So the United States are out of the World Cup. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t watch. This is one of the greatest global sporting events in the world. This is the worlds game on the worlds stage for one full month and even if you don’t like soccer it’s glorious. This year’s host to our month long football (the rest of the world calls soccer this) is Russia. I mean could you pick a more interesting host? Especially right now with the delicate geo political balance between Russia, and the rest of the world.
The fact the United States is not in the tourney is a big turn off, I get it. However, if you want to try a new sport for a month and witness it played at its highest possible level you need to watch this tournament. We as Americans just don’t have good soccer here, sorry MLS I love you but it’s a fact that you’re a second tier leauge. The world cup gives you the non-soccer fan a chance to explore the game at its highest level and pick out some of your favorite players that you can then follow at a club level. Sure, everyone knows Messi and Ronaldo, but what about Columbian phenom James Rodriguez who plays for Bayern Munich? The kid has an insane amount of talent and it will be on full display at the world cup.
There are so many great players that you could get behind at this world cup if that’s the angle you want to watch it from. So here is one player you may not have heard of to watch from every group.
Group A: Mohamed Salah. Salah had a breakout year for Liverpool scoring 34 goals in the English Premiere leauge last year. Not to mention the fact he almost single handedly delivered a European Champions Leauge trophy to his team before he was injured in the final game. Salah plays for Egypt and though there is no guarantee they will make it out of the group stages, if he can will the team into the round of sixteen they will be really fun to watch.
Group B: Sergio Ramos. Why not the player that injured Salah as the player for group B? Ramos may be the dirtiest player on defense in the world, look at him as the Draymond Green of European soccer. Yet like Draymond he is a key part of Spain’s success. Dangerous in the air and on set pieces Ramos provides a little bit of everything and is always a fun player to watch.
Group C: Christian Eriksen. Denmark’s marquee player Eriksen had a decent year at Tottenham Hotspur but nothing to be awed by as he plays with the goal scoring likes of Harry Kane. Eriksen had 10 goals and 10 assists this season but is a masterful midfield player. Eriksen is a terrific two-way player and an excellent tackler. With the goal scoring responsibility solely on him for Denmark it will be interesting to see how he responds.
Group D: Sergio Aguero. As I said, players you may not have heard of before if you aren’t a hard-core football fan. While Messi is the life blood of the Argentinian team Aguero is the killer. When he isn’t with the Argentines Aguero captains Premiere Leauge Champions Manchester City. An excellent goal scorer and a physical player Aguero never has a dull moment. Also, his reputation is scoring goals in the final moments of matches, he is the definition of a clutch player and will be key if Argentina has success in Russia.
Group E: Neymar. The last name is all you need to know. To Brazilian football fans he is the savior, the second coming of Pele, and the key to a Brazil World Cup. He is also the highest paid player in the world currently playing for French side Paris Saint Germain. Coming off an injury Neymar should be fit for the world cup and scored a beautiful goal in a friendly against Croatia recently. If you want to root for the brash young superstar who could be the next big thing and arguably already is, Neymar and Brazil are for you.
Group F: Manuel Neuer. Finally, a goal keeper. Perhaps my favorite position in soccer, it is the one that requires the most flexibility, reflex, concentration, and patience. Neuer takes it to another level though. He is the best keeper in the world and its not even close. If you are a hockey fan think of the run Carey Price had from 2014-2016 that is what Manuel Neuer currently is to soccer. He legitimately revolutionized the game by the process of “sweeper keeping” an aggressive form of goal keeping where the keeper rarely stays on his goal line. For Neuer however, he rarely stays in the box. Which allows Germany to basically play a 1 man back line. He is coming off an injury but if you love saves, he is the man to watch. Not to mention he can hurl the ball three quarters of the way down the pitch and sometimes routine clearances look like deep bombs from Tom Brady to find open attackers down the pitch.
Group G: Harry Kane. Previously mentioned as the goal scoring genius of England Kane is the best striker outside of Messi and Ronaldo in the world in my opinion. The past two years he has scored 59 goals in the Premier league. That is just unheard of especially because England’s leauge prides itself on defense and hard nosed tackling. England is known as a choker in world tournaments but if Kane can be English footballs next face after Wayne Rooney this team has a real shot to compete for the World Cup.
Group H: James Rodriguez. Mentioned earlier in this article Rodriguez is one of the best young talents currently in the game. He can pull strings as he has done masterfully at Bayern Munich or he can be a lead scorer as Columbia asks him to be.
So there you have it. Some players to watch to help yourself fall in love with the worlds games and maybe some teams too but if you need help with finding a team, we have you covered as well. Here is a look at the best teams for we suffering American soccer fans to root for at this world cup.
If you like underdogs, you’ll enjoy: Iceland. This small country stunned at the Euros back in 2016 and qualified for the world cup. They are the most interesting side at the games with no real star but plenty of fire power. Plus, who doesn’t love the Skol chant? If you are a Minnesota Vikings fan this needs to be your immediate team as you basically appropriated their chant.
If you like speed, watch: Argentina. Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, Lanzini the list goes on and on. Not to mention they have one of the most interesting Goal Keepers in the world in Willy Caballero. They have never really lived up to expectations on the world stage under Messi’s era and this is most likely Messi’s final run at the world cup, a team full of good storylines, speed, and a national legend. Must watch TV.
If you like high expectations and heartbreak watch: England. Listen there is nothing quite like being the fan of a perennial loser. I know because I’m a Broncos fan and weve lost more big playoff games and Super Bowls than I can count. England is the same way, a top world performer that just can’t quite get over the hump to being one of the best four soccer teams in the world. Led by Harry Kane England is full of stars. If you want a wild ride this is your team.
If you like Dynasties, watch: Brazil. Brazil has won five world cups the most in world cup history. They are one of the favorites to win the World Cup. Neymar is the next generation for Brazil and has the expectations of legends like Pele on his shoulders.
If you like big teams, and want the dream of a soccer nation, watch: Germany. Germany is what the United States dreams to be in soccer. A modern Mecca for the worlds game, a country that produces star after star. Will we ever get to what Germany is? No absoloutely not, the sole focus of this nation will never be soccer. However, the Germans are fun to watch. They are fast, crisp passing and play the game in endless amounts of space. Personally, they are my pick to repeat as world cup champions.
I hope you watch the world cup this summer. Mainly because it is just purely the best sporting event in the world but also because you can gain a greater appreciation for the one sport we American’s do not dominate. It can open your world view and give you a blue print of what we someday hope to be. The soccer renaissance in the US may not come soon, but it will come. We just have to be patient, and realize that our dreams are not impossible. Enjoy the World Cup. Friendly advice, don’t root for Mexico. They are our greatest soccer rivals and if you tell a die hard US Soccer fan you are rooting for them they may kill you. Just a heads up. Enjoy the greatest show on Earth!