A friend of mine said that she would be more excited about the World Cup if she knew who to cheer for among the 32 teams. My response was to tell her cheer for the U.S. and against everybody else.
Upon further review, I realize that my directions are too simple. Most soccer fans have a secondary team and a handful of teams they would like to see lose badly every time they play. It’s like the bumper stickers in Tennessee: I have two favorite teams—UT and whoever plays Florida.
Using suspect logic and trivial history, here is the ranking of the Floridas from an American perspective.
Of the 31 other teams, we hate Uruguay least. They have won the title twice, which we respect, and they invited us to the first World Cup in 1930.
At number 30 is Algeria for helping the U.S. resolve the Iranian hostage situation in 1981. On Wednesday, though, we wish them nothing but bad fortune and own goals.
Number 29 is South Korea. They have been our allies for decades (mostly for their own benefit). They tied us during the 2002 World Cup and then beat Portugal to give us a back door into the second round. Very friendly people.
28. Japan: They have a lot of friendly people and a restaurant called Mr. Doughnut.
27. Honduras: They fought a war over soccer (and politics). You have to respect that.
26. South Africa: Had Apartheid but it’s a different nation now.
25. Switzerland: Allowed the U.S. to draw with them during the 1994 World Cup, a result that enabled the U.S. passage into the second round.
24-20 Teams which are nebulous: Our impressions of them are based on the colors of their jerseys, the difficulty in spelling their names and our inability to find them on a map. I’m talking about Ivory Coast, Serbia, Slovenia, Cameroon and Paraguay. If these teams play each other, root for team that kicks off.
19. New Zealand: It’s hard to hate those accents and the geography.
18. Australia: Same as New Zealand but they are competing against the U.S. to host the 2022 World Cup.
17. Portugal: Eusebio good; Ronaldo bad. Lost to the U.S. in 2002.
16. Denmark: When we invited them here in 2007 to play a friendly, they sent over their B team.
15. Chili: Beat us in the 1950 World Cup, sending us home
14. Slovakia: As part of Czechoslovakia, they beat us in the 1990 World Cup.
13. Brazil: The New York Yankees of soccer with five titles; Knocked us out of the 1994 World Cup in a match that featured a crushing elbow to Tab Ramos’ face. However, they did produce Pel’e.
12. Argentina: Won the title twice; Hand of God is now legendary instead of shameful; Maradona, current coach and former player, made soccer newsworthy during the 1994 World Cup for testing positive for bad substances; Eliminated the U.S. from the 1930 World Cup.
11. North Korea: They upset Italy in the 1966 World Cup, but killed thousands of Americans between 1950 and 1953, recently sank a South Korean sub, and currently are governed by Homer Simpson’s Asian twin.
10. Spain: Beat us in the 1950 World Cup; Lost to us in the 2009 Confederations Cup; Speak Spanish, our second language.
Positives: Military allies since 1812; Lost to us in the 1950 World Cup; Won the title in 1966 and inspired the North American Soccer League; Benny Hill; Monty Python; Goalkeeper Robert Green.
Negatives: Supplied 14,000 retired, fourth-division players to take over the NASL; Have been sending their clubs to the U.S. for years on barn-storming tours to remove excess cash from soccer fans.
Positives: Pretty flowers
Negatives: During a friendly match earlier this year, they broke American Stuart Holden’s leg.
Negatives: All the spam in the world seems to come from a Nigerian prince with my lottery winnings.
Negatives: Flopped to victory over the U.S. in the 2006 World Cup using a phantom PK.
Positives: Odd-shaped border.
Negatives: Too much defending; Recent debt problems caused our stock market to drop like a water-logged, leather soccer ball.
Positives: Three-time World Cup winners; Franz Beckenbauer.
Negatives: Knocked the U.S. out of the 2002 World Cup with a handball on the goal line; Beat us in the 1998 World Cup; Goalkeeper Harold Schumacher assaulted an opponent during the 1982 World Cup semifinal; WWII and the Holocaust.
Positives: Four-time winners.
Negatives: Beat us in 1934, 1990 and 2006 World Cups; Beat us in the 2009 Confederations Cup; Gave us Georgio Chinaglia, who killed the North American Soccer League. Italy’s brand of soccer is as loveable as dentistry.
Positives: Gave us the Statue of Liberty.
Negatives: Gave us nothing for saving their butts twice in the 20th Century; Smell bad; Hosted the 1998 World Cup and allowed every other team to finish ahead of the U.S.; XYZ Affair.
1. Mexico (our regional nemesis)
Positives: taught us the Spanish phrase “dos a cero”
Negatives: The Alamo. Showed up to oppose us in qualifying for the 1934 World Cup; Refused to hand over the match when we met them in the 2002 World Cup; Their fans chanted “Osama” during a U.S. match just after 9-11; In the 2002 match they body slammed Cobi Jones; In a 2007 match their goalkeeper took an sad swipe at one of our players after Mexico went down 2-0; Gave Brian McBride a concussion and a golf ball bulging from his head in a 2001 match; President is a hypocrite in illegal immigration; They kept us out of the World Cup for 40 years.