Bad news, America. The U.S. has a 34.5 percent chance to make it out of its World Cup group, according to FiveThirtyEight’s unfeeling statslord and former kid who used to remind the teacher that she forgot to collect the homework Nate Silver. If you plan on rooting for Team USA, you might has well start practicing the routine. But fortunately, there is an alternative. The thing Americans do best: Give up and co-opt the culture of another country for a few weeks.
Every Tom, Dick and Harry in your office is going to take the chance to put on a Spain or Brazil kit and schlep down to O’Finnigan’s Wing Pit for a brief lunchtime escape from the irrepressible fluorescent void of modern existence. That’s basic. Adopting Spain is for people who flood Facebook with “Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake :-)” memes.
This is the World Cup. If we’re going to adopt an entire nation, let’s go off-script. We’ve got 32 nations to choose from, about eight of which aren’t run by dictators. Witchcraft is a criminal offense in one of these countries. The U.S. is currently imposing economic sanctions on two of them. Narcotics are the leading export in at least three of them. Let’s get wild here, people. Let’s find the perfect World Cup team for you.
Switzerland: Perfect for deluded bankers and/or trustafarians
Are you a junior hedge fund broker who uses “European football” as a kind of airport bizbook self-help tool to break the ice when cold-calling Emirati panther fur dealers? Do you subscribe to GQ for the tear-out male perfume samples? Have you spent a summer in Ibiza as a bropair? Then we’ve got just the team for you! Switzerland: epicenter of the world’s tax-free shadow economy. If you’re a freeloadin’ simpleton, you’ve probably had a moment recently when you’ve been sitting in gridlock on one of America’s crumbling highways listening to a Clear Channel station with sweat-stains pooling on your terrible semi-caz humpday button down. “Why is stuff so messed up now?” you whimpered.
The answer is Switzerland. If you follow @DonaldTrump on Twitter or are merely a fan of unprecedented global income inequality, you’ll be delighted by the brutal efficiency of Switzerland. It’s hard to believe a team with luxuriously named players like Xherdan Shaqiri (resident of Qarth), Valentin Stocker (vampire) and Granit Xhaka (Street Fighter mini-boss) could grind out so many 1-0 victories.
Fun player to watch: No one.
Cameroon: Perfect for fashion-forward contrarians
Have you ever seen that frightening graphic where Americans were asked to locate Syria on a map and respondees marked its location everywhere from Finland to northern Florida to the middle of the Atlantic ocean? If they asked John Q. Pepperjack to locate Cameroon, they would need an interstellar map (“I reckon it’s up thar by the moon. Should we bomb that moon, you ask? I say giddy up.”) The sheer obscurity of Cameroon makes The Indomitable Lions the quintessential choice for the discerning futbol hipster. They’re the World Cup’s weird B-side. They’re literally 500-1 to win the thing and until recently, they weren't even getting paid. Also, their kits look like something you’d see on a mulleted goofball inside the Summer 1994 J.C. Penney catalogue. #NormCore is in now, so supporting Cameroon is as much a fashion choice as a footballing one.
Fun player to watch: This season, 33-year-old striker Samuel Eto’o was criticized for being too old by his own club manager, Chelsea’s Jose Mourinho. The next time Eto’o scored, he celebrated by walking hunched-backed to the corner flag and used it as a walking cane.
Japan: Perfect for Redditors
Because it’s a cartoonishly corruptible sham organization, it only allegedly took a few million dollars in direct bribes for FIFA to award the 2022 World Cup to Qatar, a country where summer temperatures can reach up to 120 degrees fahrenheit. It did not award the tournament to Japan, whose presentation included a promise to broadcast live 3D holograms of games projected onto football pitches across the world. Japan!
Fun player to watch: Japan’s best player is diminutive ball-o-energy Shinji Kagawa. The creative midfielder recently celebrated his birthday with a cake featuring a creepy anime avatar of himself sitting on top of a soccer ball. He took a photo in front of the cake while surrounded by friends wearing Shinji Kagawa masks. And he was wearing a Shinji Kagawa mask. It had a real David Lynch vibe.
Australia: Perfect for aggro-bros
Do you like to get blindingly day-drunk and dress in tank tops and flippies like you’re forever 13? Consider supporting Australia: The World’s Florida. You know how Manchester City fans do that funny ritual where they turn their backs to the pitch in a giant huddle? Being a fan of the Socceroos is like doing that for 90 whole minutes. They’re just here to jump around and party. Australia was drawn into the Group of Death Lite with Spain, Netherlands and Chile, which isn’t even a bummer. It just means extra schadenfreude potential. Each game is a new chance for the Aussies to crush the hopes and dreams of a football-obsessed nation so we can all watch with glee as defenseless children weep uncontrollably on live television in front of millions and million of people around the world. And that’s really what the World Cup is all about.
Fun player to watch: Roger Jr*.
Also known as the boxing kangaroo from Tekken.
*May not actually be a member of Australia's National Soccer Team
Italy: Perfect for Italians
Here’s Italian striker Antonio Cassano describing an ideal night in his own autobiography: “I had a friend who was a hotel waiter. His job was to bring me three or four pastries after I had sex. He would bring the pastries up the stairs, I would escort the woman to him and we would make an exchange: he would take the girl and I would take the pastries. Sex and then food, a perfect night.”
Cassano is 31 now and married with kids. Coincidentally, he’s also a bit flabby, which put him in jeopardy of missing out on the World Cup squad if he didn’t lose weight. “I can't do better than this," he told BBC Sport this spring. "I've lost 10kg to go to Brazil. I'm on a diet and I've stopped eating focaccia, except for once a week.”
Cassano’s foccacia fasting worked. He’s in the squad alongside fellow striker Mario Balotelli, who once set his own house on fire by shooting off fireworks in the bathroom at 1 a.m. Fun player to watch: The aforementioned Balotelli, who once stopped into a random pub in Manchester and picked up a $1,000 tab as a Christmas present. In 2011, his mother sent him to the store to buy an ironing board and Balotelli came back with a toy racing set, two Vespas and a giant trampoline.