For My American Soccer Friends

Jun 15, 2018 World Cup

Distraught the U.S. isn’t in the World Cup?  Try Being Canadian!

A Roadmap to Picking a Team During the Games in Russia

Having been riveted to every World Cup tournament for the last fifty years, I was shocked and saddened that a perfect storm of events would keep the United States from attending it’s eleventh consecutive Greatest Show on Earth.

After the heartbreaking overtime loss to Belgium in the group of 16 four years ago, things seemed so positive and a trip to Russia was a forgone conclusion. But a sweltering night in Trinidad and Tobago proved to be the black hole that would swallow those hopes alive.

Perhaps more American Outlaws were needed in the stands. Those boisterous, traveling road show red, white and blue fanatics that have more than 100 chapters across America. To show my unity in their despair, I joined the Florida chapter closest to where I vacation in the winter.

Despite all this W.C. angst, the United States has by far the most fans travelling to Russia for the tournament in June based on FIFA’s figures as reported in Soccer America magazine’s online blast.

Here are the top ten countries in that list and the number of tickets sold as of April 17th 2018.

  1. United States 80,161
  2. Brazil 65,863
  3. Columbia 60,199
  4. Germany 55,135
  5. Mexico 51,736
  6. Argentina 44,882
  7. Peru 38,554
  8. China 36,841
  9. Australia 34,638
  10. England 30,711

It seems shocking that only one continental European team, Germany, is in this list.

Also the low number of English fans travelling might have a lot to do with the brutal, well organized attack by Russian Ultras, the new name for hooligans, against unsuspecting English fans of all ages and genders at the end of their match during the 2016 European Championship tournament in Marseilles, France.

Over 100 English supports were injured and two were left permanently in a coma.

Russian Ultra’s warned English fans recently that someone could very well be killed at this World Cup if they bother to show up in their country.

So much for love in the beautiful game.

Now, back to business.

Want to brighten your emotional outlook come June and the start of the World Cup?  I have some suggested techniques that will allow any and all U.S fans to enjoy the games with almost as much enthusiasm as if your home-grown heroes were on the pitch.

Drum roll please… No.1 is… Watch the games like you’re a Canadian! That’s right, like a Johnny Canuck, just like me, eh?

Realizing that the snooty football establishment considers Americans to be the ‘new kids on the World Cup block,’ even though they have made 10 appearances, Canada is the ‘no kids on the block.’

(Actually, we snuck in under the radar in 1986 losing all 3 games and scoring zero goals. FIFA decided we should never come back again.)

As a result I‘ve been forced to conjure up various ways to pick my team every four years.

I love football too much not to get immersed in the festivities. So here’s my top choice of how you pick your team to cheer for.

1. Start with looking at all 32 countries that qualified.

Then consider the following:

Here are the eight groups with the participating teams:

Group A


Saudi Arabia



Group B





Group C





Group D





Group E



Costa Rica


Group F




Korean Republic

Group G





Group H





Here in North America at one time or another somebody in your family immigrated across a pond. My immediate people came from Scotland and Italy. Scotland has made it to the show 8 times and Italy a lofty 18 times and hoisted the trophy 4 of those times.

But, Scotland hasn’t qualified in 20 years and in a heartbreak of heartbreaks, the Paisanos tragically fell to those cold, cold Swedes in qualification.

Bring out the rotten tomatoes!

So where do I go from here to find my team to root for? It meant doing a bit of hereditary homework but it was worth it. At one time most of us had 4 grandparents. Maybe you didn’t know all of them, but they all came from somewhere.

So broaden your ancestral horizon. My mother’s mother was half English half Irish. My father’s mother was from the good old U.S. of A.

O.K. we know what happen to you Yanks, and the Irish, both Northern and the Republic, didn’t make the grade, but England… Yes Bonkers, I’m going to be a Bloody Limey during Mundial 2018! See how it works?

Other countries are in the same boat. Consider the poor Dutch. They consistently play brilliant, stylish football, but somehow end up always being the bridesmaid. This year their invitation to the nuptials got lost in the mail.

Thus, two Dutch friends of mine, Thijs and Daan use the same strategy hoping they have relatives living or dead from at least one of the participating 32 countries. Chances are they do.

2.  Now if this method does suit your needs, here are some alternatives I used in previous World Cups, starting in 1966.

  • 1966 England by birthright. Rule Britannia, thanks Gran.
  • 1970 Italy, same reason, but they lost to Brazil in the final.
  • 1974 Poland, so brave, losing 0-1 to champs Germany.
  • 1978 Host Argentina because the country was messed up.
  • 1982 Viva Italia campioni! (champions)
  • 1986 Argentina again this time with Maradona.
  • 1990 Still Argentina, but they lost to West Germany.
  • 1994 The U.S. because they held a marvelous tournament!
  • 1998 France, the hosts had a guy named Zidane.
  • 2002 Brazil, always loved the Bossa Nova and Samba.
  • 2006 Mama Mia, Italia ancora (again)
  • 2010 Spain, Stylish, slow buildup then lethal striking = champs
  • 2014 The U.S. again, because of their heart.

So you see, it’s not brain surgery. Any reason to pick a side is fine.

3. Last but not least, if you love Las Vegas there’s always the book.

The odds of winning it all, as of this writing, have Germany and Brazil down at 9/2. Saudi Arabia is 1000/1. Somewhere in between you can make or lose your fortune. So as June approaches, I hope this has been helpful, and “ Cheerio, old chap, I’m off to the pub for some warm Bass Ale!”