The thirty-two teams are set in stone (the U.S. didn’t make it) and the draw is fast approaching, meaning it is time for the intrepid supporters, those whose teams didn’t make it, to choose which team they will be supporting at the FIFA World Cup. Yes, you could wait until just before the tournament begins to decide, but one of the great joys of soccer fandom is saying that you aren’t a fair-weather fan and have been there from the start. Here is a guide to whom you should support, depending on what you like.
If you Love an Underdog: Panama or Iceland
Fans who love a plucky underdog punching well above their weight should look no further than Panama or Iceland. Both teams are making their first appearance in the World’s most popular sporting competition and Iceland is officially the smallest nation to ever be involved. Neither team has much of a chance, although Iceland did make the quarterfinals of the Euros, two years ago, knocking England out along the way.
If you Fancy a Dark Horse: Belgium or Poland
Belgium has it all on paper, a number of world-class players, talent throughout the rest of the team and a group that is hitting its prime. If a football nation with more pedigree, like Germany or Brazil, were taking the squad that Belgium is, then they would probably be installed as favorites. However, Belgium isn’t one of the favorites, topping the chasing pack and given the relative size of the nation, they can just about be installed as dark horses. Poland, on the other hand, is a classic one-man team, with pretty much all their hopes resting on the shoulders of Robert Lewandowski: if he performs at the same level as he did in the qualifiers, where he scored a record-breaking fifteen goals, then they have a chance.
If you have a sense of history: Argentina or Portugal
As Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, come to the end of their glittering careers, each has one glaring hole on their C.V., the lack of a World Cup winners medal. To really enter the debate about who the greatest player in history is, both desperately need one because you feel that this is their last chance.
For the romantic: Senegal
Pele predicted that an African team would win the World Cup by the millennium, and we still haven’t really seen one break through the glass ceiling. Senegal could potentially change that bringing a team with plenty of talent and an unplayable superstar, on his day, in the form of Mane. Although it is unlikely to happen this time around, any romantic will be cheering them on, because it is time that an African nation joined football’s top table.
For fun lovers: Colombia
Colombia was every neutral’s team four years ago, because of their beautiful football, passionate fans, and incredible goal celebrations. The team hasn’t really kicked on like most people expected them to since, but they still have a similar group of talented players, who will undoubtedly be doing the salsa around the corner flag again, should they score.
For sadomasochists: England
Any England fan will tell you that supporting England is a form of sadomasochism. Since 1990, we have managed to go out of a remarkable six major tournaments on penalties. Combine that with the turgid style of football that we are churning out at the moment and a team with just enough talent to give you hope, and you have the perfect team to support if you want to get built up and then hurt.
If you are boring: Germany or Brazil
The two most successful nations in footballing history seem to be at it again, with Brazil dominating the South American qualification round and Germany winning the Confederations Cup with their reserves. If you want to win then they are the most likely two, but surely, it’s time for someone else to have a go?