We've reached the end of the collegiate sports season, aside from the impending track and field championships. It's time for the long, dark winter of the soul, in which we reacquaint ourselves with our families until next football season.*
*It turns out I have a daughter. She's cute.
So the World Cup could not come at a more perfect time. It can distract us for a month of the offseason. Heck, by the time it's over, it will almost be time for summer practice. I'm not asking for you to become a huge soccer fan and start waking up early on the weekends to watch EPL matches, but this is a fun way to pass the time. I also know that you don't know who to root for, and that's where we come in.
If you already have a favorite team or you know a bunch of players, well, this isn't going to help at all. This is who you should root for if the only soccer player you can name is Pele. Because, ultimately, who plays for what country doesn't matter one lick. You're going to base you're rooting interest on something superficial, and by the time you learn the players, the tournament will be near its end. But by all means, if you like a player, root for that team. Here are your methods for selecting a team.
The SEC! SEC! SEC! Method
Soccer is a regional sport. When the World Cup is played in Europe, a European team almost always wins. When it is held in the Americas, a South American team wins. So stop messing about with those dirty European imperialists, and throw in your lot with the rest of the Western Hemisphere! OK, this is a bit like an Ole Miss fan pulling for Alabama to win a national title, and then claiming some credit for it, but that does some kind of fun. This means you get to root for two of the favorites, Brazil and Argentina, to shove it in Europe's face. Sick of that English guy you know making fun of Americans soccer? Well, American soccer means all of America! Bonus points for getting to root for Uruguay, and Luis Suarez once bit a guy in the head.
The Heritage Method
This is why every Italian restaurant is pulling for the Azzurri. This is a nation of immigrants, and a lot of us still trace our roots back to some other country. This is a chance to remember that you've got a distant cousin who lives in Germany, and you're just rooting for the family. Now, the drawback here is that Louisiana has a large Cajun population, which means I've just suggested that y'all root for France. Sorry about that, but France is actually a pretty fun team. I'm English and Irish, so the English side of me is full of self-loathing and the Irish side of me just wants to see the English lose in the most humiliating fashion possible while their enemies succeed. So, by this strategy, I'm pulling for Argentina and Germany. God may save the queen, but the English national team is beyond saving.
The Uniforms Method
Ever made fun of your girlfriend for rooting for a football team based solely on who has the coolest uniform, while secretly thinking to yourself that it's a pretty good method? Look, I hate Auburn, but they've got some sharp duds.* Soccer fans are just like football fans in the way that they fetishize uniforms, and SB Nation has helpfully ranked all of the uniforms for you. I'm not sure you're aware of this, but Holland really, really likes the color orange. Brazil's yellow and blue kits are a perennial classic. Argentina also has a classic look, but come on, Croatia has the best uniforms on the planet. The checks are distinctive, yet also really cool.
*This is why the uniforms method doesn't work, you end up rooting for Auburn.
The Political Method
This is your chance to base your rooting interests entirely on your political beliefs, which would make you nearly as insufferable as every soccer fan on the planet. You'll fit right in. Anti-immigration? Root against Mexico. Are you obsessed with Islamic terrorism? Iran's got a team here. Are you a dirty hippie who only cares about pot legalization? Did I mention Holland is playing? Think the global economic crisis is sorely underreported? Bring it up to your friends while watching Greece play.
The World War II Method
Know what never goes out of style? World War II. Root against the former Axis powers for things that happened when their grandparents were little kids. Go whole hog in rooting against Germany, Japan, and Italy. Blame the French for getting invaded. Root against Argentina for harboring Mengele after the war. Root for the English for being a staunch ally or Belgium for holding out longer against a German invasion than the much larger France. Heck, you even get to root against the Swiss for the whole Nazi gold thing. Nothing is more fun than putting on the air of moral superiority for something you didn't do.
The Mascot Method
Cameroon's national team is known as the Indomitable Lions. That's just awesome. You'll probably end up rooting for an African team with this method, as Africa is home to some awesome team names: the Desert Foxes (Algeria), the Elephants (Ivory Coast), and the Super Eagles (Nigeria). As a general rule, European team names suck out loud. For example, Die Manschaft translates to "The Team," which is pretty German. Most of Europe just settle for a color. Heck, two teams are simply called The Blues (France and Italy). The Red Devils is a pretty cool name for Belgium or the Red Fury for the Spanish, which isn't used nearly often enough. Asia also has some awesome nicknames. Japan are the Samurais and Korea are the Taegeuk Warriors, and either would be an excellent choice. Or just go silly and root for the Socceroos.
The Correct Method
Or, you know, you could root for the United States. I mean, you live here already. The World Cup is one of the few times that we can all get as nationalistic as we can, and no one gets shot over it. I know we're not favorites to advance out of our group, much less win the tournament. Even our coach thinks we have no chance to win. But what kind of person jumps ship and roots for someone else just because your team is an underdog? That would be like having LSU as your alma mater, then turning around and rooting for Ohio St. Don't be that guy. Have some strength of character and pull for the home team.