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: Oscar Tabarez
Captain: Diego Lugano
Cheer for this team if you like: Vampires, goals on goals on goals, history books.
Uruguay, winners of two World Cups including the first ever in 1930, head into Brazil with a lot of expectations and a lot of questions. All of those things surround Liverpool’s controversial striker Luis Suarez. This past season Suarez was named player of the year in the Premier League and looked primed and ready to lead his team on a deep run in the World Cup, but a pre-tournament surgery has left his health in doubt which would be a blow to the chances of advancing. Although Paris Saint-Germain striker Edinson Cavani, 2010’s golden boot winner Diego Forlan and other players will be leading the charge, Suarez had the potential to be the best in the tournament and if he is forced to miss time it will hurt. The defense is solid, led by Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin, but in one of the tougher groups Suarez’s health will likely be the deciding factor.
Manager: Jorge Luis Pinto
Captain: Bryan Ruiz
Cheer for this team if you like: Long Shots, CONCACAF teams that aren’t the U.S. and Mexico, a ton of defenders.
You have to feel bad for Costa Rica. With the exception of Group’s B and G, there is no tougher quartet of teams than in Group D. With an under-appreciated squad, led by Fulham and PSV Eindhoven forward Bryan Ruiz, Costa Rica could have had a chance to advance to the round of 16, and possibly even beyond. But alas, with three teams that have dreams of winning the World Cup, don’t expect to see Costa Rica get out of the group stages. A staunch defense, playing a solid 5-4-1 and only allowing seven goals in qualifying, could be enough to surprise one of the bigger sides, but it will probably not be enough to spearhead a chance to advance.
Manager: Roy Hodgson
Captain: Steven Gerrard
Cheer for this team if you like: Speed, losing to Germany, inflated expectations.
Could England really win the World Cup in 2014? Is that really possible? Yes, but it all comes down to if Roy Hodgson is able to trust the young half of the English squad. Although players like Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard are still on the squad, it will be far more interesting to watch players like 18-year-old defender Luke Shaw, 19-year-old midfielder Raheem Sterling and 20-year-old midfielder Ross Barkley. A strong front line, led by Wayne Rooney and Daniel Sturridge looks to be a strong point for the English, but if Hodgson refuses to play his younger, more energetic players, it could be a tough tournament for the Three Lions. Also, if it comes down to penalties, go ahead and switch the television off, England is going to lose.
Manager: Cesare Prandelli
Captain: Gianluigi Buffon
Cheer for this team if you like: Duke basketball, controversial yet entertaining players, your grandfather.
Have you noticed that in March Madness, Duke either loses in the first round or makes it all the way to the Final Four? Expect exactly that from Italy. If history does truly repeat itself, that is what will happen this time around in Brazil. Italy will either bow out after three matches, or head all the way to the semifinals. With a strong Juventus base, including goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, defender Giorgio Chiellini and midfielder Andrea Pirlo, this Italian side could come into the tournament as one of the most organized sides, but the question remains if they can put everything together. With Milan’s Mario Balotelli and Borussia Dortmund’s Ciro Immobile up top, it is an inexperienced striking force for a team that will likely need goals to advance out of a tough group.
June 14: Uruguay v. Costa Rica 3 p.m. England Italy 6 p.m.
June 19: Uruguay v. England 3 p.m.
June 20: Italy v. Costa Rica noon
June 24: Italy v. Uruguay noon Costa Rica v. England noon
Final table prediction: England, England England, that’s the country for me. The Three Lions come out flying high with the youth making a strong impact, and the side wins the group. Uruguay finishes as runners-up with a healthy Suarez making the difference against Italy on the final match day.