NewsNational News


Who you should root for in the World Cup when your country isn't even in it

Posted at 7:11 AM, Jun 15, 2018

For the next month, the world will be glued to the biggest sporting event on the globe: the World Cup. Thirty-one countries qualified to join host Russia, but alas, yours isn't among them. (We're looking at you, US and Italy.)

Here's a handy guide on who to root for, if you have no one to pledge allegiance to.

If you think soccer is too slow ...

... keep an eye on France. France is all about pace when it has the ball, not just with its goal scorers, but through midfield and even with its outside backs. They have winger Kylian Mbappé, who has reached speeds Usain Bolt would be jealous of. There are also the young lions from England. Maybe they are too young -- third youngest team in the tournament -- to know better.

If you're a sucker for an underdog ...

... go with Senegal, because Liverpool forward Sadio Mane could emerge as a World Cup star. Senegal has only been to the finals once (2002), where it dumped defending champ France in group play and made it to the quarters.

If you believe there's an 'i' in 'Team' ...

... then Mo Salah of Egypt is probably going to be your guy. Just like some folks look at the Cleveland Cavaliers as LeBron and four other dudes on the court, they view Egypt the same way. It's Mo Salah and 10 other guys. Salah is a budding legend, he scored like a thousand goals in matches he played this season for English Premier League side Liverpool before he was injured in the Champions League final. (And maybe LeBron is cheering for him. The NBA's marquee man is a part owner in Liverpool.)

If you base your picks on who looks sharp ...

.... then dang, Brazil makes yellow look good. The yellow jerseys were designed to match the color of the 1970 uniform when Brazil, led by Pele, easily won the Cup.

There's also Croatia; the players sport a red and white chessboard on their chests. And for something really different, Nigeria's home jersey looks like there was an explosion at the lime green highlighter factory.

If you like a badass nickname ...

... you have to admit Lions of Persia is pretty cool. That's the unofficial nickname for Iran (the official is Team Melli -- The National Team. Boooring.) Nigeria's Super Eagles of Nigeria and Tunisia's Eagles of Carthage have boss names, too.

If you're all about die hard fandom ...

... then look no further than Iceland. Its fan base is crazy enthusiastic. When Iceland played in the European Championships two years ago, more than one in 10 citizens went to the finals. And Iceland has the most awesome cheer: A Viking clap that's kinda like that cliched clap in the movies after someone's heartfelt speech: it starts slow, then gets faster until the crowd explodes with joy.

If you just want to spout fun facts ...

... then you can bang with Belgium.

  • Belgium has played in 12 World Cups and never won -- but this could be the year!
  • It has a cool nickname (the Red Devils) and the players wear cool jerseys (vivid red with argyle).
  • Captain Vincent Kompany recently acquired a MBA.
  • It has a fantastic goalscorer Romelu Lukaku who was one of the most expensive players ever on the club team transfer market.
  • And it has one of the best players of the world in a man named Hazard -- Eden Hazard.

If you want to see the most creative dives ...

... Hmm, that's a tough one. Most teams have a player or two -- or three -- who'll flop and preen and play-act like babies, hoping to get a little help from the ref. You'll just have to watch. And so will the video assistant referees, working the World Cup for the first time.

If you only want to support a team that is #Winning ...

... hedge your bets on Germany. Die Mannschaft is ranked No. 1 and blitzed its way through qualifying, scoring a huge number of goals.