The 2018 FIFA World Cup

Which Country You Should Cheer for in the World Cup

If your country didn't qualify, here's a handy guide to decide which bandwagon you should jump on.

by Daniel Squizzato
Jun 14 2018, 3:00pm

Photo by Getty Images

Whether or not you've ever kicked a soccer ball in your life, now's the time to stand up and support "your" team in the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Which team? Well, you could pick a nation to which you have some legitimate connection: citizenship, ancestry or temporary residency (for example, the country you had that wild summer in that you only half-remember). Or, just do what all the cool kids are doing—pick one of the tournament's 32 competing nations for some arbitrary reason and immediately hang on their results like your life depends on it!

Not sure where to start? Don't worry, this handy guide will have you stanning for a team (that you'd never previously seen) in no time!

If you like good odds and beer houses: Germany. They're the reigning World Cup champs and top-ranked team on Earth. If glory-hunting is your thing, Germany is usually a good place to find it.

If you like good odds and samba music: Brazil. Sure, they got humiliated on home soil at the last World Cup (losing 7-1 to Germany in the semifinals). But if the bookies are to be believed, this will be their summer of redemption... and an unprecedented sixth World Cup title.

If you like long odds: Panama. The Central Americans are at the World Cup for the very first time. Put some money down on them and... well, you'll have less money than you did before.

If you like lower oil prices: Saudi Arabia. They won't win, or even come close, but the Saudis doing well could maybe give us some relief at the gas pump… that's how the international economy works, right?

If you enjoy an underdog: Iceland. After just missing out on the 2014 World Cup, the frozen outpost of under 400,000 people made a remarkable run to the quarterfinals of the 2016 European Championship, and is now the smallest nation to ever compete at the FIFA World Cup.

If you enjoy an underdog but feel Iceland is a little too mainstream now: Peru. Back in the World Cup for the first time since 1982, the oft-overlooked South American side could fulfil the promise they showed before the Alianza Lima disaster of 1987. (Be sure to remember this reference, to show others you supported Peru before it was cool.)

If you wish poor Vladimir Putin could have something go well for him, for once: Russia. Just, c'mon, give Vlad a break, right?

If you've never heard the phrase "golden generation" before: Belgium. With the likes of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, and Romelu Lukaku, this is a Belgian golden generation. That sounds pretty good, right? Like they're destined to definitely win, as a golden generation probably always does? So, yeah, they're definitely going to win. Pick them.

If you like reboots: Spain. Sometimes, going back to the well can have disastrous results (hi, Roseanne!) But for Spain, winners of Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup, and Euro 2012, a six-year hiatus from the top of the soccer world could be just enough time to fill that bandwagon right back up.

If you like rock-hard abs: Portugal. We don't know if Cristiano Ronaldo will score in this tournament, but we can be reasonably certain that if he does, off comes the shirt.

If you root for the good guy: Egypt. After a record-breaking season with Liverpool that catapulted him into the global elite, Egyptian striker Mohamed Salah nearly had his arm broken in the UEFA Champions League final less than three weeks ago, leaving his World Cup status in doubt. Maybe your support can help him recover quicker?

If you root for the bad guy: Uruguay. The villain of the last two World Cups has been Uruguayan striker Luis Suarez, who in 2010 cheated to help his team reach the semis, and in 2014 was banned for biting an opponent. And it wasn't his first time biting someone on the field.

If you're a fan of sweet-ass fashion: Nigeria. Good luck getting a Super Eagles kit if you don't already have one; there were reportedly 3 million pre-orders for their Nike-produced jerseys, which sold out quickly. But the sartorially-minded soccer follower can still covet from afar.

If you're a fan of consistent-ass fashion: Croatia. Some things are guaranteed: death, taxes, and Croatia donning a red-and-white checkerboard pattern at a big soccer tourney.

If you like the exhilarating feeling of a roller coaster about to careen off the tracks: France. As always, the French bring plenty of talent to the tournament. But their World Cup performances tend to fluctuate between the highest highs (reaching the final) and the lowest lows (ego-driven implosions). Who'll show up this time?

If you're a glutton for punishment: England. Self-explanatory.

If you like conspiracy theory rabbit holes on YouTube: South Korea. The Taeguk Warriors had a best-ever fourth-place finish at the 2002 World Cup (which South Korea co-hosted with Japan) and oh boy, does the internet have some opinions about why.

If you're a North American full of regional pride: Mexico. The united bid of Mexico, the US, and Canada just won the right to host the 2026 FIFA World Cup! Huzzah! What better way to show unity than to rally behind the only one of those three nations that actually qualified for Russia 2018?

If you believe that "if at first you don't succeed, try, try again”: Morocco. Poor Morocco. They're the ones who lost out on hosting the 2026 World Cup, after previously falling short in bidding for the 1994, 1998, 2006, and 2010 tournaments as well. They could use a W.

If you love narratives with satisfying conclusions: Argentina. Lionel Messi is the best player in the history of the sport (yes, he is) but won't be universally regarded as such unless he drags 22 other schmucks to World Cup glory—and this is probably his last chance to do so.

Photo by Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

If you like to hit the ground running: Japan. Akira Nishino has had just two months as head coach to prepare Japan for the World Cup, after the shocking firing of his predecessor in April. If you know the feeling of being thrown into the deep end, maybe Japan is the team for you.

If you won't let objective reality get in the way of your preferences: Italy. Alternate options: Chile, the Netherlands.

If you like sitting: Denmark. Chair design is a big thing in Denmark. It's true. Hey, there's 32 of these things, they can't all be gold.

If you believe good things come to those who wait: Senegal. The Lions of Teranga had to wait until 2002 to qualify for their first World Cup, where they made a rollicking, entertaining journey to the final eight. They've had to wait 16 more years to get back to the big show. Buckle up.

If you enjoy cleverly gaming the system: Poland. The FIFA World Ranking is an arcane, unpopular and often nonsensical system that also happens to be the way teams are seeded for big competitions like the World Cup. The Polish team, knowing this, scheduled its games in such a way as to maximize their chances of getting a favourable draw for Russia 2018. And hey, it worked!

If you're a stickler for correct spelling: Colombia. Adopt Los Cafeteros as your team, and not only do you get to watch James Rodriguez do his thing, you also get to righteously repudiate the dullards on social media who will inevitably spell it "Columbia."

If you want a team whose accent you can (badly) mimic while probably not being accused of cultural insensitivity: Sweden. Bork bork bork.

If you think lightning really does strike twice: Costa Rica. Los Ticos shocked the world at Brazil 2014 with their run to the quarterfinals following wins over Uruguay and Italy. And, oh yeah, scientifically, lightning can strike the same place twice. Boom, Costa Rica winning the World Cup, confirmed.

If you like riling people up: Serbia. Just belligerently tell anyone within earshot that Serbia is definitely going to win the tournament. "Why?" They just are. Keep going. Don't take "no" or "please stop bothering the other customers" for an answer.

If you're all about that anti-colonialism cred: Tunisia. The North African nation was a French protectorate until independence in 1956. At this summer's World Cup, over a quarter of the players suiting up for Tunisia were born in France. Turnabout's fair play, non?

If you've decided you're just going to remain neutral: Switzerland. HAHAHAHA, get it? (Sorry. Really.)

If you're an early-rising go-getter: Iran. Aside from Brazil, Iran was the quickest nation in the world to book a spot in the World Cup through the qualification process, making things official back on June 12, 2017.

If you like leaving things until the last minute: Australia. The Aussies punched their ticket to the tournament on Nov. 15, 2017—the very last day of the worldwide, two-and-a-half-year-long, 210-nation qualifying process for Russia 2018.

Whichever team(s) you decide to follow over the next month—or, heaven forbid, if you choose to just enjoy the competition without staking a claim—it's definitely as nice a time as any to be reminded that there truly are some things that can bring together people from virtually every place on our planet.

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