) for not trying hard enough.

10. Top Wags: Sarah Brandner, girlfriend of Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger has been on the cover of Sports Illustrated, as has Cristiano Ronaldo's Russian babe, Irina Shayk. Diego Maradona's daughter, Giannina, had a child with Argentine striker Sergio Aguero. But as glamorous companions, they can't compete with Spanish centre-back Gerard Pique's companion (and mother of his son) – the Colombian firecracker Shakira.

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