The thought of a full month of international football jamming up the airwaves is likely to have you either salivating or snoring. If you’re in the latter camp, don’t worry, because this feature is not so much about football, but rather an anal-retentive exercise in linking music to countries playing in the competition.
If I’ve undersold it a little there, maybe I should just let the music speak for itself? Here are 32 wonderful songs you can listen to until your team (assuming it’s not Germany) makes its underwhelming exit.
ARGENTINA: The Golden Palominos – Buenos Aires
On an album that includes guest vocals from the likes of Michael Stipe and John Lyden, Syd Straw takes the lead as the Argentine capital comes under scrutiny.
AUSTRALIA: Manic Street Preachers – Australia
Possibly the most obvious choice of the lot, I’m not sure the Manics wrote this single from Everything Must Go with view to it becoming a staple of novelty lists and a jingle for the Australian tourist board. We’ll go with it, all the same!
BELGIUM: Suicide – 23 Minutes over Brussels
Not so much a song as a chronicle of Suicide’s strained relationship with their audiences. Booing and jeering is responded to by shouting and swearing as Alan Vega and Martin Rev failed to impress the Brussels crowd as they warmed up for Elvis Costello. Hopefully Belgium’s fans will go a bit each on their hitherto underperforming ‘Golden Generation’.
BRAZIL: Declan McKenna – Brazil
One of the few songs in this list that’s actually about football, and indeed the corruption behind it. McKenna was just 16 when he wrote it, living up to the ‘wonderkid’ title every bit as much as the now 26-year-old Neymar.
COLOMBIA: Oasis – Columbia
Yeah, it’s spelled differently, and it sounds a bit different to most of what we got from the Gallagher brothers. A classic album track from Definitely Maybe that showcases a different route Oasis could’ve taken.
COSTA RICA: Kristin Hersh – Costa Rica
Acoustic awesomeness from the Throwing Muses frontwoman, all about the nation that had everyone throwing their betting slips in the bin when they topped England’s group in 2014.
CROATIA: US Bombs – Croatia Breaks
Good old punk rock, helping us out where other genres can’t. This rousing burst is one of the only known musical nods to one of the World Cup’s newest nations.
DENMARK: Sods – Copenhagen
More powerful punk, this time from a veteran band singing about their own town. Since 1981, they’ve been known as Sort Sol.
EGYPT: Radiohead – Pyramid Song
Forgive a little bit of rule-bending here and there in this list. I know this song has nothing to do with Egypt, but hey, what’s the first thing the country makes you think of (apart from Mo Salah’s dislocated shoulder)?
ENGLAND: englandneworder – World in Motion
From a convoluted choice, to a classic one. ‘Three Lions’ was more popular six years later, but for what it represented and how well it’s stood the test of time, this is THE football song. Gone were the days of dodgy perms, poorly fitting tracksuits and gormless footballers churning out karaoke with their hands on each other’s shoulders. Say hello to synth-pop, new wave and John Barnes rapping.
A new era from New Order, and you’ve still got to hold and give but do it at the right time.
FRANCE: Foals – The French Open
Will the French open their campaign with a win? Probably, since they’re playing Australia, and this track opened Foals’ 2008 debut Antidotes rather well too.
GERMANY: Parquet Courts – Berlin Got Blurry
Top-drawer effort from their 2016 album Human Performance. No doubt Berlin will get a bit blurry if the Germans manage to defend the World Cup this summer.
ICELAND: The Fall – Iceland
The late Mark E. Smith snarls his way through seven minutes of murky magic about the isolated Scandinavian island, where some of Hex Enduction Hour was recorded.
IRAN: The Offspring – Tehran
Before they realised they could make a lot more money with songs about white rappers and lazy boyfriends and girlfriends, the Offspring were pretty edgy! American-Iranian relations were pretty grim at the time of their debut’s release in 1989, as addressed by this track named after Iran’s capital.
JAPAN: Hookworms – Radio Tokyo
Hypnotic, captivating drone rock from the Yorkshiremen, and a bit of a short one by their standards. Much like Japan’s World Cup campaign is likely to be.
MEXICO: Nirvana – Mexican Seafood
Possibly the grossest lyrics Kurt ever came up with. Almost as repulsive as one of ‘90s Mexican goalkeeper Jorge Campos’ custom-made jerseys.
MOROCCO: The Clash – Rock the Casbah
An infectious song supposedly inspired by a ban on Western music in Iran, but the casbah is perhaps more readily associated with Morocco. In the absence of much else, it will certainly do!
NIGERIA: Satanic Surfers – And No One Can Deny
People don’t tend to sing about Africa much. When they do, it’s usually either sanctimonious drivel or musicians from Africa themselves, and I’m far too uncultured to give ‘world music’ recommendations.
Yet again, when all else fails, punk rock is often your friend. Hard-hitting stuff here about the indigenous Ogoni people and their suffering at the hands of oil companies and the Nigerian government.
PANAMA: Van Halen – Panama
Van Halen are cool, right? Well, they’re the best you’re getting for the World Cup debutantes. Of course, the USA would’ve given us much more to work with if they’d concentrated less on electing spoilt orange man-children and more on qualifying from the North American group.
PERU: Neil Young – Like an Inca
“Well I wish I was an Aztec or a runner in Peru”, yearns Young. Not quite sure I can picture him running up and down the wing in the smart, red-sashed Peruvian shirt though.
PORTUGAL: Sun Kil Moon – I Love Portugal
“And it doesn’t have a god-damn thing to do with football”, concludes Mark Kozeluk in this heartfelt ode to his favourite European country. Well, I’m afraid it does in this list, Mark!
POLAND: Fugazi – Polish
Sorry, Poles – I’m reducing your nationality to a tedious homograph. Still, you’ve got a good song out of it, from Fugazi’s underrated Steady Diet of Nothing album
RUSSIA: The Vibrators – Disco in Moscow
Who says punk is uncultured? It seems to travel the world more than most other genres do. Rock along with the host nation to this.
SAUDI ARABIA: David Bowie – The Secret Life of Arabia
Ah, a bit of Bowie! Not much secret that the Saudis are one of the weakest nations in the tournament though.
SENEGAL: Blur – St Louis
Consider the barrel truly scraped with this one! The West African nation of Senegal is pretty much untouched by alternative music. It’s eighth largest city, however, is Saint-Louis, which gives us something to play with.
Contrived, yes, but a half-decent B-side from Blur’s ‘Stereotypes’ single is the end result.
SERBIA: Battle Tapes – Belgrade
Some electronic rock to get your pulse racing! Not what I expected to be presenting for Serbia, who could be a surprise nation at the tournament.
SOUTH KOREA: Amiina – Seoul
Reception bells and musical saws? It’s all in a day’s work for Sigur Ros’ Icelandic buddies Amiina, and South Korea’s capital city lends its name to this impressive instrumental arrangement.
SPAIN: Slowdive – Spanish Air
A majestic opener to the shoegaze legends’ 1991 self-titled debut album. An ironic title for a team that prefers to keep the ball on the deck.
SWEDEN: Yo La Tengo – Stockholm Syndrome
Yo La Tengo and Sweden are both pretty hard to dislike. A nice piece of lo-fi indie rock is just the job.
SWITZERLAND: Pavement – Zurich is Stained
Switzerland – the country everyone forgets is in the tournament even while watching them play! A short but sweet track from the legendary lo-fi album Slanted and Enchanted is the reward for the Swiss.
TUNISIA: Elephant Gerald – Tunisia
Ah, the Africa problem once more. I’ve never heard of this band and their name is a bit dorky, but a nice slab of slap bass and a solid singer makes them a worthy entry for the unfancied Tunisians.
URUGUAY: High Dials – Uruguay
And another pretty obscure one to finish with. Nice and summery this one – reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub. Perhaps not much bite, but one of their players can provide that.
So, there you have it. Who’s your winner, or have there been some very dubious squad selections?