It is the greatest sporting event in the world. March Madness has it’s fun each year, and the Olympic spirit is nothing to be scoffed at, but the majesty that is the FIFA World Cup cannot be matched by any other competition.
With that competition comes 32 teams fighting it out for the ultimate prize of hoisting the trophy and earning eternal glory. But which of them should you cheer for?
Sure, more likely than not, your home country is represented in this years competition, but if it isn’t, or if you are a U.S. Men’s National Team fan looking for someone to cheer for after the Yanks are eliminated, we have a guide for you.
Going group by group each day leading up to kickoff between Brazil and Croatia we will be breaking down each group and what makes each team someone you could get behind.
Manager: Vicente Del Bosque
Captain: Iker Casillas
Cheer for this team if you like: Winning 1-0, the New England Patriots, Shakira Shakira.
Already on a historic run of success, Spain heads into Brazil as the defending World Cup champions, as well as winners of the last two European Championships. Until recently Spain was a team that always had the talent, but could never put it together in a meaningful manner. But with the combination of manager Vicente Del Bosque and the golden generation of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Sergio Ramos and Iker Casillas the Spaniards have become the dominant force in international soccer in recent years. With these stars, along with others like David Silva, Sergio Busquets, Xabi Alonso and many more leading the way, Spain almost seems a lock for a spot in the semifinals. If striker Diego Costa can prove fit or another goalscorer can emerge, like David Villa or Cesc Fabregas, Spain could be the team to beat.
Manager: Louis van Gaal
Captain: Robin van Persie
Cheer for this team if you like: Manchester United, 2010, Windmills.
It doesn’t seem very fair that the two finalists from the World Cup in 2010 are matched up in the same group, now does it. After making a surprise run to the finals in 2010, and losing to champions Spain, the Dutch return with largely the same squad and look to repeat their successes this time around. Although players such as Bayern Munich winger Arjen Robben and Manchester United striker Robin van Persie have seen great success for periods during the last four years, both are on the wrong side of 30 and will need to recapture that form and hope for a resurgence of Wesley Sneijder in the midfield to make a deep run. The Netherlands are one of the more talented teams in the tournament, but have the potential to get distracted by things such as Louis van Gaal’s appointment at United, and might see themselves fall short of their lofty goals.
Manager: Jorge Sampaoli
Captain: Claudio Bravo
Cheer for this team if you like: Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse,” entertaining attacking soccer, unpredictability.
Nothing against Belgium, being named by many as the dark horse of this tournament, but that moniker rightly belongs to the Chileans. Despite not boasting the level of resume of it’s South American brethren Brazil, Argentina and even Uruguay, Chile come into the tournament with a lot of talent and high expectations. Even with a tough group draw, this squad might have the attacking talent to advance to the knockout stages and surprise a few people. With Barcelona’s Alexis Sanchez leading the attack, Chile will be a consistent threat to score, but how they do this tournament comes down to Juventus midfielder Arturo Vidal. Easily the best player on this Chilean side, and one of the best players in the world, Vidal could single-handedly carry this team to a deep run, or lead it to an early departure.
Manager: Ange Postecoglou
Captain: Mile Jedinak
Cheer for this team if you like: Losing, long-shots, cheering for 16-seeds.
What’s the best way to say this? Australia will not advance from the group stages. I could sit here and try and convince you of the teams chances of pulling a thrilling upset or two and shocking the whole world, but it’s just not going to happen. While not the worst team in the tournament, here’s looking at you Iran, any team would struggle to advance from the murderers row of a group that Australia was drawn into. If by some miracle New York Red Bulls forward Tim Cahill and Crystal Palace midfielder Mile Jedinak can find a couple goals on the counter attack, it is completely possible that Australia could take a couple points off of a team, but there is no chance they advance. For the three matches the team will spend in Brazil though enjoy what are likely the best fans in the tournament, as well as the fact that Australia sports by far the best nickname, the Socceroos.
June 13: Spain v. Netherlands 3 p.m. Chile v. Australia 6 p.m.
June 18: Australia v. Netherlands noon Spain v. Chile 3 p.m.
June 23: Australia v. Spain noon Netherlands v. Chile noon
Final table prediction: The 2010 World Cup winners, Spain, are too strong and motivated to hold back, winning the group, while Chile earns a spot in the knockout rounds following a close win against an aging Netherlands side.