Watch your team and wave your flag: Who to root for at 2022 World Cup

Nicholas Alumkal '23, Sports Staff

After four years of waiting, the world’s most watched sporting event returns this year in Qatar. I am here to give you a team to root for as the action unfolds on the pitch. Whether it’s jumping on the bandwagon of a global power or siding with an underdog as they are rare for a surprising run, I am here to help you choose a team to cheer for in Qatar.


The team that’s the biggest underdog:

Arriving in Qatar as the lowest ranked nation, Ghana will seek to recreate the successes of their quarterfinal run in 2010 and they have some interesting ingredients to do so. The Black Stars were drawn into a group with Portugal, Uruguay and South Korea, so there is a snowman in a hot tub to give them a chance to advance. Though they may be the lowest ranked team on paper, the Ghanians boast one of the youngest and promising squads in Qatar, keep an eye out for Thomas Partey who will be conducting the orchestra in midfield and putting the ball in the top corner of the goal like he was licking a stamp onto an envelope. Who doesn’t love an underdog.


If you want your team looking sharp on the field:

If you choose your rooting interest based on the jerseys of the team, I would recommend you pick Mexico. They may not be playing their best football, but their kits are sharper than a porcupine’s backside. El Tri will sport forest green and off-white jerseys with graphic inspiration from the Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec feathered serpent. Mexico are looking to reach the last eight for the first time since 1986.


The team with Messi:

One of the greatest footballers in history, Lionel Messi, will play in his final World Cup in Qatar. The 35-year-old is yet to win the tournament in his past four attempts, and this may be his best shot yet. Messi’s team, Argentina has not lost a match since 2019 and it would be quite a story for him to lift the trophy in his farewell appearance. If you fancy a player that does not look for passing lanes, but instead invents them, allowing him space with the ball is like giving Dracula the keys to the blood bank (he will make you pay), and a player who makes the insane become predictable, then Messi, the man from Argentina who’s cleaner than neutrogena is your pick.


The team with Ronaldo:

Ok, you are not Team Messi? Well, that probably means you should root for Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal. Ronaldo will also be playing in his final World Cup and has assembled a formidable squad around him. The 37-year-old, who has an eye for a goal that would make a cyclops jealous has also never captured the global crown. If you like a mesmerizing attacker, who often seems to be attached to the ball like a teenager to a cell phone, who you will take your breath away with his dribbling as he peels away from the opponents like skin on a tangerine, and navigates his way through the forest of defenders with better moves than a chess grandmaster, then Ronaldo is your man and Portugal is your team. 


The team with the most historical success:

Brazil are chasing their sixth World Cup championship, and are the overall favorites to capture the cup this year. The Canaries are stacked with attacking threats that will bring more fireworks to the tournament than a fourth of July party, and an electricity on the field that could power the national grid. Brazil’s protagonist is Neymar, who will likely be participating in his last cup. Brazil are always a joy to watch: they reignite their opponents nightmares, shedding their defenders like a feathers in the wind, and Neymar is slippier than an ice cube on an oven top, flying through the defense like Han Solo in an asteroid field, he is simply the square root of magic.


The home team(s):

The United States returns to the world stage after missing out in 2018 and Canada qualifies for the big dance for the first time since ‘86. Both teams are equipped be golden boys looking to take Qatar by a storm. The Stars and Stripes are led by Christian Pulisic, a native from Hershey, Pennsylvania who has been cooler than the seeds inside the cucumber under pressure of leading the nation at such a young age. The Maple Leafs boast Alphoso Davies, nicknamed “The Roadrunner” for his explosive speed, who’s story as an immigrant fleeing civil war in his home nation of Liberia is inspiring. Both teams are looking to get out of the first round.


The team making its World Cup debut/host nation:

The beauty of the World Cup is that there are so many nations yet to qualify for the tournament. Hosts Qatar are the latest to make their debut and will be eager to leave their mark on home soil after preparing for more than 12 years. Their tournament prospects look dim, but if their nation gets behind them a surprising run could shock some.


The team with the best nickname:

Japan undoubtedly has the coolest nickname for the 2022 installment of the tournament. The Samurai Blue will be aiming to cut through their opponents. Whether you’re a history buff or an anime fan, Japan could be the team for you.


If you are a fan of Game of Thrones:

Another terrific nickname, Wales, known as the Dragons return to the World Cup for the first time since 1958, and may spring some surprise. Wales’ Jon Snow is Gareth Bale, the personification of pure adrenaline in a human form is looking to lead his team into battle in Qatar.

The teams somehow yet to win a World Cup:

Packed with star players and ranked the best team in the world for nearly four years, Belgium have repeatedly been sloppy as a soup sandwich on the biggest stage. The Red Devils’ golden generation have one last shot in Qatar. They are led by Kevin de Bruyne, who is a in the midfield, and trying to put a stop to him is like trying to wrestle with a ghost.

Just north of Belgium, Netherlands have an outside shot. They are led by dominant defender  Virgil van Dijk, who needs help like a shark needs a dentist and is on all night like a set of porch lights. Lastly, if you look good in orange, then Holland is your team.


If you want recent success:

France are the reigning champions after capturing the cup in 2018. They may be a better team with the addition of Karim Benzema who won the Ballon d’Or for the world’s best player earlier this year. Benzema is cooler than a bomb disposal expert in front of goal, locking his focus on the ball like a hungry hawk looking for dinner and trying to stop him is like trying to play poker with a witch. Speaking of witches, the champion curse could strike France, four of the last five winners crashing out in the first round of the next tournament, so keep that in mind as you choose your desired team.

If you want a riveting comeback story:

Denmark, who are definitely a dark horse to win the tournament are led by Christian Eriksen, but a year ago it looked like he would never step on the field again. During a game in the summer of 2021, Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest on the field and thanks to prompt medical attention was revived, had a defibrillator fitted to his heart and now is going to lead his nation at the World Cup. Eriksen, a marksman on the field, who’s free kicks are as calculated as a NASA moon landing is surely a must watch at the World Cup.