A Liberty Lover’s Guide to the 2018 World Cup
The World Cup is upon us, with a trio of upsets highlighting the first weekend’s action. Yet as you’ve probably heard, the US men’s national team is staying home for the first time since 1986. The upside is that we Americans are now World Cup fan free agents. Many of us have probably already chosen a team to root for, whether because of ancestry, affinity, or taking a vacation there once and falling in love with malbec (or hakarl). If you’re still looking for a squad though, fear not. As much as I loathe the politicization of Every. Single. Thing. these days, freedom is as good a grounds for fandom as any. Ergo, a liberty lover’s guide to the 32 teams of the 2018 World Cup:
Group A: Russia – Saudi Arabia – Egypt – Uruguay
You’ve got our election-meddling New Cold War ™ adversaries, a military-dictatorship-in-all-but-name, and an absolute monarchy. And Uruguay. Easy call. Bonus: cannibalism!
Group B: Portugal – Spain – Morocco – Iran
A theocracy, a constitutional monarchy, and two Iberian NATO neighbors. Portugal fandom lets you score points with your Reason and Randian friends by crowing about how great drug decriminalization can be. Downside: it sucks to root for Cristiano Ronaldo. Upside: he’s really good.
Group C: France – Australia – Peru – Denmark
Australia is the favorite here and edges out Denmark by the Cato Institute’s accounting. Freedom House says Peru is in decent shape. France has history behind her, but loses points on overzealous secularism.
Group D: Argentina – Iceland – Croatia – Nigeria
Strong group. We’ve got the ongoing fiscal rollercoaster/attacking flair of Argentina, a sentimental favorite Scandinavian giant slayer, Africa’s biggest nation, and a Balkan dark horse. The Viking Thunder Clap is lame. Almost everything else about Iceland is pretty great.
Group E: Brazil – Switzerland – Costa Rica – Serbia
As heartening as a country with no army might be, Switzerland is a slam dunk pick. Happy, wealthy, and the most decentralized country in Europe. And until 2007 the government gave you ammunition! So they were a little late on giving women the vote. We all have some things we’re not proud of.
Group F: Germany – Mexico – Sweden – South Korea
Probably this year’s “Group of Death.” Germany is currently working on its third empire. Mexico defines crony capitalism, and Sweden is the summit of European socialism. South Korea by default, chaebols aside.
Pick: South Korea
Group G: Belgium – Panama – Tunisia – England
Panama’s papers are out, as is the home of the most ambitious undemocratic project of our lifetime. England is a sentimental choice: the Magna Carta, Parliament, the Glorious Revolution, “the rights of Englishmen,” Churchill, Orwell. But it’s also one of the foremost surveillance states this side of China, and a land where you can go to jail for teaching your puppy to Sieg Heil. Break out the red and white for the lone Arab Spring success story instead.
Group H: Poland – Senegal – Colombia – Japan
Interesting group, with teams from four continents. It’s tempting to go with stubborn Visegrad Poland or salute Colombia for vanquishing narco-terrorism and improving civil liberties. Japan, though, has to be the pick. Sometimes freedom is boring, aging, and really into cosplay.