With any sport, there’s really not a ton of purpose in watching if you don’t have some sort of stake. Whether it’s hating one team so much you root for a team you might not care about or even dislike a little, or falling in love with the style of a team early in the tournament and hoping they progress in order to keep watching. My main allegiances aren’t really swayed, but the bottom of the list is pretty much up for grabs, year to year. In 2010, for example, I was all for Spain winning the whole thing because at that point, two of their players were current Liverpool players and two had recently left the club. I’ll always root for Xabi Alonso, and Pepe Reina is sort of still a Liverpool player…but otherwise I’m just tired of their dominance. With Barcelona (whose players form the core of the Spain squad) on the decline recently and all but one of their strikers (who is semi-injured) being pretty MEH, I don’t see them winning it all this time.
So here’s where I stand with the teams going into today’s tournament:
1. USA. Was there any doubt? This is MURICA and if you’re a soccer fan and you live here and DON’T support the USMNT, I just feel sorry for you. This is one of the few times that America is the plucky underdog begging for scraps at the table. America isn’t the world police at the World Cup, and its testosterone-fueled NASCAR-and-NFL machofest means absolutely nothing in the beautiful game. The country is starting to really get behind the team and realize how big of a deal it is, and how great it is to be a part of the greatest surge in the federation’s history. That said, we aren’t winning. Klinsmann is right, and the people criticizing him for it are just delusional. But yes, #IBELIEVE, and I’ll be cheering them on wildly from Monday until their final kick in Brazil.
2. England. For one thing, I get really annoyed when people get up in arms about supporting England. The opposite of the horrible piece in the Wall Street Journal that I won’t link to and give the trolls their satisfaction, I embrace American soccer’s acceptance of English & European traditions, in part because I have so much stake in the England national team anyway. I have a jersey signed by the 2010 World Cup squad, and own like 4 other England jerseys. But the top reason–Steven Gerrard. My favorite player in history and probably Liverpool’s best. He captains England with the passion that he captains Liverpool with. But wait–there’s more! Not only does Stevie G play for England, so do FIVE other current Liverpool players: Daniel Sturridge, Jordan Henderson, Raheem Sterling, Glen Johnson, and new signing Rickie Lambert. 4/6 are highly likely to start against Italy this weekend, probably 5/6. I know a ton about the team as I read English sports pages on a daily basis, and in the end, some of these players deserve to be the team that finally relives 1966.
3. Uruguay. We’re falling down the hardcore-ness list, as I’m not going to be passionately supporting the team, but if they’re the only ones left out of these top 3, then I’m all for them. Luis Suarez is the best on earth right now, and when he is on top of his game, he is absolutely magnificent to watch. He’s got a bit of a rep for his antics lately, and I’d bet they show his handball against Ghana in 2010 about twenty times per day that Uruguay plays. But he’s a Liverpool player as of now, and I will be more than happy if he lifts the trophy.
Teams I will enjoy watching and root for if it’s not against the three above:
- Argentina, solely because I think Messi needs to win a World Cup so we can end the debate about him being the greatest in history. Pele and Maradona won’t stop saying that they’re better than Messi, and I find that ridiculous. And yes, all three are better than Neymar. But also, Argentina has a SICK front line that should be a joy to watch.
- Belgium. CLICHE ALERT: because they are dark horses. They’ve secretly amassed some of the greatest young players in the world right now, which is pretty awesome. Hazard, Dembele, Mirallas, Mertens, De Bruyne, Lukaku, Courtois, Kompany…the list goes on. I don’t necessarily love any of these players, but they are all talented and could do some damage if firing on all cylinders. Simon Mignolet is Liverpool’s keeper..but he is pretty much second behind Courtois. Honestly don’t know if Courtois is better but the hype around him and the fact he played a Champions League final recently have cemented his spot.
Teams I will hate and root against with every fiber of my being:
- Mexico. Dirty players, whiny players, and just all-around arrogant jerks that wouldn’t have made it to the World Cup without the divine benevolence of San Zusi. They act like they are the best in the world but have never really made it that far in the WC. I hate them, a lot.
- Ghana. Jerky jerk jerkfaces. I hope we destroy them on Monday and that they don’t make it out of the group stage.
My prediction for the winners? Brazil. Only sane prediction you can make at this point. Group stages will reveal who’s really up for it though.