Following the USA’s loss to Ghana (and seriously, why the hell was Maurice Edu in the starting XI as we ordered?), an astute reader wrote in to ask who US fans should adopt as their new team for the remainder of the World Cup. We figured we’d take a crack at coming up with an answer using our usual pseudo-scientific approach.
As you know (and as Sherlock Holmes never tired of reminding us), once you’ve eliminated all of the impossible answers, whatever’s left, no matter how improbable, must be correct. So let’s eliminate teams using a few simple rules, and see what’s left.
Rule #1: Not a European Team
Dirty secret: these teams aren’t that good. No European team has ever won a World Cup staged outside of Europe, where European teams are exposed to the same sort of travel stresses overcome by the myriad non-continental players playing in European leagues every week.
A thought experiment. We’re 50 years in the future, and the economies of Europe and South America have stayed on their current trajectories the whole time, with the result that the richest soccer league in the world is no longer in England or Spain, but in Brazil. How many Englishmen do you think are playing in that league? Exactly.
Despite this, Euro fans and commentators are still “gobsmacked” every time they come up short in a non-Euro World Cup. Further humiliations are necessary to punish their hubris. Thankfully, the Euro teams have pretty much already been humiliating themselves.
Teams eliminated by this rule: England, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Slovakia
Rule #2 Not a Team with No Shot of Winning
Because who wants to go through this process again in two days?
Teams eliminated by this rule: Mexico, Paraguay, Chile, Japan, Ghana
Rule #3: Not Brazil
What? We know, it’s tough not to root for them, what with the ridiculous goals and the essentially naked dancing ladies and so forth. But Brazil are hosting the 2014 World Cup, and thus are as close to a lock to win as you’re ever going to get. New blood, please.
Teams eliminated by this rule: Brazil
Just those three simple rules narrow the field to two candidates.
Possibility number one is somewhat expected: Argentina. They play fun, open soccer, are coached by a madman in Diego Maradona, and have the best player in the world in Leo Messi. They have a proud history in the tournament, so a win would mean a lot to the country, but they haven’t actually won since 1986, so they’re also a change of pace. They even have extremely sharp and flag-appropriate unis (Brazil’s shorts have always bothered us; the dominant colors in that flag are yellow and green, not yellow and blue. Who picked blue shorts instead of green? Dumb.)
They have a tough draw, which admittedly hurts their chances of getting to the final, but also means that every single match they play from here on out should be a good one to watch. They even start Jonas Gutierrez, who plays for our adopted English club team, Newcastle United, which is sort of amazing, because Newcastle were in the English soccer equivalent of AAA last season. Anyway, here’s your mainstream candidate.
Feel more like a dark horse? Then allow us to suggest Uruguay. They aren’t as explosive as Argentina, but are better organized at the back, and just look more like a team than a collection of talented individuals than just about anyone else at the World Cup. The also have a proud history, having won the whole shooting match twice back in the early years (1930 and 1950), with the second coming in Brazil.
But mostly, they’re a great story. They only got into the tournament by beating Costa Rica in a playoff, and even there they needed a disputed offside call. But they’ve just looked great in South Africa, with Luis Suarez in particular raising his summer price tag considerably. They also have a good draw, as they’ll be favored against Ghana in the next round, and then once in the Final Four might well have the defensive prowess to lock things up and sneak through on penalties.
Really, you can’t go wrong either way. And because they’re in opposite halves of the bracket, you’ll really only have to pick one if they both make the finals. So vamos el Celeste (“sky blues”, Uruguay’s nickname) y Albiceleste (“white and blues”, Argentina’s nickname). And enjoy the rest of the Ricardo Clark-free World Cup, USA fans.