|"There are plenty of eye-witness accounts. Just because you're so narrow-minded you need to have everything shoved under your nose before you–"
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PLACE YOUR BETS WITH LUDO BAGMAN was the title of a Daily Prophet article written by Ludovic Bagman and published on 2 July, 2014. The article analysed and rated the chances of the four semi-finalists of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup (Brazil, USA, Japan, and Bulgaria) of winning the Cup.
The shock elimination of both favourites, Norway and Nigeria, has given the bookies plenty to smile about. Now Ludo Bagman, former England Beater and enthusiastic gambler, rates the chances of the semi-finalists still in with a chance of lifting the coveted trophy.
Brazil has won the Quidditch World Cup five times, but the nineties and early noughties were generally considered wilderness years for this once great side. Manager José Barboza has reinvigorated the national game, bringing in younger players form every corner of the country. With an average age of only 22, this is the least experienced side remaining in the tournament.
- Brooms: Varápidos
- Total number of goals, first 2 rounds: 41
- Average time for Snitch capture, first 2 rounds: 131 minutes*
- Outstanding player, first 2 rounds: Alejandra Alonso (C)
- Ludo's rating: 9/1
- Their relative inexperience has not hampered the high goal scoring Brazilians thus far, but these young players may crumble as pressure mounts. They have plenty of talent, but might it be more realistic to expect a win in four years' time?
- *Only one capture, due to Haiti's illegal capture in the first round.
Nobody expected the USA's explosion into the final stages of the Quidditch World Cup. While they may have been lucky in the first round, where the collapse of Jamaica's Seeker allowed them to sneak a win, they showed their mettle in beating the well-favoured Liechtenstein team in the quarter-finals. Could this be the USA's moment?
- Brooms: Starsweeper XXI
- Total number of goals, first 2 games: 39
- Average time for Snitch capture, first 2 rounds: 100 minutes
- Outstanding player, first 2 rounds: Darius Smackhammer (S)
- Ludo's rating: 12/1
- While impressed by the Americans' form against Liechtenstein, seasoned Quidditch-watchers remain unconvinced as to whether they have what it takes to life the Cup. Their primary weakness is in defence. Keeper Susan Blancheflower let 23 Jamaican goals past in her first round, and Beaters Pringle and Picquery will need to find better form if the are to beat the talented young Brazilian Beaters, Santos and Clodoaldo, in the next round.
Japan were widely expected to do well in this tournament, but the flair and attack they showed in dispatching joint-favourites Nigeria impressed all who witnessed it. Riding racing brooms developed in their home country and unveiled for the first time during the tournament, Japan boats talented players in almost every position, but it is in defence that they are virtually untouchable. Hongo and Shingo replica Quidditch robes are now the fastest-selling pieces of merchandise at the tournament.
- Brooms: Yajirushi
- Total number of goals, first 2 rounds: 32
- Average time for Snitch capture, first 2 rounds: 61 minutes
- Outstanding player, first 2 rounds: Masaki Hongo (B) Shintaro Shingo (B)
- Ludo's rating: 4/1
- Japan must now be tournament favourites, dispatching opponents with a combination of ruthless efficiency and exquisite artistry.
Nobody expected Bulgaria to proceed past the knockout round. While they have twice reached the final in the last twenty years, Bulgaria entered this tournament as outsiders, their team having narrowly scraped into the final sixteen. Their selection of 38-year-old Viktor Krum was widely seen as made out of sentiment rather than on merit. Luck may have played a part in Bulgaria's first round win against New Zealand, but when Krum's early capture of the Snitch sent joint favourites Norway home from the tournament, many commentators were forced to eat their scathing words.
- Brooms: Firebolt Supreme
- Total number of goals, first 2 rounds: 28
- Average time for Snitch capture, first 2 rounds: 88 minutes
- Outstanding player, first 2 rounds: Viktor Krum (S)
- Ludo's rating: 50/1
- Bulgaria is attracting a lot of international support; partly for their underdog status and partly for the fondness Quidditch fans everywhere feel for a talented man who never achieved his life's ambition. But do Krum and his teammates really have what it takes to beat Japan in the semis? The answer, I fear, is probably not.