Victoria Wood’s $100m World Cup wallchart

THERE’S a scene in a Victoria Wood TV comedy play in which she and Celia Imrie are cooped up in a tent on rainy moorland trying to finish a crossword.

Wood: Oh, let’s pack up and get going, shall we?
Imrie: All right, I just want to finish the crossword. 12 down – location of football’s Accies.
Wood: Partick Thistle.
Imrie: Why?
Wood: Because it’s always Partick Thistle in crosswords. Put it in. I want to go.
Imrie: Too many letters.
Wood: Well, write small.

Wood’s attitude to quick crosswords in that scene is pretty similar to mine regarding World Cup wallcharts. They don’t take that long to fill in properly, but just long enough so that it starts to feel a bit of a chore.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. Loads of us will start filling in World Cup wallcharts with enthusiasm over the next week-and-a-bit. But you show me a completed wallchart after the final on July 11, and I’ll show you a dozen that didn’t get filled beyond the second group game.

Those wallcharts are impossible to avoid at the moment. I got mine free with a magazine yesterday, although every self-respecting newspaper and football publication is producing one, giving the art department a chance to show off their ability to arrange fixtures, flags and photomontages in the most striking manner possible.

Flicking through the shelves in WHSmith yesterday afternoon, I half-expected a World Cup wallchart to drop out of Coarse Angling Today or I’m Pregnant magazine. If there’s not one on the wall in your office already, there will be by Friday (South Africa v Mexico, ITV, 3pm; Uruguay v France, BBC1, 7.30pm… and so on until the end of the tournament).

My wallchart looks great, and I may even put it on the wall, but I can’t see myself filling the whole thing in. Apart from anything else, it’s an utterly impractical way of recording the tournament’s results for posterity.

Say, in a few months time, I want to remind myself whether Chile or Switzerland finished third on Group H, I’ll look it up on the internet. I can’t see myself dipping into a drawer and unfolding an unwieldly sheet of A2 paper covered in my pen scrawls.

If I do fill in my chart, I’ll probably take the Wood route and stick in some made up results. So prepare for some shock scorelines over the next month (I’m already thinking France 0 Bristol City 1 and Penwortham Boys 3 Paraguay 2) and get your money on Partick Thistle to have a very good tournament.

(On the subject of Wood, I’m mildly disappointed that she hasn’t had a crack at doing a World Cup song this year, given her unquestionable musical talents and the general paucity of decent efforts elsewhere. And the opportunity to rhyme ‘Cameroon’ with ‘macaroon’ is surely too good to pass up. I’m almost as disappointed that Flight Of The Conchords haven’t done anything to mark New Zealand’s qualification. I feel we need a high-quality novelty World Cup song right now.)

Even though I won’t fill mine in properly, there is still something reassuring about having a wallchart around. It’s a throwback to my 80s childhood, when Shoot! and Match would give away wallcharts, team posters and those unfathomable league ladders with the card team tabs that you had to slot into tables in the right order.

It appeals to the collector in me, the anally retentive schoolboy part of my personality that I really should have shed years ago, and which doesn’t need a World Cup to surface. That, at least, would explain why I’m hanging on to the set of England World Cup player picture cards given to me for free at a petrol station when I filled up my car last week. There are 23 in the set, you see, and I’ve not got them all yet. And yet the wallchart still seems like too much effort.

If you can’t be bothered spending the next month filling in a wallchart, and making up comedy results sounds a bit too much like sacrilege, there is a compromise. You can try predicting the results of all 64 matches at the tournament. And if that sounds a bit too much like hard work, you might be interested to know that you could win 100million US dollars by doing so.

Betting company Titan Bet is offering that prize to anyone who correctly forecasts the outcome of all the games in South Africa. And having figured out that there is probably more chance of the Loch Ness Monster winning Britain’s Got Talent than anyone pulling off that prediction trick, they will give 1million US dollars to whoever comes closest if no one wins the big prize.

It’s the equivalent of trying to fill in a crossword without any of the clues. But it is potentially more lucrative than sticking in Partick Thistle just to fill a gap because you can’t be bothered doing it properly. Especially when any football fan knows that the answer is Hamilton.

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