Hell yeah, Sweden is through to the quarter finals, let us celebrate by continuing our World Cup series, and wouldn't you know, we have reached Sweden's group. Let us check it out, shall we?
The former England player Gary Lineker once spoke that football is an easy sport, that it is about 22 men running around in a field chasing a ball, and at the end, Germany win. Now, that is not entirely true, but I would be lying if I did not say that Germany, together with Brazil, is probably the biggest football nation in the world. They are the reigning world champions after all, and by the looks of this year's squad, they could just as well defend their title. There is world class players everywhere, and just the fact that Leroy Sane, one of the greatest wingers this last season, is not in the squad is a testament to the massive depth Germany has, with both a lot of experience, and a lot of young and hungry players. Man, they are scary.
Despite that depth, it really does not even come close to matching what Germany does in the metal scene though. Just like German engineering, German metal is heavy, precise, and filled to the brim with quality. I do not need to go deeper into this, so let us just do a quick shout out to just some of the bands out there.
Blind Guardian, Rammstein, Kreator, Helloween, Gamma Ray, Sodom, Accept, Scorpions, Powerwolf, Running Wild, Grave Digger, Rage, Freedom Call, Edguy, Avantasia, The Ocean, Tankard, Van Canto, Vanden Plas, Doro, Obscura, Equilibrium, Destruction, Primal Fear, Suidakra, Heaven Shall Burn, Dark Fortress, Crematory, Brainstorm, Exumer, At Vance, Angel Dust, Words of Farewell, and Die Apokalyptischen Reiter. Did I miss any?
Ahh Mexico, a proud land who take pride with their football, which their record has shown. They eased through their qualifiers, led by the Little Pea (or as his real name is Javier "Chicarito" Hernandez) and a huge veteran in Rafael Marquez, who makes his 5th World Cup appearance. This is a sneaky good team with some potential break out stars, like PSV Eindhoven star Hirving Lozano, who have gotten the nickname "Chucky" (after the "Child's Play" character of course). The question is though if they can break the curse. In the last 6 World Cups, Mexico has made it through the group stage, but got eliminated in the last 16 every time. Let us hope this frisky squad can go further.
While I like the team, I am really not loving the metal scene, mostly because the genres grindcore and deathcore are dominating. This type of music is not for me because it is just way too messy, too much chaos for my simple brain to handle. There is no denying that the country has a fair share of promising bands, the biggest of them all is Brujeria, a grindcore group that has thrived since the early 90's, and almost even more so when President Trump gave them some extra fuel to work with. Other notable -core bands are Here Comes The Kraken, Disgorge, and Paracoccidioidomicosisproctitissarcomucosis (try saying that three times quickly).
There are a bunch of other bands though that fight for some attention. The death metal band The Chasm has created a respectable career during their 25 years of existence, and so have also the progressive band Agora. They do not come close to being as productive as the death thrash band Transmetal, who between 1988 and 2014 have released 20 full length albums, that is a rate of about 0,77 albums per year. Probably more quantity than quality there, but still, that is some dedication, which I certainly see in a lot of other Mexico bands. Great to see that.
This is easily the weakest opponent in this group, but you should never underestimate South Korea. This team has a knack to establish some impressive team efforts, making it very difficult for their opponents to gain any advantages against them. Sure, I do not think that they will even come close to the success they reached when they hosted the World Cup together with Japan in 2002 (bronze medal), but they might give Mexico and Sweden some trouble... maybe even Germany if they have their day. Everything rests on their star player though, the Tottenham star Heung-min Son, who have enjoyed a fantastic season prior to this summer's main event. Gonna be interesting to see this side, and what they can accomplish.
It is pretty obvious that South Korea is more into their own little sub genre known as K-pop, and they have not yet unleashed a Babymetal like clone out to the world. The most prominent metal band out there is surely Jambinai, a strange post-metal band that takes ancient Korean instruments, such as the Piri, the Haegeum, the Geomungo, and even some glockenspiel (Hey, isn't that German?), mix them all up into a very weird, but more importantly, interesting type of music that you most certainly would not hear anywhere else. As a European, it is confusing at first, but I eventually started to dig these infectious rhythms, go check them out.
Otherwise, it is not much else to report here. We got a melodic death metal band who have been around since 1993 in Oathean, and a gothic band in Ophelia. As said, not much else to report.
So Sweden might be seen as one of the more boring entries to this World Cup, defending for long periods of time, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike. Well, you cannot blame the result though, because this inexperienced Swedish squad (without Zlatan Ibrahimovic) managed to beat France, and eliminate both the Netherlands and Italy in their way to this tournament. This is a team, eleven players working their asses off to help each other, and they have to, because they have no real stars. Emil Forsberg might be the biggest out there, or maybe perhaps Victor Nilsson Lindelöf, but none of them are in the world class category, and other players, like Ola Toivonen, have gotten very little play time in their clubs. This is a team that trust each other, they win together, and lose together, which is something we all can admire.
You know what is not boring though? Swedish metal! Just like Germany, I do not really need to say much here, so let me just name a few bands, and call it a day.
Opeth, Amon Amarth, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Katatonia, Arch Enemy, Therion, Meshuggah, Bathory, Hypocrisy, Pain, HammerFall, At The Gates, Sabaton, Soilwork, Pain of Salvation, Candlemass, Ghost, Marduk, Scar Symmetry, Tiamat, Evergrey, Dark Funeral, Diablo Swing Orchestra, The Night Flight Orchestra, Entombed, Watain, Cult of Luna, Yngwie Malmsteen, The Haunted, Amaranthe, Soen, Vintersorg, Tribulation, Witherscape, Nocturnal Rites, Grand Magus, Europe, Spiritual Beggars, Avatarium, Graveyard, Andromeda, Avatar, Mustasch, Hardcore Superstars, and Twilight Force. Did I miss any?
Thoughts on group
This is quite an uneven group, to say the least, we got two heavy metal giants in Sweden and Germany, and two... let us say not as big nations in South Korea and Mexico. So while the two mastodons steals most of the spotlight, you certainly should not look past the little guys, they may not have the numbers, but they got heart. This is probably the strongest group of them all.
Reaction on the competition
Well, decided to do a reaction here instead of just writing my prediction before the tournament (besides, you guys probably knew that I was predicting Germany and Sweden to go through). It is clearly a shock that Germany went out on the group stage, but the Germans never found the harmony. They had a rocky start, was quite lucky against Sweden, and just flat out sucked against South Korea. Me think they relied a little too much on the guys who won them the cup 4 years ago, instead of letting in the younger talent (*cough* Sane *cough*). I am ultimately glad that Mexico and Sweden went through, they deserved it.