World Cup Rooting Guide

Submitted by L'Carpetron Do… on June 14th, 2018 at 2:45 PM

The World Cup, one of, if not the greatest sporting event in the world is upon us once again. But, sadly, for the first time in a long time USA did not make it. So, what is a soccer fan, even a casual one, to do? Don't worry - the World Cup is still full of passion, excitement and compelling story lines. I'm not the biggest soccer fanatic on mgoblog, but I LOVE the World Cup. Some of my fondest memories growing up and even in adulthood involve the World Cup.  

Here are the groups: Generally my fan hierarchy goes thusly: USA→ Ethnicity→ Hated Enemies→ Other Interests/Concerns. I don’t even know that much about soccer these days but If you're not sure who to root for here is a handy breakdown of how to choose your rooting interests in the 2018 World Cup:


In addition to USA, I also pull for my Old World connections and that means Ireland and Greece and to a lesser extent Wales. But none of those teams made it this year. But that doesn’t mean you can’t root for your roots! If you have Croatian, Swedish or Moroccan blood, there’s your team right there. If your dad’s side is Korean support South Korea. If you grew up in a Polish family in Hamtramck root for the Poles. Even if you have some other connection (your wife’s family is Colombian) or affinity (you studied abroad in Australia) for a certain country you can get behind them. The whole world is in it - there’s got to be someone you can root for!


If you're like me, once you realize that your team (Michigan, USA) isn't in it, your immediate instinct is to say 'who is in it that I hate? I’ll root against them with all my soul'. You can easily apply the root-against-Ohio State/Sparty/ND mantra to USA's many political and athletic adversaries!  Here are some teams that fit that description.

Russia - I don't think I need to explain why. Don't root for them. In fact, root against them. Hard. They're the host team and while most hosts get a lot of goodwill from international fans and the global soccer community as a whole, Russia has a lot to answer for now. Luckily on the field, they’re not good so they shouldn’t go far. But say some prayers that their games are officiated fairly (and non-suspiciously). I hope they get humiliated on their home turf (ugh they already won their first game 5-0).

Mexico- Politically, Mexico is not our enemy (well, depending on who you ask) but, soccerly, they are very much so. Ohio State:Michigan::Mexico:USA. Mexico is our biggest rival and there is a lot of bad blood between the two teams. Their fans also treat our players like shit when they visit Stadio Azteca.

Dishonorable mention - Saudi Arabia and Iran for their poor human rights records. Similarly, if you have strong opinions on international corruption issues as I do you can also base your viewing interest based on any given country’s proclivity towards ethics (or lack thereof). I may even create a corruption World Cup bracket in which only the most upstanding/least corrupt countries advance to the knockout stage. Spoiler alert: these teams don't make it far.


If you're not into hating your opponents and you need a positive reason to get invested, pull for these teams:

France - our oldest ally! While most Americans are turned off by the French, we have them to thank for the Statue of Liberty and they are traditionally a fun and entertaining side in the World Cup. Lots of talent and engaging style (I loved Zidane so I will always root for France). One of their best players is Chelsea forward Olivier Giroud who is the most French-looking man in history.

England - our closest ally! Team England always has some of the best players in the world but never has the best team. They vastly underachieved in the 2006 and 2010 World Cups when they had a collection of once-in-a-lifetime talent. That talent is retired and gone now. But watch out for Harry Kane, England’s newest superstar, to make plays in this year’s cup.

Former enemies-turned-trade-partners Germany and Japan. Japan always manages to surprise and they have a great fanbase. The Germans are always incredible and could win it all.

Interesting Teams:

If you want soccer-based reasons to watch, there are a handful of interesting squads and players you can pull for:

Argentina - they boast the best player in the world in Lionel Messi, a tiny dribbling dynamo. Many soccer fans are rooting for him to win his first World Cup in what is likely his last chance.

Portugal - International/Portuguese glory boy and Real Madrid mega-star Cristiano Ronaldo is also one of the world’s best and is in it to win it in his last chance (I’ve hated him for years but especially so after he dropped this pass on the USA in the freaking 94th minute in the last WC.)

Egypt - Liverpool star Mohamed Salah, though injured for the first game, will make an appearance for the Pharaohs at some point. He's a scoring wizard with incredible speed who tallied 46 goals in all competitions this year, which is an astounding number.

Iceland- tiny country with an insanely fun fanbase full of vikings.

Nigeria - talented African squad nicknamed the Super Eagles which I always thought was cool.

Hopefully, that was helpful for all you casual fans out there in MgoLand. And while the USA isn’t in it, it can still be a great competition (of course, it would be much better if they were). Sometimes you just need a team to pull for. Enjoy! And GO USA ANYWAY!!!!!



June 14th, 2018 at 2:57 PM ^

Too many people's ideas about Russia are skewed based on what they see in the news. The Russians I have met have been open, funny, very generous, and just want to be part of the world while knowing that they are weird. I am actually kind of rooting for them (go ahead and downvote me).

I also can't stand English soccer fans and their condescension so I always root for them to underperform. 

Iceland and Costa Rica are the two outside teams I hope do well, and France in terms of teams with an actual shot. I think Brazil wins.


June 14th, 2018 at 4:36 PM ^

I've dated Russian girls. I couldn't agree with this more. And not to get too political, but they've been a political adversary of the United States since WWII. Why are we upset they are still trying to upset the US/Western Europe apple cart? That's what they do.

L'Carpetron Do…

June 14th, 2018 at 3:00 PM ^

I was bummed about the USA not being in it and equal parts distracted/bored at work and psyched for the World Cup.  It's a tricky year and a very weird field in the World Cup. But I figure this could generate some discussion. Wanted to see how other fans are approaching it.


June 14th, 2018 at 3:19 PM ^

Belgium: Talented group with a fun style of play that needs to come together and make a run. Seems like this year is probably the last chance for this group and if they don't it will be a real disappointment. Talent x style x stakes is a compelling combination; Argentina has that going for them as well.  

Nigeria because the Super Eagles are an awesome looking underdog and because it's going to be a fun group stage. 

It's a shame to me the World Cup is expanding. More teams should mean more upsets and randomness, but are there really 48 teams worthy of inclusion? 

Tom Bombadil

June 14th, 2018 at 3:20 PM ^

I root for Germany even over the US based on family. My dad came from Germany to the US to study and ended up getting married to an American and staying forever, so I grew up a Germany fan.

It'll be France or Brazil in my opinion, Germany cursed themselves by winning the confederation's cup last summer. I hope neither Portugal nor Argentina win - I appreciate the skill of both Messi and Ronaldo but dislike both of them. Would be alright if Spain won it, although I'm still bitter from 2010, because it'd be a great story (and the M connection).

Unfortunate that the opening match was between two distasteful countries neither of whom is that great at soccer. Props to Russia for demolishing SA, not that the Saudi defense posed much of a challenge.


June 14th, 2018 at 3:48 PM ^

Colombia, baby.

I was living there in '94, and there saw my first World Cup. Lived through the exalted expectations and crushing disappointment of that ill fated Colombian side, as well as the national heartbreak caused by the senseless killing of defender Andres Escobar.

It took Colombian soccer 20 years to recover from that World Cup. Getting to quarters in 2014 was like a national exorcism for them. Now they have two stars, Falcao and James to lead them in their bid to shock the world.

¡Viva selección cafetera!


June 14th, 2018 at 3:50 PM ^

We should have an affinity for England, but I always root against them because they are so incredibly smug and dismissive about all things USA soccer.

USA soccer is not elite, of course, but news flash: Neither is England soccer.  They are hardly in a position to be looking down their noses at us to the extent they do.

The last time that the USA and England were in the same group in the WC, it was the USA that won the group, not England.

Q: What do the USA and England have in common?

A: Neither of us has won a world cup in the last 50 years.

They are the Notre Dame of soccer nations, living off of dusty old glories, and in your face about it while they are doing it.     

L'Carpetron Do…

June 14th, 2018 at 4:01 PM ^

Those England squads from 1998 onwards were amazing yet terrible. It's hard to believe they had so little to show for that much talent.  At some point during that timeframe (even in 2014 Rooney & Gerrard were on the roster) all of these players were on at least one WC team and several of them were on multiple:

David Beckham, Wayne Rooney, Steven Gerrard, Michael Owen, Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham, Joe Cole, Ashley Cole, Frank Lampard, Theo Walcott, Gary Neville, Paul Scholes, John Terry. Even had other solid players like Carrick, Wright-Phillips, Defoe and plenty of others.  I mean, they ran into Brazil in '02 who eventually won it, but that's an amazing group of players that hardly did anything in the World Cup. 

snarling wolverine

June 14th, 2018 at 6:12 PM ^

Meh.  That list has a lot of guys long on media hype but who never proved themselves outside of the EPL (which itself also is very long on media hype).

You can come up with significantly better lists of players for Germany, Spain and France from the same period, not to mention Brazil and Argentina and even Belgium.



June 14th, 2018 at 11:48 PM ^

Hm. I don't think you could get a "significantly better" list of players from Belgium over that time span (maaaaybe if you heavily weight the GK and 2014).

Those other teams, sure, but four of those five teams won a Cup during that time frame. I think the main point was that the English side had talent but didn't even come close to winning a Cup, not that there weren't better sides. 

L'Carpetron Do…

June 15th, 2018 at 10:01 AM ^

Yep - couldn't have said it better myself. Thanks, Teach!

I would say France had awesome teams in that period too - Zidane, Henry, Barthez, Vieira, Petit, Thuram, Trezeguet, Ribery and others. They won it in 98 and came damn close in 06 (albeit while crapping out in 02 and 10)

The Germans in that period were phenomenal as well - Klose, Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Osul, Lahm, Mertesacker, Neuer and I thought they were the best team in the tournament in '02, '06, '10. They couldn't win it all but came close - finals in 02, semis in 06 and 10. Finally got their due last time.  

Italians, Spain and Brazil had good teams too, but of course they won too!

Naked Bootlegger

June 14th, 2018 at 4:07 PM ^

Iceland is my adopted World Cup home.  Tiny island-nation with difficult to pronounce names?   Sign me up.

BTW, I thoroughly enjoyed this thread.  Great write-up, OP.   



Goggles Paisano

June 14th, 2018 at 4:23 PM ^

Nice write up.  I don't follow any soccer but have always enjoyed the World Cup.  Maybe because I live in Florida and feels like I am sitting right on the equator.  Staying indoors in the summer is the norm and having something like the World Cup to watch is fun.  Bummed there is no US team to root for, so I will go with Iceland.  Who even knew they had a soccer team?  Can't stand England and their "proper" ways.  I can root for Poland too as I grew up in a very heavily Polish neighborhood and love me some really good pierogi and paczki.  


June 14th, 2018 at 4:40 PM ^

Back in the days when there were fewer conference tournaments, the ACC had always had theirs. Fans who weren't really aligned often had tags or banners or whatnot displaying ABC on them. It stands for Anybody But Carolina. You could probably make it ABCD these days.

Anyway, in that vain--ABE. Anybody But England.


June 14th, 2018 at 7:00 PM ^

Amazing how little Brazil discussion there is so far this year.

I guess you get your butt paddled like a red-headed stepchild in front of the entire world in the Final, and the mystique gets to take a breather.