Then they didn’t. They embarrassed themselves by treating it like a walk in the park, a path they were entitled to having tread it so many times. In all fairness, the fans did too. So their inability to qualify was a gut punch when it happened. A shock to the system that is the US Soccer Federation, the effects of which are still being shaken out.
Who do you support when your country doesn’t make it into the World Cup, then? Who would I support, as still a relatively new soccer fan with no real allegiance to her country? If we’re being honest here, supporting the US team would’ve meant mustering a surprising amount of patriotism that just isn’t in me right now. It’s hard to support the US in anything at the moment, but that’s another more politically minded post for another day.
Thankfully, being a Liverpool fan offered a decent template of teams to support. And there’s six! Brazil to win the World Cup is 5/1.
I knew going into it I would be supporting Egypt. That was just a given. Mohamed Salah has been so electric, so enjoyable to watch, that even with the injury sustained by He Who Shall Not Be Named nearly a month ago, I thought he’d be able to drag Egypt to greatness. Their two losses, despite Salah’s return in the second match, have put them on the pathway out of their first World Cup in 28 years and that’s sad enough.
I knew I’d be begrudgingly supporting England. Sure, England is full of players that I dislike from teams that I hate, including the two most punchable faces in the Premier League (Harry Kane and Jamie Vardy, of course). And sure, they have their own history of heartbreak and crumbling under pressure. There is also the one shining person I will always support on that squad – Jordan Henderson. I’ve written a lot about why I love Jordan Henderson so I won’t go into it here (again, another post for another day), but he never gets enough support and I’m supporting him rather than England. Also Trent Alexander-Arnold, that wee baby on his first World Cup outing and making his dreams come true. My love for those two players should be enough to sustain me as long as they can stay in this competition. England to win the World Cup is 9/1.
Senegal, on the other hand, has been a joy to support. The team captained by our own Sadio Mane has played two games, won against Poland and drew to Japan. Their fans are delightful in the stands with music and dancing and caring for the stadium (have you seen the video of them collecting their trash?) and have made me desperately want to be with them during a match. The whole team feels as if they are enjoying every second of this tournament, like they’re not bogged down by the pressures of going as far as they can. Their fans love them no matter what and they dance after EVERY GOAL. They could be genuine contenders this year if they find a balance between their attack and defense and oh god where have we heard that before? Senegal to reach the quarter-finals is 8/1.
Senegal fans cleaning their section, class ❤️ pic.twitter.com/cxJo0NpNEH
— infosmessi (@INFOSMESSl) June 19, 2018
And then there’s Brazil. I want to like them, I really do. They’ve won one and drawn one of the two matches they’ve played so far. It’s just another team full of unlikeable characters that makes it so hard to support them. I don’t like Neymar and have never understood the hype. Then there’s Philippe Coutinho, who broke my heart this January after supporting him for so long, who turned on us when Barcelona came calling. There’s also our dear Bobby Firmino, a joy to watch harrying around the pitch every chance he gets. He’s not manager Tite’s chosen starter, though, and that’s hard. It’s hard to want to support Brazil, with all their flash and egos, when your favorite player and arguably one of their best players is sat on the bench most of the time. They look to survive their group as well, though, so hopefully that means there is still time to see our Bobby dance on the touchline after a goal.
There is no shortage of teams for me to support this year, and they’ve made the World Cup that much more exciting, when there wasn’t much excitement to begin with. I’ll admit, I went into this tournament this time a little less than thrilled than in the past years. 2010 brought me into the world of football/soccer, 2014 sealed it for me. Now all I have is Liverpool, broken into pieces and scattered across Russia to support.
That has suited me just fine so far, but talk to me again when all of these teams are knocked out and I’m crying into my shandy.