The good news for the old-fashioned American sports fan is that you don’t have to pretend to care about soccer this summer, despite it being a World Cup year, since the American national team somehow managed not to qualify for the first time since 1990.
Some of you may choose to watch anyway. Members of the media have been trying to use everything from Game of Thrones characters to college football teams to help you choose who to root for. I’m not going to do that. You can’t root for anyone but America. Come on. Don’t be like those Laker fans who are suddenly fake Warrior fans and will be fake Sixer fans in two years. Have some respect for yourself.
However, it is perfectly acceptable, and probably healthy in some way, to hate on teams during USA’s absence from the soccer proceedings. I’m here you to help you find suitable targets.
Group 1: The Blue Bloods: Germany, France, Brazil. People who hop on bandwagons and only root for the best players and teams are the worst kind of fans/people. Nobody likes fake fans. Rooting against this trio of traditional powers is also rooting against the fakes, so knock yourself out.
Argentina belongs in this group, but they are kind of likable. They have won two World Cups and again have the world’s best player in Lionel Messi, making them technically a blue blood. However, their light blue and white vertically striped shirts are too sweet to hate on and they are not one of the favorites to win this year. And Messi is undersized and likable, unlike the pretender to the title of best player, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, a completely loathsome, world class ninny.
Group 2: The Kinda Blue Bloods: Spain and Portugal. For years Spain were considered choke artists for underachieving at the World Cup, Then they won it in 2010, which might have been cute had they not done so playing exactly the way people who hate soccer despite never watching soccer imagine soccer is played — a bunch of guys standing around, aimlessly passing the ball back and forth. A good team to hate on if you don’t actually want to watch the games, but still want to get your hate on.
Portugal has never made a World Cup final, but they did win the European Championship in 2016, and Ronaldo’s presence alone merits them all the ill will you can muster.
Group 3: The Team That Thinks It Is a Blue Blood: England. Invented the game, spread it around the world, blah blah blah. England possesses all the arrogance of the true blue bloods, without the pedigree — they’ve only won once, in 1966 at home with the aid of a dubious call on the winning goal. They are usually overhyped, overrated and boring.
Group 4: USA rivals: Mexico. America doesn’t care enough about soccer to have real rivalries, but even casual fans get drawn into the big USA-Mexico games, which are frequent, as they are the two powers in the North/Central American region. No matter the makeup of the team, Mexico always goes to the World Cup, always gets out of the group stage, and always loses in the first elimination game. We can still enjoy that.
Group 5: Teams that have done the USA wrong in the past: Belgium, Germany, Portugal. Belgium eliminated the USA in a thrilling second round game in 2014, spoiling an amazing performance by USA keeper Tim Howard. Germany is 3-0 in WC games against the USA, frequently winning in devastating fashion by giving Americans hope of an upset before delivering a knockout blow. Portugal scored a last-minute goal to steal a win from Team USA at the last world cup.
Group 6: Teams/Players that are generally unlikable: Portugal, Uruguay, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia: You don’t need any more reasons to dislike Portugal, though they do exist. Uruguay features Luis Suarez, best known for biting opponents. Saudi Arabia and Tunisia are somehow always at the World Cup and always terrible. Tunisia hasn’t won a WC game since 1978, going winless in 1998, 2002 and 2006. They are back again and not good again, which is fine, but they also aren’t entertaining, producing eight goals in 12 WC games. Saudi Arabia is similar, with two wins in its first four appearances, both coming in their 1994 debut. Since then they have lost seven of nine games, scoring just four goals while allowing 26.