Who to Root for at the World Cup

With the United States failing to qualify for the World Cup after losing to Trinidad & Tobago, U.S. fans have the dilemma of who to root for when the World Cup begins on Thursday.  FiveThirtyEight has a clever simulator that tells you who your team is based on a series of questions on your soccer preferences.

Below we outline some possibilities of teams to root for based on the type of team you want to support.

Favorites

If you like rooting for heavy favorites (I know you Cobra Kai types), then you will want to root for one of these 7 teams (with links to CBS Soccer’s Preview and an asterisks indicating past winner): Germany* (the defending champion),  Brazil*, Belgium, Portugal (European champions), Argentina*, Spain* and France*.

1 2 3 4 5
FIFA
Rank
ger bra bel por arg
Betting
Odds
ger bra fra esp arg

Star Power

If you want to rally behind one of the top players at the Cup, you are going to be rooting for these same teams with a few exceptions.  Of the Washington Post’s Top 10 Players – eight are from favorite teams – Argentina (Lionel Messi), Belgium (Eden Hazard), Brazil (Gabriel Jesus, Neymar), France (Antoine Griezmann), Germany (Thomas Mueller), Portugal (Cristiana Ronaldo), Spain (David de Gea) 

The remaining two are Egypt’s Mohamed Salah, the Premier League scoring phenom who led Liverpool to the Champions League Finals.

And then there is Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who was not only the top goal scorer from World Cup 2014 with six goals but he also won the Puskas Award for best goal.

Background on the two teams is below.

FIFA Rank WC Record
W-L-T
Best
Result
Opponents

Egypt

45 0-2-2 Never  Advanced

Uruguay
Russia
Saudi Arabia

Colombia 16 7-9-2 QF
(2014)
Japan
Poland
Senegal

Overdue Teams

The FIFA Top 10 also includes four teams that have never won before – #3 Belgium, #4 Portugal, #6 Switzerland and #8 Poland.    All but Switzerland have made it to the semifinals before.

FIFA Rank WC Record
W-L-T
Best
Result
Opponents
Belgium 3 14-18-9 4th
(1986)
Panama
Tunisia
England
Portugal 4 13-9-4 3rd
(1966)
Spain
Morocco
Iran
Switzerland 6  11-16-6 QF
(1934, 1938, 1954)
Brazil
Serbia
Costa Rica
Poland  8  15-11-5 3rd
(1974, 1982)
 Senegal
Colombia
Japan

Newcomers

If you are looking for a Cinderella team, Iceland may be just the team for you.  Iceland shocked the world in 2016 when, after qualifying for the European Championship for the first time, they went 1-0-2 in the group round (including tying Portugal), beat England in the second round before losing to France in the quarterfinals.  Iceland has now qualified for its first World Cup ever bringing its Viking Thunderclap to Russia.  With a population of only 348,580, it is the smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup.

They will face Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia in Group D.

Another newcomer to the World Cup is Panama, but you absolutely cannot root for Panama as a good American since they beat out the United States for the final spot for the CONCACAF region by beating Costa Rica 2-1 when one of their “goals” never crossed the line.

Regional Favorites and Sleepers

The top two CONCACAF teams – Mexico and Costa Rica could make a run in the tournament, although Costa Rica has an especially tough group.  In terms of sleepers, keep an eye on Peru which has not lost since November 2016.  In addition, since African teams have a history of claiming the sleeper title, keep an eye on Nigeria both for its offense and its best selling uniforms.

FIFA Rank WC Record
W-L-T
Best
Result
Opponents
Mexico 15 14-25-14 QF
(1970, 1986)
Germany
South Korea
Sweden
Costa Rica 23 5-6-4 QF
(2014)
Serbia
Brazil
Switzerland
Peru 11  4-8-3 QF
(1970)
Denmark
France
Australia
Nigeria  48 5-10-3 2nd Round
(1994, 1998, 2014)
Croatia
Iceland
Argentina

Longshot

The two longest shots in the Cup according to odds makers, are newcomer Panama (who as I indicated above you absolutely cannot root for) and Saudi Arabia (who given their attrocious human rights record you probably should not root for either) – both at 1000-1 odds.

The World Cup begins on Thursday at 11:00 am Eastern Time when Russia hosts Saudi Arabia at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.  The tournament concludes 29 days later at the same spot.

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Showing Your Colors

Once you select your team, download the FlagFace app to show your support.

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