With the US out, I thought I would help out those of you who aren't sure which teams to root for or against in the World Cup. Going from most to least root-worthy (in head-to-head match-ups, root for the higher-ranked team):
1. Spain -- They play beautiful, skillful, fluid attacking soccer and have only won one World Cup so far. The more they win, the more other teams try to adopt their attractive style of play. (Plus, I served my mission there)
2. Central American teams (Costa Rica, Panama, and maybe Honduras) -- This is like rooting for the teams in your conference in college football or basketball. The better CONCACAF teams do, the stronger the US SOS is, and the better CONCACAF's reputation and chances of being awarded additional World Cup berths and higher seeding in major tournaments. Plus, these are tiny underdog countries, and who doesn't love an underdog?
3. Mexico -- The US benefits from our CONCACAF conference-mates doing well in the World Cup, but they are a notch behind the Central Americans because of their rivalry with the US, plus they aren't lovable underdogs (against most opponents).
4. Colombia, Uruguay, and Peru (assuming they beat New Zealand) -- Must root for Western Hemisphere countries against most teams from other parts of the world (¡Viva America!), plus these three are relative underdogs, especially Peru. The South American federation seems to be forming closer links to CONCACAF after last year's successful Copa America, so the US may benefit from CONMEBOL World Cup success.
5. Argentina & Brazil -- Clearly not underdogs by any definition, they are nevertheless worthy of our grudging support by virtue of being fellow former European colonies in the Americas, who followed our lead in overthrowing their colonial overlords. However, the arrogance of their fans puts them at the bottom of the list of American teams to root for.
6. Iceland -- A country of 300k in the World Cup? Plus the men still take their father's first name as their last name, with a "-son" tacked on the end? They're definitely at the top of the Euro heap, except for Spain. They could even jump ahead of Argentina & Brazil, despite the continent they're aligned with.
7. African teams -- This underdog continent generally plays attractive soccer, and most of the players seem to have a lot of fun in these major tournaments. Plus, why not hope for a little more joy in the hard lives of African soccer fans?
8. Asian teams -- Their soccer isn't quite as fun to watch as the Latin American or African varieties, but they play very hard and are also major underdogs. [Sidenote: many Americans will be tempted to root against Iran, of course, but remember that most ordinary Iranians live under the thumb of a bunch of oppressive religious zealots, and soccer provides a secular outlet for them, and an opportunity to have some joy in their otherwise dreary lives. Iran was actually a largely secular and moderate nation before the religious nutjobs overthrew the government in 1979.]
9. Poland -- Because they were beaten up and abused by Germany and Russia for so long. It would be fun to see them have some success on Russian soil.
10. Smaller European teams -- Europe is generally the Goliath of world soccer, and therefore worthy of our disdain, but some of the teams there are small and unsuccessful enough to be somewhat underdoggish in nature.
11. France & Belgium -- Historically, they play the most attractive soccer of the major European teams, along with Spain and the Netherlands (RIP). These teams are very talented and could potentially be a lot of fun to watch.
12. Portugal -- Has had too much recent success to be considered a small team or an underdog, especially with CR7 there.
13. England -- Perpetually overhyped and overrated, with a prehistoric offense, relying on a boring and excessively defensive style of play, and constantly reminiscing about glory days from the far distant past, they're like the Michigan football of world soccer. Many here will be tempted to cheer for them because of English ancestry, but remember, our ancestors fought two wars to get rid of these clowns.
14. Italy (I assume they'll make it) -- Their boring, defensive, and overly physical "catenaccio" style of play makes them generally unwatchable. The less success they have, the less other countries are tempted to adopt their style.
15. Russia -- For meddling in our election, being cyber-criminals, and Putin.
16. Germany -- The great Satan of international soccer, and ultimate bandwagon team (along woth Brazil), it is glorious when they lose. They are also the arrogant defending champions. Who roots for Goliath?