It’s that time every four years when the whole world tunes in to watch 22 men kick a ball around a field and sometimes into a net. Your friends and family who you thought didn't watch football may become super-fans for the next month. Social media will blow up because everyone and their cousin will become both a football expert and a reputable critic. The controversy surrounding this World Cup in particular is not great, but I’ll admittedly still be watching.
If you haven't joined Patrick’s World Cup Bracket Challenge yet, you should.
For those living in the USA looking to watch the World Cup legally, the path of least resistance seems to be Hulu + Live TV. If you sign up on Saturday the 19th, and cancel your subscription after the World cup final on December 18th, you should be able to get away with just paying for one month. Games also seem to be available on Peacock, but only in Spanish Language.
FTW Writer’s Predictions
Rooting For: United States, Germany
Predicted Winner: Belgium
Dark Horse: Ghana
I’ll be rooting for Gregg Berhalter’s squad first and foremost. In the past, I’ve supported Germany once USA is eliminated, but in 2018 I went all in on the 2014 champs; having German and Norwegian heritage has given me additional National teams to support. We’re going to see some surprises in this tournament, but I think this is Belgium’s year. When I watch Belgium play, I tend to question why players like Thomas Meunier, Thorgan Hazard and Axel Witsell all look better than they do at Dortmund. Belgium hasn’t won a major trophy since the 1920 Antwerp Olympics of which they hosted.
I also think Ghana will make the knockouts. Ghana shows up at the World Cup and I tend to think the Portuguese and Uruguayan teams are overrated. It’s just a gut feeling, but I think Ghana will impress in Group H. I also predict Ronaldo will flop at the World Cup and blame everyone but himself.
Rooting For: United States
Predicted Winner: Argentina
Dark Horse: Denmark
Like everyone else here, I am rooting for my home country to win the whole thing. Do I think the United States can? God no. Would I be pretty happy if they did? Absolutely. I also have soft spots for a bunch of random teams. I would love to see Denmark or Switzerland replicate their magic from the EUROs. I am excited to see Canada return to the world’s biggest stage with a talented and likable group. I also have my eye on Ecuador for their three LAFC players and the fact that they were the third best team in South America.
As for my predicted winner, I’m thinking it’s Argentina’s year. Anulo mufa. You can’t have the greatest player in the history of the sport for 20 years and not win the World Cup. I’m still trying to convince myself that I actually think Argentina is going to win. I believe in Messi and they have a talented group of players. That being said, the winner of World Cups is usually the team that does well on set pieces and doesn’t give up the ball on their own half. Argentina’s action packed style might aid in an early exit.
My dark horse is Denmark. They hit an extra gear during the EUROs and found their rhythm. Now, with Eriksen back in the fold and their young elements having a bit more experience, I think they’ll do great. I am worried about Schmeichel, who has been god awful since the last Euros, and I think they aged out Delaney, who is the greatest footballer in the planet. Apart from those two concerns and unfortunate, ye probably, round of 16 matchup, I like my dark horse.
Rooting For: England
Predicted Winner: Brazil
Dark Horse: Spain
Obviously I’m rooting for England. I think everyone is well aware of this. But despite the absolute embarrassment of riches that the two most favoured European teams (England and France) have, I don’t think either are going to put it together this time round. Both sides have reverted to form going into the tournament, with the English looking mad talented but extremely underwhelming and the French looking like they’d sooner tear shreds off each other than work together for the common goal. If either side get things moving in the group stages, they could go all the way, but I suspect they’ll both be out early in the knockout stages.
Instead, I think Brazil and Argentina are the teams to beat. Both are very talented (if not as deep as some of the European teams), but more importantly, both are playing well and look like good teams.
Spain are my “surprise pick”, not because anyone should be surprised that Spain are good at football, but because I think Spain have a very real shot at winning the whole thing, and should probably be treated as about level (if not slightly ahead) of England and France.
Rooting For: Denmark and South Korea
Predicted Winner: France
Dark Horse: England
I’m very happy, that I have two teams to root for this year! I’m originally adopted from South Korea, but have lived in Denmark my whole life. I still feel a very strong connection to the east-asian country, and honestly, they have a very decent team! Denmark delivered a dream run at the euros last year, and coach Kasper Hjulmand has built a very strong mentality within the squad, and I give the team a good chance at progressing a few stages into the tournament. I’m not going to watch any of the matches though, as I’ve made a personal boykot.
Listen... The French team is stacked - especially in attack. Their midfield has seen better days, but is still very strong. Didier Deschamps is one of the most experienced coaches in the international field, and he has shown, that he has what it takes to win a big tournament. France haven’t played convincingly as of late, but when the first ball is kicked in Qatar, things can change quite fast.
Get it? My surprise pick is England, because... Yeah you get it. The Three Lions have had some decent showings, and while i don’t fully trust Southgate’s tactical capacity, he has a very good and experienced team at his hands. His biggest mistake is not bringing my boy, Jadon.
Rooting For: The United States
Predicted Winner: Brazil
Dark Horse: Switzerland
I’m American, and I’m going to be at a pub in London with Paul when the USMNT faces England. Literally all I am asking is for the USMNT not to embarrass itself. Would I be fine with a draw? You betcha. Would I be fine with a respectable 2-0 loss where the USA plays somewhat well? Absolutely. Do I think we’re going to win anything? Absolutely not. Even though the USA has at least a few talented players, I have exactly 0 trust in Gregg Berhalter to lead this team to do anything noteworthy.
I debated quite a bit before picking a favorite, and I ultimately landed on Brazil. Every squad seems to have a few weaknesses, but Brazil are absolutely stacked, and I think any team they play will have a hard time beating them.
Switzerland are probably not going to win the World Cup, but they do have a talented squad. Led from the back by none other than BVB’s own Gregor Kobel, they’ve got a good balance of veterans and up-and-comers, and a solid back line with Manuel Akanji and Nico Elvedi. Switzerland beat France on penalties in the EUROs, so they can beat anyone on their day.
Rooting For: USA
Predicted Winner: Argentina
Dark Horse: Senegal
Sigh... yea I’ll be rooting for the US of A. Berhalter’s side is an absolute mess, and I do not expect much from them in this World Cup. Shockingly, all of Christian Pulisic, Gio Reyna, and Brendan Aaronson have made the trip, which actually allows for some optimism in the star-spangled side. If the team can come together and entirely ignore Berhalter’s tactics and coaching, they may just be able to put on a surprising show. In reality, I think the fates are aligned for Lionel Messi to finally bring home his World Cup, and I am rooting for him to do it. Argentina have a decently well-balanced side and Messi is in fine, fine form. Beyond that, I would like to see Senegal make a deep run. The squad seems to just ooze talent and strength, and as AFCON holders, they could be a dark horse in the tournament.
Rooting For: Deutschland
Predicted Winner: Deutschland
Dark Horse: The Maple Leafs
Admittedly, my heart just isn’t “feelin’ it” with this World Cup. Given the gravity of the multitude of controversies leading up to an event I practically countdown to every four years, I’ve personally wrestled with just how much I want to invest in this iteration and, as such, have opted not to watch matches/coverage. With that being said, I’ll still throw my hat in the prediction ring.
Full disclosure, I am not German and have no German ties. I’m a British American of Slovakian heritage. Nonetheless, when it comes to national teams, I’m always Deutschland till I die even when the squad is as dicey as this one (Schlotti? Really??). Do I seriously think this is Die Mannschaft’s time to tie Brazil’s record for WC wins? No. However, I go all in and really refuse to accept anything other than victory until confronted with another reality (my wounds from 2018 have yet to fully heal). Schland, o Schland!
There are other squads I like (e.g. Belgium...must be those colors) but when looking for a team to root for outside of Die Mannschaft, I’m a sucker for the underdog (see: Iceland at the 2016 Euros). I’m dubbing Canada as this tournament’s underdog (this will be their first World Cup appearance since 1986) and looking at who they’ll face in Group F (Belgium, Croatia, Morocco) I think they do stand a chance to advance!
Ultimately, it’s difficult for me to imagine any of these squads really wanting to win this World Cup given the dark cloud that will linger over it for the foreseeable future.
Who will you be cheering for this World Cup?
Who do you think will be this tournament’s Dark Horse?
Share your thoughts in the comments.