By Quazi Zulquarnain Islam
As a wise man once said, " And so it ends."
Or does it?
Well, for better or worse a FIFA World Cup Qualifying campaign that begun nearly two years ago came to an end with the last round of qualifying games on Wednesday the 12th of October with twenty six of the thirty two teams already determined.
Why only twenty-six you ask? It is because the playoff games are yet to be played. But with Spain, by far the biggest draw in the playoff's that also has Bahrain lined up against Trinidad and Tobago most of the big names have already been drawn from the hat.
The four biggest Asian teams have made it into the finals this time and they will be confident of adding and unprecedented fifth in the form of Bahrain who look like fair bets against the islanders from the West Indies who are known throughout the world as the hometown of Brian Lara.
The two Far Eastern powers of South Korea and Japan confidently moved through their respective groups in style while the Middle Eastern teams of Saudi Arabia and Iran also had little trouble plying their way through the intricacies of the qualifying campaign.
All of them will be looking to make their mark with Iran most so as some of their players ply their trade in Germany. South Korea and Ji Sung Park and Japan and Nakamura will also be looking to make as big an impact as they did last time.
The biggest miss from the Asian qualifying was probably China but most neutral observers would agree that the best teams qualified.
Africa threw up the greatest surprise of them all with a shift in the balance of power very evident. Powerhouses Cameroon and Nigeria failed to find a way through to the finals and in the latter teams case, heartbreakingly so as Inter Milan left back Pierre Wome missed a stoppage team penalty that would have sent them through. The World Cup would definitely be a poorer tournament without the mercurial talents of Samuel Eto and Obafemi Martins and company.
Ghana qualified as did Ivory Coast and people will get a chance to see the likes of Didier Drogba, Kolo Toure, Mikael Essien and Samuel Kuffor on show. African champions Tunisia also confirmed a berth as did first timers Angola and Togo. It will be interesting to see how the newbies mix it with the big boys.
The South American qualifiers threw up exactly the same teams as last time with the traditional powers of Brazil and Argentina already confirming their berths. Paraguay also confirmed their berth but Uruguay go into a playoff with the winners from Oceania, Australia. As usual both Argentina and Brazil are going to be favourites to win the World Cup and with the talent they possess it will really be no surprise.
It would take too long to go into the Europe qualifiers but perhaps the most enticing prospect is to be able to see Andriy Shevchenko play his first World Cup. The Ukrainian hitman widely regarded as perhaps the best striker in the world will be eager to make his mark. The Germans go through as hosts with Italy, England, Netherlands, France and Portugal making up the big numbers.
USA, Mexico and Costa Rica make up the three quotas from CONCACAF with Trinidad going into the playoff with the fifth team from Asia.
The playoffs are being played next month but as I mentioned before the big names have all been drawn. Lets hope for an eventful Deutschland 2006 !!
I will be back for more when the playoffs come around!
First: Spain v. Slovakia
Second: Switzerland v. Turkey
Third: Norway v. Czech Republic
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When crab meets Car
Mood Dude and Gokhra
Mood Dude and Gokhra groan in agony after bingeing on iftaar food. There's not much energy left to argue. But they put on a brave face for the sake of the paper and decide to argue anyways. The topic? Monster Jeeps are cool. Or not.
Mood Dude (DM): We Bangladeshis like to call anything that is big, tall, clunky and can go off-road as "Jeeps". It's one of our national heritages. We also love calling motorbikes Hondas. But these days what with the Indian Pulsars becoming infamous for being banned because the cops felt threatened, bikes are differentiated as either Pulsars or Hondas (everything else). But this is not about bikes. It's about a car or rather a Jeep. For the uninitiated who are bored or brave enough to read this car article, Jeep is actually a brand name just like Toyota and Honda.
Gokhra (G): Now that you've enlightened the readers by educating them about car brand awareness, what the heck is it about this monster that's so cool?
DM: Well, for one thing this thing can move sideways.
G: A crab can do that.
DM: It can bite you in the ass.
G: A crab can do that too. But interestingly how on earth does it move sideways?
DM: It features two modes of automated four-wheel steering. There's the traditional type that exists in a few humdrum cars in Bangladesh such as some select models of the old Corona Exiv, those big Mazdas and a few Honda Preludes. Here rear tires turn in the opposite direction of the front to reduce the turning circle as shown in the picture. As a result, you have a turn radius of absolutely zero. The car can turn completely like a top. And you can keep turning till you throw up.
G: That should come in handy in Gausia Market during the coming eid shopping. It must have been the only vehicle on the auto-show circuit that provided its own turntable feature.
DM: The second mode is an innovation targeted to off-road drivers. The vehicle can turn all four wheels in the same direction to simulate a crab. This allows the vehicle to move sideways without changing the direction the vehicle is pointing.
G: That's even cooler cause now you can park it real easily. The problem is now you also need to create a steering system for the human neck so that the head is facing the direction the car is moving. So why on earth did they build it?
DM: Because they can. Jeep is owned by Chrysler who love to show off their expertise with outrageous vehicles like the Viper, Prowler and the new Charger. These guys are crazy.
G: Sounds like you so they decided to build the most outrageous albeit maneuverable and powerful off-roader. This thing unbelievably has two engines. One at the back and one at the rear. Both 5.7 litre V8 HEMI engines deliver 335 horsepower and 370 lb-ft of torque each a total of 670 hp and 740 lb-ft of torque. Heck, that's more than what the McLaren has. And that is the fastest production car. Isn't that a bit extreme?
DM: Yeah, but that doesn't detract its cool factor. This high riding barn-like vehicle can accelerate from 0-100 kmph in under 5 seconds. It's like an elephant beating Olympic runners and I don't mean beating with its trunk.
G: I bet the fuel consumption is 100-0 litres in under 5 seconds. That means your bank balance goes from 100-0 lakhs in under 5 weeks.
DM: Actually it may be quite frugal considering how advanced the engine is. Based on the driver's needs, the Hurricane can be powered by 4-, 8-, 12- or 16-cylinders.
G: That doesn't sound too bad but I am still not convinced in depositing 500 taka in the nearest bank which will accumulate interest and become enough to pay for this car in about 50 years.
DM: The vehicle has 14.3 inches of ground clearance. That makes it very useful to cross the streets even when there are huge dividers in between. This vehicle is a homage to lawlessness. Not even rickshaw pullers can outdo this in terms of outrageous behaviour. Not only that it has an incredible approach angle of 64.0 degrees. In normal human language that means this monster can climb up slopes that are almost vertical. Combined with 37-inch tall tires the Hurricane won't meet much that it can't climb. That means those poor woodland squirrels won't have a chance. Damn!
Mood Dude slowly starts to realize that maybe too much power and off road capability may not be too good for the planet.
G: What's with you and furry animals especially those that pee? I start to see the cool factor here. You can turn round instantly and run down cops in their wheezy white bikes. You can jump over road dividers and also outrun the wannabe racers in their body kitted Corollas and Hondas as well as most of the BMWs, Nissan 350Zs and a bunch of other sports cars. Not to forget funny little black Corollas driven by people called Mood Dude don't stand a chance whatsoever.
DM: Hmm, I don't' see the cool factor anymore.