The World Cup is ominously close! So that you aren't caught offside (they have that in soccer, right?), we're previewing all the participants, bringing you Four Things You Don't Know About Them. If you have a tidbit, send it along to tips@Deadspin.com. Today: England! And for World Cup previews that are even better than ours, check out That's On Point, who helped us with these as well.
• 1. Rooney Tunes. We really, really wanted to see Wayne Rooney in the Cup, but he broke his foot. Bollocks. The ManU forward is really something else; a Serpentor-style mix of Pete Rose headfirst slide, the bare knuckle aspects of John O'Sullivan, the temper and talent of John McEnroe, in Spud Webb proportions. Plus he's got a sweet action figure. Bloody Hell.
• 2. Spice, Spice Baby. Best English player of all time? Either Sir Bobby Charlton (49 International goals, World Cup winner), or David Beckham, who after all, had a movie named after him. Beckham plays for Real Madrid and is captain of the English WC team. More important, he married a Spice Girl. Another pretty fair soccer player, the late George Best, had this to say of Beckham: "He cannot kick with his left foot, he cannot head a ball, he cannot tackle, and he doesn't score many goals. Apart from that he's all right."
• 3. Hail, Brittania. England claims to have invented soccer, of course. While that's not proveable, it is known that England formed the first codeified rules in 1846 — with the Cambridge Rules — and in 1863 formed the first Football Association, which eliminated carrying the ball. It's in large part due to the British that soccer is the international sport that it is, as British sailors and traders spread the game to pretty much the entire world, notably Argentina, the Netherlands and Italy. The first international match on Nov. 30, 1872 against Scotland in Glasgow. — (thanks to Mike Cardillo).
• 4. Tough Times Ahead. England hasn't beaten Sweden in basically forever, but their match on June 20 in Cologne ought to be just for seeding since neither should drop points to Paraguay or Trinidad. However, the winner of Group B likely gets Poland, while the second place finisher likely gets Germany, on home soil in Munich. Not good times, especially since any form of goosestepping from British fans will land them in the pokey. — (thanks to Mike Cardillo).