It seems crazy to think that the World Cup begins tomorrow morning in Russia. The hosts will kick things off against Saudi Arabia to get the tournament started.
Since the United States didn’t make it this time around (we’re trying to move on from that the best we can!), we decided as a team to pick a country to root for in this tournament, for better or worse. Mostly for worse. Some teams might have a decent shot at advancing, while most of our hopefuls below will be lucky to get some results in the group stage!
Let us know who you are rooting for below in the comments section!
Jose Carmona - The Super Eagles
I don’t know if they’re any good, or if they will make it out of their group. What I do know, is that I love their knickname, and people tell me they are an exciting team to watch. So consider me sold, just on that alone. Then, after I decided to root for them, they went out and did this:
Their kit was so popular it sold out in 15 minutes! There have been Kit rankings of all the World Cup Kits, and SPOILER ALERT, it aint even close, Nigeria wins hands down. Since then, all Nigeria has done, is strut all their way to Russia:
Not only that, but if you are going to dress in style, you might as well show up in style:
That’s it, it’s over, go home, just hand Nigeria the World Cup. I can’t name a single one of their players, but I know I’ll be cheering-on the best dressed team on the field.
Ben Lyon - The Incas
After 6 match days, Peru only had 4 points, and things looked same as they ever were. A compelling comeback through the rest of CONMEBOL and a 77th minute own goal from Colombia propelled Peru past Chile on goal differential for the CONMEBOL playoff spot, and they eased by the Kiwis to make their first World Cup since 1982. They’re generally fun to watch and have a real destino feal to them, so I’m rolling with la Blanquirroja.
Jeff Loftin - The Red Devils
First, yes that is the nickname of the South Korean soccer team. Second, yes they are competing for second place in their group. Should they beat Sweden in the first game then they are in the drivers’ seat for the second place spot. Should they be so lucky as to advance, then they will likely be met with Brazil in the round of 16. That doesn’t matter though because this industrious and hard-working team will be fun to watch and will give Sweden, Germany, and Mexico fits.
Jack Rouse - The Danish Dynamite
I’ll be spending most of the World Cup in Denmark, and I can’t wait to get sucked into the excitement that takes hold of a soccer country (not that Denmark is very well known for soccer, but they have more of a soccer culture than America) during the World Cup. I’m not a Spurs fan, but Christian Eriksen has always been one of my favorite players to watch. I began my Danish fandom earlier this week by watching the second half of the Denmark-Mexico friendly and saw Yussuf Poulsen score a beauty. So things are off to a good start. I also like our odds of getting out of a group with France, Peru, and Australia.
Etan Cohn - Lions of the Atlas
Morocco are definitely underdogs in Group B, where Spain and Portugal are assumed by many to get the top two spots, but there is reason to believe in the Atlas Lions. They will hope for the Group Stage magic that they had in 1986, when they got 1st (yes, 1st) in a group containing Portugal, England, and Poland.
Morocco has not qualified for a World Cup in 20 years, but they will come in ready to compete this summer with a strong squad and in good form. They are on an incredible 18-game unbeaten streak, and they’ve got some talented players. Achraf Hakimi is a 19-year-old right back for Real Madrid who has scored 2 goals in 9 appearances. Medhi Benatia is a veteran center back on Juventus. He has plied his trade on well-known clubs across Europe, including Udinese, Roma, Bayern Munich, and now Juventus.
The star player on Morocco, however, is Hakim Ziyech. Ziyech is a 25-year-old attacking midfielder on Ajax. For Morocco, he has 9 goals in 18 appearances. I highly recommend that you take a look at his highlights video below. You will first and foremost be impressed with his skills, passing, and goals. Also, if you like nutmegs, he has got tons of them in his highlight reel.
Drew Epperley - All things Swedish
You all probably know me well enough to know I love my Swedish (and Danish) roots. That was even more confirmed when taking SBNation’s food guide to picking a World Cup team this week too.
But in all seriousness, I’m pretty pumped at the idea that Sweden is in a group with the likes of Germany, Mexico and Korea. With Mexico playing Germany in the first match, the draw sets my Swedes up nicely to get the standard win, loss, draw to advance. Plus, anything to get Mexico out early, am I right?
Ryan Scanlon - Kingdom of Serbia!
Talk about against the odds. Serbia stars their campaign against Costa Rica, then faces the Swiss and finishes up with a date against Brazil. Talk about long shots, which is why you should root for the fightin’ Serbs! They might not have the depth their group opponents have, but they certainly have some quality players that can help turn the matches in their favor. They won their qualifying group that consisted of Ireland, Wales, and Austria with only one loss, impressive despite what critics would say about the quality of those country’s respective soccer teams.
This will be their only other appearance as an independent nation, the other coming in 2006, and they’re certainly bringing some quality. Their players to watch will be Manchester United’s Nemanja Matic, Lazio’s Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, and Zenit’s Branislav Ivanovic. Tadic can be included if you ignore the campaign his Southampton side had this season. These guys, and the rest of the team will have to figure out how to beat Costa Rica, try and beat the Swiss or tie them, and try to keep the score respectable against Brazil while rooting for the Ticos to beat the Swiss to have any chance at qualifying for the knockouts. That’s all at a minimum. Then once they get past the group, a date with most likely Germany or possibly Mexico (even Sweden) is on the horizon. Which would be a tall order if they received Germany. Honestly though, getting out of the group stages would be an incredible achievement for this squad. They’re going to be a fun team to keep an eye on this summer.
Jared Tilley - The Lions of Teranga
This will be the first time in 16 years that Senegal will be at the party. The team and country are both very excited to be back. In 2002, Senegal had a Cinderella run all the to the quarterfinals before they were sent home. A lot of people are hoping for the same this year. In a group with Poland, Japan and Colombia, they have an outside chance of advancing to the next round. Their hopes and dreams are going to depend on whether the other teams in the groups live up to their potential or not.
Sadio Mane is the star of the team but he will need some help if they want to play more than 3 games this summer. Senegal’s success is going to depend on the midfield which consists of players Idrissa Gueye and Kouyate. If they are able to disrupt the middle part of the field and slide balls into space for Mane, then Senegal will have a fighting chance. However, if they aren’t and end up getting overrun in the midfield, it might be a short tournament.
The way I see it, Senegal is going to need at least 4 points to advance. Even with the 4 points, they are still going to need some help. A win against Japan, a draw against Colombia and a one goal loss against Poland and they leave themselves a chance.
Andrew Gentry - Los Ticos
Everyone and their mother hopped on the Costa Rica bandwagon last World Cup after the Ticos topped their group - beating Uruguay and Italy, and drawing against England. If that accomplishment wasn’t enough, they then beat Greece to make it to the quarterfinals where they finally lost to the Netherlands on penalties.
For the MLS fans out there, this team is loaded up with 7 players currently plying their trade in the US of A. In fact, while MLS is derided by many USMNT supporters as lowering the quality of the team, many Costa Ricans consider the league a success in building the national team back up. Along with Marco Urena, David Guzman, and Kendall Watson, Costa Rica also boasts 3-time Champions League Winner Keylor Navas in goal. The Real Madrid keeper (love him or hate him) is one of the best in the world and will give the Ticos a chance to win or draw every game.
This time around, Costa Rica will face off against belle of the ball, Brazil, as well as Switzerland and Serbia. Clearly, Brazil will be heavily favored to win this group, but Costa Rica has a very solid shot at 2nd place. Cinderella is back baby!
Jason Poon - Samurai Blue
I grew up in Hong Kong, and at the time, my upbringing had a wonderful mix of Chinese, British and even Japanese influence too. My Saturday morning cartoons? Anime. Instead of Nintendo or Super Nintendo, I grew up with Famicom and Super Famicom. Almost all the video games I played were in Japanese (I’m talking Final Fantasy IV and V). Since 1994, I’ve always found myself rooting for Japan, possibly drawn by their culture and their team first mentality.
Japan is drawn into a tough group with Senegal, Colombia and Poland. I doubt they’ll make it out of the group, but I don’t care.
Mohammad Bushnaq - The Pharaohs (الفراعنة )
When you are the last one to the dinner table, all of the good dishes get taken. In this case, however, there was one dish that was neglected, not because it is not tasty, but because others wanted to try something else first and then got full.
Anyway, enough with the food analogy (can you tell I am fasting?). I am choosing to root for the Pharaohs of Egypt for a couple of reasons. First, Egypt captivated the hearts of millions this year. Just listen to the raw emotion when Salah converted the penalty kick that sent them to Russia.
If that does not give you goosebumps, I do not know what will. Second, let’s talk about Mr. Mohamed Salah. This man has been an inspiration for a nation/religion while performing at a Ballon d’Or level for his club by being an amazing role model.
Lastly, Egypt is a Middle Eastern North African team (MENA) and that region has not had many options to root for over the last few World Cups. Given the unfortunate demise of my home nation in qualification, I will be rooting for the underdogs across the tournament and Egypt is certainly one of those underdogs.