It's World Cup time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
For several prior World Cups, I would write in this very blog, the What's Up World Cup Wrap Up. For the Rio 2014 edition of the event, I did not put forth a piece, and I received so many e-mails and messages asking why I hadn't done one for that event (probably because it would have been a 2,000 word piece on how Jurgen Klinsmann was idiotic for leaving Landon Donovan off the U.S. team. I'm still bitter).
Anywho, it's always nice to know that people enjoy your work, so for the upcoming Russia 2018 version of the Cup, I had an idea. I'm going to tell you who I'm picking to win, and who I'm rooting for. Hence, the What's Up World Cup Who You Got?
However... this blog post will be interesting because I don't have a horse in this race. I'm asking who you got, because at this moment, I got no one. It's hard to say you got someone when you're unexpectedly single but ready to mingle. Let me explain.
Born and raised in the United States, I am obviously going to cheer on my USA team. But they didn't qualify.
How about Greece? I'm of Greek heritage as both parents are from Greece, let's cheer them on. They, too, didn't qualify.
Let's turn to my lovely bride. The Space Cowboy is a Celtic cocktail of heritages, so maybe we hitch our wagon to any combination of Scotland, Ireland, or Wales. Nope, nope, and nope.
If we stretch, there may be some Dutch in her, but that doesn't matter as the Netherlands did not qualify either.
I'm tapped out. That's all I got. Not logical connection to any country currently playing the World Cup. Alas my dilemma.
Who does one without a country support in this tournament?
For many, they may not follow a country, but they have favorite players, and may support those individual's exploits. For example, people who are Lionel Messi fans may root for Argentina, despite having no Argentinian connections.
Longtime readers know that my favorite player of all time is Cobi Jones. But he's retired, and an American. That won't work. Who else?
If we're being honest, my favorite player on my favorite team is Romain Allesandrini of the LA Galaxy. He's French, though he wasn't called up to the national team. My favorite player on my favorite Premier League team was Olivier Giroud of Arsenal. I say "was" because he's on Chelsea as of a few months ago, but he's still my favorite player currently playing in the Prem. He, also, is French and will be playing in the Cup. My favorite Arsenal player of all time is Thierry Henry, who won a World Cup with France. All three guys are French, so do I root for France? Maybe?
(Frankly, I wasn't thinking about this option until I started writing this piece, but now, it actually feels kinda of right to support Les Bleus. But I have a whole comedic bit planned, let's keep going).
There really is only one way to settle this.
Let's take a full-fledged stab in the dark on a team. In the hat are the 32 teams... might as well truly leave it to chance.
Let's see who I'll be rooting for in the World Cup. Hell, let's get the whole family involved.
Interesting. Costa Rica. 250-1 odds. In Group E, it'll be a battle to see who comes in 2nd behind Brazil, but the Ticos could finished first... or last.
Zoe ends up with a gift and gets Brazil. The 2014 runner-ups are at 5-1 odds. Could go all the way, or could stumble in the Round of 16.
Val scores Serbia. Look at that, so many teams and we all picked three teams in the same group. Much like Costa Rica, but at better odds at 150-1, it's a battle to see who comes in second to Brazil, and like my pick, Serbia is a team that could win the group, or end up in the cellar. Regardless, one of us is going to be unhappy when the knockout round starts (probably not Zoe).
So I'll be rooting for Costa Rica (and let's be honest, France. I've totally talked myself into it). The Space Cowboy is pulling for Serbia, and the Danger Diva is going to cheer on Brazil. But who do I think who actually win? That brings us to...
Yes, there are a lot of teams in the tournament (32 as previously mentioned), but those that get out of the group stage will be your usual suspects. Germany, the defending champion is your favorite to repeat, and I'm going to have to agree. There really hasn't been any major shifts in power in the football world since the last Cup, so I'm led to believe the Germans are primed to repeat. Yes, yes, Brazil still has Neymar, and Argentina still has Messi, but they did last time as well. Germany still has more depth and that's the key.
SMART MONEY PICK: Germany
I want to throw out a darkhouse pick as well. There is always a team that people sleep on or dismiss for one reason or another, and the next thing you know, they win everything (see: Spain in 2010). Even though Portugal is a 25-1 chance to win, it's still the same team that, two years ago, scrapped their way to a European Championship. Not overly convincing by any stretch, but they found a way to win in the Euros, and I could see them easily doing it again now. Tournaments like this are sometimes all about being hot at the right time. Oh, and they got some hoofer named Cristiano Ronaldo who, rumors say, has only gotten better in the meantime.
DARKHORSE PICK: Portugal
Now maybe you're like me and don't have a team, but don't want to saddle up with a front-runner. You want a longshot that you can drive the bandwagon for. Then let's walk down the Asian and African aisles of this World Cup Supermarket. Of the 32 teams in Russia, 5 come from Africa and 5 come from Asia. The way the draw is set up, it's usually difficult for multiple Asian and African countries to get out of the group stage, but there is always one team from these two confederations that makes a spirited run in the knockout stages.
On the African side, Tunisia and Senegal actually have very high FIFA world rankings, but I think it's Egypt that will be the African nation that stays the longest and can surprise some people (mainly because I think they have easiest group to get out of). Unfortunately, injuries to some key players in the weeks leading up to the Cup may torpedo Egypt's chances, but I still like'em.
AFRICAN PICK: Egypt
If you want an Asian team to hook on to, Japan can play. Even though Iran and Australia are ranked higher, oddsmakers like Japan better. You also can't discount South Korea, especially after their deep run in the last Cup. With all that said, Japan has advanced out of the group stage a couple of times, and it's not unrealistic to think they can get over the hump and make a deep run this year.
ASIAN PICK: Japan
And that really is the joy of the World Cup. Yes, while five or six teams are the only ones with a realistic chance at winning, it's not impossible to see multiple upsets and big Cinderella stories. Remember at the European Championships two years ago, when Iceland made their first appearance in a big tournament, had a long run, and made everyone fall in love with them and their viking clap? That's the kind of feel-good story that makes this event the #1 sporting event in the world (in case you're wondering, Iceland is playing in the World Cup).
Lady luck said I should root for Costa Rica, so let's have some fun with it (but really, VIVE LE FRANCE!). Enjoy the World Cup, everyone.
Thanks for visiting. Love, Demosthenes Spiropoulos