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News, The Angle

A North Fan’s Guide to Rooting for the 2018 FIFA World Cup

by on 13 June 2018

As the 2018 FIFA World Cup kicks off this week, the attention of the world will turn to Russia. 1.6 billion people will cheer for their own nation, but the remaining five billion and change have a choice on their hands. Some will root for the land of their ancestors. Others will root for a random team. “But Fifty-Five-One,” you ask, “who should I, the discerning sports fan of the upper Midwest, root for?”

Whomever you like gentle reader, you should root for whomever you like.

“But Fifty-Five-One,” you ask again, “I cannot decide, won’t you please help me in this endeavor?”

C’mon gentle reader, there’s like a thousand of these think pieces on the internet, you’re bound to find a team that’s palatable through one of them.

“But Fifty-Five-One,” you ask ever so plaintively, “that would require me clicking still more buttons, won’t you please just tell me already, so I can move on with my life?”

Fine gentle reader, but you owe us. With that, we present a Fifty-Five One Guide to whom you should root for during this summer’s World Cup. Just answer one simple question:

Are you already a soccer fan with a favorite club?

A.1: Yes, and I have serious place in my heart for…

Minnesota United, I was so pumped when they came to MLS, I bought tickets that night!

Cool, but this is easy. Root for Costa Rica. Team Captain Francisco Calvo plays for them.

Minnesota United, or the Thunder, or the Stars…[sigh], I miss Blaine.

It’s okay, you can root for Peru. They’re like Costa Rica, but more old school and less well known.

The Minnesota Strikers from the old Indoor Soccer League, that’s how soccer should be!

Okay, well, sorry to say that the games will still  be played outside. However, if you root for Colombia, you’ll get that same old thrill of lots of goals (on both sides of the ball).

The Kicks, I was there when we beat Pelé!

Man, that’s awesome. Why not relive the glory of the 70s by cheering for Brazil. They’re not really like Pelé’s old squad was, but they still feel super cool.

Fire SC 98! Sky above me, earth below me, fire within me, baby!!

Right on, you should try Australia. They’re adjusting to a new coach and feeling out a new game with a lot of players who remain local (but not international legends).

The U of M Women’s Team: Ski-U-Mah!!

I still don’t know what that means, but I’d urge you to try Senegal. They’ve got a lot of rising talents, but very little publicity.

Duluth FC, reigning champions of the rising north!

Okay, don’t take this the wrong way, but have you considered Russia? They also feel like they get no respect and are trying to pry a nation’s attention away from hockey!

Med City FC: Let’s go Medics!

If there’s one thing I admire about you guys in Rochester, it’s the unity built out of people from all over the place. That’s why I’ll nudge you towards Morocco. Their expat force is similarly strong.

VSLT: Vamos Los Viejos!

There’s so many options for VSLT fans, but we’ll go with Uruguay, both because they’re on your crest and because they blend the young and old like you guys do.

Minneapolis City SC: C’mon you Crows!

If you like the pink lumberjack motif, you’ll love Nigeria and their neon-green chevrons.

Minnesota Twin Stars, you better not make a #TechnicalDifficulties comment…

Saudi Arabia is the one World Cup team I can imagine having #TechnicalDifficulties, so they’re your squad Twin Stars.

Dakota Fusion, like Miami Fusion…but in FARGO!

NPSL fans of Jade Johnson will have to settle for Portugal and Crisitano Ronaldo. Sorry, Dakotans.

Sioux Falls Thunder, like Dakota Fusion…but slightly warmer…

Your commitment to building something new and personal matches neatly with Tunisia’s efforts to build and develop a team identity.

La Crosse Aris, please be kind.

La Crosse is still looking for their first win in the NPSL, and Panama is looking for their first win in the World Cup. Here’s hoping you both get your first this month.

Milwaukee Bavarians, I’m just here to gawk at Minnesotans.

You clearly appreciate a good team with a great history, even if it’s often overlooked, hence you should root for Egypt. Just like the Bavarians, only on an international scale (and, you know, with Mohammed Salah)

A.2: I don’t have a favorite club, I mostly watch soccer because…

My kid(s) play AYSO

You might like to watch a team where you can dream on their potential and hope for a better future. If so, Iran is the team for you (plus you can have hopes for a better geopolitical future too)!

My kid(s)/friend(s) play for their school team

You might like to watch a team with even more potential than the little kids, but a humble recognition of scale. How about Iceland, where they could pull an upset, but also send the head coach back to his dental practice at the end of the World Cup.

My kid(s)/friend(s) play for a travelling team

Perhaps you’d like a team with potential but a little better chance to make some noise? How about Denmark? They’ve even got that one kid who occasionally puts the team on his back.

My kid(s)/friend(s) play for a local college

Alright, let’s bring together the Tommies and the Johnnies, the Oles and the Carls and all the other small college feuds under the checkerboard pattern of Croatia. There’s still potential, but there’s also a rich vein of analysis and you can pretend you’re doing research on how Davor Suker’s rise to power in the Croatian FA mirrors the rise of current populist movements in western democracy.

Liga MX

Seriously, do you need a website to tell you that you should cheer for Mexico? Okay, you should cheer for Mexico.

UEFA Champions League

You will probably find a player you know on every single team, but let’s just have you go with Spain. You end up watching most of their team play every year anyway.

A.3. I like soccer, okay, but I mostly just watch to bide my time before I turn to my favorite team:

The Minnesota Lynx

Oh, so you like total domination of the sport? Cheer for Germany my friend.

The Minnesota Timberwolves

Oh, so you like plenty of potential with the lingering sense that you still probably won’t win? Belgium is Europe’s answer to the Timberbullls, so go for them.

The Minnesota Wild

Oh, so you like sky high expectations, a rabid fan base, and impossible pressure on local athletes? You’re pretty much an England fan already, just scratch out Parisie and write Vardy over the top.

The Minnesota Twins

If you’ve been patient with the Twins this long and still believe they’ve got a shot, you really ought to root for Japan:plenty of tried, true, and veteran talents just hoping for that big break through.

The Saint Paul Saints

While this might sound flip, you’re the inverse of the Twins, so go with the neighboring inverse of Japan: South Korea.They have a similar history and general philosophy, but with a quirkier approach to the game (see Son, Heung Min)

The Minnesota Vikings (because I love when they have one star to win the day, like Randy Moss, or Adrian Peterson, or *fingers crossed* Kirk Cousins)

Robert Lewandowski is basically the Kirk Cousins of Poland, so you’ve got your team (and an extra excuse to eat at  Kramarczuck’s…as if you needed one).

The Minnesota Vikings (because I love when they get rid of one star and win as a team)

Conveniently enough, Sweden just ditched their long time star (perhaps you’ve heard of Zlatan), and they’re about as Viking looking as they come.

The Green Bay Packers

Oh, a Packers fan, eh? Well Argentina should suit your style: epic history and one big name trying to carry the team.

The Milwaukee Brewers

You might feel overshadowed by all the other teams nearby, but still have hope in a better future, so you ought to take on Switzerland. (You didn’t really think I’d pass on making a cheese head joke did you?)

The Milwaukee Bucks

Uh…all I know about the Bucks is that you have a guy nicknamed the Greek Freak. Closest we get to that is Serbia. So…try that maybe?

A.4 I don’t really like soccer, I just want to be part of this event.

Seriously? You came to a soccer specific website, asked for our help, read through over 1,000 words and only now tell us you don’t really care who you root for? Okay…okay…deep breaths. I’m assigning you to root for France, because if you can watch France and still not like soccer, then I’ll know for sure to be mad at you.

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