Soccer

World Cup preview part 2: who to root for

Last week I told you not to root for. Time for the good guys. Here's the right team for you, America.

This time last week, before the opening match, I offered you some sage advice. I told you, smug and all, not to root for a number of teams in the running at this year’s World Cup. I did such a thing with no bias whatsoever. This week, it’s time to identify who the good guys are, who you can root for without shame and too much heartbreak. What follows is a scientific process engineered to tell you to root for Iceland.  

A recap

Last week, I noted the nations that aren’t worth your time. That’s not to say don’t root for them. Just know that if you do, you are no better than, well, an American soccer fan. As a quick refresher:

Too good:

Brazil, Germany, Spain, France, Argentina, and Belgium.

These guys are just unfair.

Too annoying:

Portugal.

I hate Ronaldo.

Bound to disappoint:

England, Croatia, and Mexico.

Due respect to these teams, they’re never as good as advertised.

“Just happy to be here”

Saudi Arabia, Iran, Morocco, Australia, Peru, Serbia, Switzerland, Sweden, South Korea, Panama (still better than the U.S.), Tunisia and Japan.

You may read a lot of pieces that tell you one of these teams will be good. Don’t be fooled. Granted, an overperformance is due, but none of them are particularly exciting nor serious contenders.

The fun stuff

With the recap done, it’s time for the real analysis. There are a number of reasons one might support a World Cup team. Talent is a good one, but I prefer things to be more shallow. After all, pulling for Brazil because they’re good is a no brainer, but such a selection is honorless. Thus, for my scientific study I have rated the remaining teams in the following categories: likeability, quality of kit and style. All ratings are out of five (in honor of the number of Champions League trophies Liverpool have won)

*update*

After review of the remaining teams, I have deemed the following five worthy of analysis (sorry to the other six, you just weren’t cool enough):

Colombia

Likeability: 3

Quality of Kits: 4

Style: 4

Colombia have a good squad and when they’re flowing, play beautiful football. Juan Cuadrado is a joy to watch, James Rodriguez is responsible for one of the best World Cup goals ever and Radamel Falcao’s diving is a sight to behold. They make the game look fun, but aren’t necessarily the nicest guys. Diving and complaining run rampant in the Colombian ranks. Even James Rodriguez’s good-natured refusal to celebrate against Real Madrid this year couldn’t save them. The home kit is a thing of beauty, one of the awesome ‘90s-styled kits Adidas has come up with this year. The away strip is a bit of a shocker, dragging their score down.

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Iceland

Likeability: 10 (yes, out of 5)

Quality of kits: 4

Style: 3

Euro 2016’s sweethearts are at it again. Their team is unchanged, their fans are still crazy and their manager still used to be a dentist. They don’t play dirty, they don’t argue, they don’t dive. How do you not like these bearded lads? They’re just a few skillful players mixed in with some absolute units. Such a formula worked four years ago, why not now? Their kits are respectable. Clean, simple, unassuming. They don’t play sexy, but they’re just such lovely people with the second best fans in the world (YNWA.)

Nigeria

Likeability: 3

Quality of kits: 10 (yes, out of 5)

Style: 3

The buy now price on Ebay of an authentic Nigeria World Cup kit is currently around $250. Need I say more? These things are a work of art. Cool for the average person, clever for the fan and a goldmine for Nike. The team isn’t bad either. Results have been hard to come by in friendlies, but with an unkind European trip, those are forgivable. John Obi Mikel is class in the center of the park, and pace on the wings makes for a fun team. They only get a 3 on likeability because Mikel played for Chelsea *shudders.*

Nigeria.jpg

Egypt

Likeability: 4

Quality of kits: 4

Style: 5 (depending on a little wizard of a right winger)

Tom bias: 20 (yes, out of five)

*sings* Mo Salah, Mo Salah, Mo Salah, running down the wiiiiing. The man is one of the better humans alive. If he plays, Egypt will be a problem. These ratings assume he does.

Have fun:

Denmark

Likeability: 4

Quality of kits: 4

Style: 4

They say that there’s no better place on Earth to live than Denmark. Free healthcare, high minimum wage, too much sunlight. Sounds lovely. Their team isn’t bad this year, either. Christian Eriksen almost makes me like Tottenham, they play a solid brand of football, and there’s plenty of young talent. Expect no nonsense defending with a free-flowing attack. They’ll be fun.

All said, just root for Iceland, ok? It’s easier. The science backs it up, they’re lovely lads, and they can only overperform. I’ve lived my life cursed as a Liverpool fan, a fate bestowed upon me. I’ve been hurt too many times that I know what the right team to root for is. Pick the lads from the north.

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Tom Hindle is a Multiplatform Journalism major at the University of Maryland. Raised in England, he moved to California at 13. He is a soccer writer for What the Sports but is a fan of all sports. His favorite team is Liverpool FC which has led to a lot of hurt in his lifetime.

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