The Red, White, and World Cup Blues

Without the United States, without the red-white-and-blue face-paint, without the bond of shared experience, you might be thinking the World Cup won’t be much fun to watch this year. I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be further from the truth.

First, though, I should say that I hear your disappointment about the US Men’s National team, because missing the tournament is worsened by the team itself causing this. There’s no selection committee to blame, just one of the worst performances in the squad’s history on a warm October night against Trinidad and Tobago. But now you have two options: Pout and leave the TV off or embrace one of the world’s greatest sporting events and allow yourself the chance to realize maybe, just maybe, it’s OK the US didn’t make it.

Soccer’s quadrennial crown jewel kicks off in Russia on Thursday with the hosts playing Saudi Arabia at 11 a.m. Eastern. While you might not have much invested in either of those two teams, it will feature our first look at how Vladimir Putin’s government will stage this tournament at a time when the global community’s relationship with the country seem more fraught than ever.

The intrigue on the field might be even thicker, with all-time greats Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo playing with their legacies on the line, with Egyptian megastar Mohamed Salah poised to break out, with the question swirling about who can take down the mighty Germans and with so many more potential threads.

The US missing the tournament is freeing, because now you can enjoy those storylines.

Think about clicking on the TV and settling in. Now, you have no allegiance, no nationalism that colors every way you watch other international tournaments. You can appreciate the beautiful game in search of something more than a matchup breaking the right way for the US.

Consider the field from which you can pick any team. And I mean any team. If Israelis can overwhelmingly support Germany, you can put aside whatever petty beef you have with some other country.

Think about it: There’s the no nonsense Brits who set up attacks quickly and love a good long ball over the defense. There’s the creative Brazilians who play offense like a divine conductor is directing their runs. There’s the methodical Mexicans who dribble and short pass a defense to death until their crafty forwards can innovate an on-net chance. And those are just three styles!

Imagine everything you don’t know about the 29 other teams—and their hundreds of players! — in the World Cup which play a specific dynamic of soccer you might’ve never seen. There are so many possibilities, and the only way to find out is to watch. Or read tomorrow’s newsletter, where I make the case for one country I think you absolutely need to root for.

Sam Fortier
ROS Scribe

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“Everything I know about morality and the obligations of men, I owe it to football.”

Albert Camus