It’s probably not lost on you (although you might have wished it) that the World Cup got underway over the weekend. That’s the men’s World Cup, of course – that means four weeks and 64 games of sweaty guys rolling around with fake injuries and occasionally scoring a goal or two; unusual this time amidst the desert warmth of Qatar.
But let’s imagine for a moment that the tournament wasn’t about football. Let’s say it was a world championship of travel. The same 32 nations going head-to-head in exactly the same order over the simple but crucial question of which is the best holiday destination, not who can shove a leathery ball into a large rectangle more than anyone else.
Who would win? Well, it wouldn’t be Italy, for one, as the Azzurri failed to qualify for the actual World Cup – rather unhelpfully ruling the country of the Amalfi Coast and Colosseum from that parallel (but more importantly). Contest. The same goes for Sweden, Norway, Greece and New Zealand – and while we’re at it, South Africa, Colombia, Botswana, India, China, Peru, Chile and Egypt. Sorry, we don’t make the rules. Well, actually we make the rules, but we don’t change the rules. So there.
Still with us? Good. The travel referee stands on the pitch, whistles on his lips. Let us begin…
Countries: Qatar, Ecuador, Senegal, Netherlands
An impartial gathering of four countries; no continent is represented more than once. Who will win in this symmetrical struggle of equals? Well, Ecuador, obviously – because it has the Galapagos Islands, the Avenue of Volcanoes and its perched capital Quito on the books; the footballing equivalent of a lineup featuring Maradona, Pele and, um, Peter Crouch.