As painful as America’s World Cup exit was, its supporters must now pick themselves up from the mat as there are only a precious few World Cup matches to indulge in. At first blush it may seem difficult to find a new side to root for. But there’s a nation out there worthy of our support.
Here’s my guide on who American fans should now root for in the World Cup:
America, despite its now century-old international superpower status, loves a good underdog story. General George Washington was our first hero and ever since then the idea of an insider who works outside the system to succeed against all odds has defined our preferred pop culture narrative. 28 million people watched the underdog American Olympic hockey team take on the Canadian colossus in 2010, while in 2012 only 12.5 million tuned in to see Dream Team Mark VI coast to basketball gold. After watching the USMNT grit n’ grind their way to within a Wondolowski-poke of the Quarterfinals, cheering on the heavily-favored Bonito Brazilians would be against our values.
If miniscule Mathieu Valbuena were an American sports star, our nation’s sportswriters would pile a monument made of plaudits as high as the Statue of Liberty. Think David Eckstein. Or diminutive QBs like Russell Wilson, Drew Brees, and Doug Flutie for Valbueana’s ability to zip passes around. Couple him with relative giant Paul Pogba and you have a Hollywood-worthy pairing a la Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman or Billy Crystal and Georghe Muresan. But then again, getting mainstream America to adopt soccer was already a struggle – asking the country to now adopt France would be a bridge too far.
America certainly owes a debt to Deutschland thanks to the dynamic play of Jurgen Klinsmann’s imports John Brooks, Fabian Johnson, Jermaine Jones, and Julian Green. Slap some Ray-Bans and Hurley board shorts on Germany’s diesel eagle logo and you’d have the hottest seller at Urban Outfitters. Still, it feels too much like rallying behind Alabama football or Duke basketball. After all, this is a country that has made it deep into every World Cup since it won its first title in 1954. Most importantly, they screwed us out of a semi-final berth in 2002.
RVP’s Flying Dutchman goal from Day 2 remains the tournament’s best. It’s a play any Golden-Flake feastin’, Coors Light guzzlin’, soccer-hatin man could love. Holland’s Daley Blind found space, checked downfield, and unleashed an unholy 50-yard pass that hit RVP perfectly; like landing an F-16 on a aircraft carrier at night in the rain. Their bright orange shirts are a comforting sight to the millions of Bob Vila-wannabes who flock to the Home Depot every weekend. The Dutch language even sounds like English after enough Heinekens. And if Peter Stuyvesant had shown an ounce of Dutch Courage New York might still be New Amsterdam. But between their admitted flopping and their awkward high-fives they’re not our strongest candidate.
Bring down the #CONCACAFThunder! A win for Costa Rica could potentially make life the USMNT easier because FIFA could grant our region an extra World Cup qualifying spot. Their star, Joel Campbell, has the name of an accountant from Des Moines. Their star midfielder is named for the vodka-swigging, pizza-loving, freedom fighter whose defiant stance atop a Red Square tank signaled the Soviet Union’s end. But this is the same country that whined all the way to FIFA about the snow in Colorado. Moreover, there’d be more jealously than appreciation if our hexagonal brethren make a magical run.
There’s a notion that you want the team that beat your team to win it all to help validate a playoff loss. But this was no ordinary defeat. Could we withstand looking into Lukaku’s eyes for another two weeks? Could we withstand seeing Kevin “Prince Harry” De Bruyne fly down the flanks without flinching? In French, non. In Flemish, geen.
Judging by the amount of Messi jerseys one sees on the sidelines at weekend AYSO games you’d figure they were already America’s second team. Buenos Aires’ Obelisco is a mini-Washington monument and they love steak almost as much as we do. But there’s a better South American choice ahead.
The perfect underdog. They’re perennial outsiders packed with exciting prospects who have a decent shot to upset the hosts. Colombia gave America the magnificently-maned Carlos Valderrama, the still promising US player Juan Agudelo, and the late, great Greg Giraldo. Their country even used to be named “The United States.” Their delightfully mental TV announcers have moved waaaay beyond simple “goooool” shouts, using more sound effects than Funkmaster Flex premiering a new Rick Ross jam. Colombia sees your generic eagle, lion, and tiger nicknames and laughs. They are The Coffee Men, and this year’s squad has made a dynamic dash through the cup. American fans deserve a fun fling after that Belgian bitterness.
Who will you be rooting for now that the U.S. is out of it?