It’s been a bloodbath for English sport lately. In March, its rugby team lost out to Ireland in the Six Nations on mere point differential. Just recently the team went down to New Zealand for an Antipodean Winter tour and lost all three tests to the All Blacks. Its cricket team surrendered the Ashes back to Australia and Mitchell Johnson’s mustache in an absolute 5-0 series annihilation. And just this past week, England lost a test series to Sri Lanka at home for the first time ever.
Then came this World Cup. Despite some flashes of brilliance in their first two matches, England suffered its earliest World Cup exit since 1958. This is a team that usually makes a decently deep run in the World Cup or Euros before making a dramatic exit. Like 2010 and Lampard’s disallowed goal against Germany or penalty shootout losses in 2012, 2006, 2004, 1998, 1996, and 1990. But this summer’s exit felt premature and meek.
English fans now face two more weeks of the most fun World Cup in ages without their Three Lions. Who should they get behind? Let’s review their options, ranked from worst to first.
Germany: Any Englishman seen pumping for Die Mannschaft would find himself drawn and quartered on the front pages of the nation’s notorious tabloids. Since England claimed their sole World Cup triumph in 1966, Germany has repeatedly eliminated England in painful fashion. See the 1970 World Cup quarterfinal, the 1990 World Cup semi-final, the Euro 1996 semi-final at Wembley, and the 2010 World Cup Round of 16. Nein
France: They’ve been at each other’s throats since at least 1066. This also effectively rules out the French-lite sides; Belgium, Switzerland, and Algeria. Non.
Uruguay: Luis Suarez miraculously returned from injury just in time to rip out England’s heart. Moving on.
Argentina: The Hand of God. St. Etienne and Diego Simeone. ‘Nuff said.
The Netherlands: England has more than three times as many people yet since the 70s the Dutch have achieved greater success while producing more world-class players. They also took Steve McClaren in from the rain.
Mexico: The site of two desultory English denouements – the 1970 extra-time loss to West Germany in Leon and the “Hand of God” 1986 loss to Argentina in Mexico City. Plus, the Mexican food in London is terrible.
Brazil: Often referred to as the world’s second-favorite side. It’s the easy way out, like rooting for the Yankees, and rooting for the Yankees “is like owning a yacht,” according to legendary New York Post columnist Jimmy Cannon. Only posh, red-trouser-wearing people own yachts. Não.
Colombia: Colombia gifted Newcastle with the incomparably flamboyant Faustino Asprilla, which might be reason enough to pick them. But their bandwagon is already bursting.
Chile: They have defender Gary “Pitbull” Medel, currently at Cardiff City. And the nation was founded by the delightfully named Bernardo O’Higgins. Chile is also home to the largest amount of Brits in South America. A possibility, but as we’ll see, there are stronger sides.
Greece: Britain’s played a pivotal role in Modern Greek history. The UK supported Greece in shaking free of the Turks in the early 19th century. When a shaky independence was finally achieved, Britain gifted the nascent nation with the Ionian Islands. Britain’s Prince Philip was born in Corfu into the Greek Royal Family. Moreover, forward Dimitrios Salpingidis looks like a bearded Wayne Rooney while Celtic’s Georgios Samaras is a swarthier facsimile of Manchester United immortal George Best. Still, English fans can do better.
Nigeria: A former British colony and currently a member of the Commonwealth. Many of its star players are familiar to Premier League fans, including John Obi Mikel of Liverpool, Victor Moses of Liverpool, and Peter Odemwingie of Stoke. Their kit’s verdant hue brings to mind “England’s green and pleasant land” from the de facto English sporting anthem “Jerusalem.” Certainly a strong candidate, but still not who England should plump for.
The Almighty U.S. of A: Despite the revolution and its 1812 sequel wherein the Redcoats burned the White House down, England and the U.S. have long enjoyed a “special relationship.” Winston Churchill himself was half-Brooklynite. Clint “Captain America de Dos” is a former Craven Cottage legend and Tim Howard is Everton’s rock. The Premier League is the most popular soccer league in the United States and even gets higher TV ratings that the NHL – the supposed fourth major league sport. America keeps almost every British actor alive employed; even casting them into iconic American roles. The English can feel comfortable singing along to the Star-Spangled Banner as its melody comes from an old drinking tune of theirs. England gave the world Kate Moss, America gave the world Kate Upton.
The USMNT relies on a bulldog spirit in lieu of world-class talent. Sound familiar? And if the U.S. can shock Belgium they’ll face Argentina. What Englishmen wouldn’t want to see them sadly singing “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” on their way back to Buenos Aires?
So this Tuesday, English fans should gather by Trafalgar Square’s George Washington statue, blast some Neil Diamond, pop open a coupla Van Damme-cold Coors Lights, wear “Hulkamania” t-shirts, scarf some Big Macs, and cheer on their new squad for the summer – - the Almighty U.S. of A.