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Gary Younge
France v Togo and England v Ecuador

France v Togo

As anyone following this column will know, outlandish claims are made on the back of football. Following the victory of France's ethnically diverse team in 1998, some presaged a post-racial nirvana in the Fifth Republic. Four years later, fascist demagogue Le Pen was the country's second most popular politician. Defeat may have more positive results. Eighty-five per cent of the French believe their country is on the wrong track. Losing might provoke them to change track completely and elect Ségolene Royal, a socialist woman, as president.

Verdict: Go, go, Togo!

Bonus game: England v Ecuador

"Socialists should desire the defeat of their own sides," argued Lenin. True, he was talking about imperialist war rather than football. True also, it went down better at the barricades than it would on the terraces. But we could learn a thing or two from the Ecuadoreans. When they elected a leader who promised progressive reforms and then hammered the poor and cosied up to the US, they took to the streets and kicked him out. In a contest between a country offering uncritical support to the world's sole superpower and one where the poorest are actively resisting it, the ethical choice is clear - even when it's uncomfortable.

Verdict: Yes, it's Ecuador!

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Stranger in a Strange Land – Encounters in the Disunited States
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'It often takes an outsider to look inside. This is especially true of the United States.'
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