8 teams to root for in the World Cup if your favorite country went bust in qualifying

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Laurence Griffiths/Getty ImagesSoccer fans in the United States were dismayed after the USMNT shockingly failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Thankfully, there‘s plenty of teams that did make the tournament well worth taking on as your own for the next month.

The is almost upon us, and unfortunately for fans of the world‘s most popular sport in the United States, Italy, the Netherlands, Chile, Ireland, and others, their nations won‘t be represented.

While it‘s certainly a disappointment for those teams, especially on the American side after their 2014 run to the knockout stage, their absences offer fans a unique opportunity to adopt another nation as their own for the next month.

Below are our eight best picks for fans to cheer for at the 2018 World Cup. {{}}

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Brazil

Brazil

Why they’re fun:

Brazil has long been the juggernaut of international soccer, having won six World Cups over the years — more than any other country on the planet.

But while that might make you think that they‘re something of a New England Patriots/Golden State Warriors/Evil Empire of the sport, this team is undeniably likable. Neymar is the centerpiece of what should be a dazzling attack, supported by Paulinho and Philippe Coutinho, all of whom are marvelous to watch and could find themselves with the goal of the tournament.

Also, Brazil is playing for redemption. After cruising to the semifinal of the 2014 World Cup, they were embarrassed on their home soil by Germany, falling 7-1 after the German side scored four goals in six minutes in the first half. With how the draw worked out, Germany and Brazil could potentially meet for a rematch, either in the first match of the knockout round, or the final.

Can they win?

Undoubtedly. They‘ve done it six times before and return with a more loaded team this year than four years ago. If you love reveling in the World Cup and want to adopt a team with a real chance to take home the trophy, Brazil is your squad for the next month.

You should root for them if….

You like rooting for the 2018 Yankees — even if you‘re usually against their stacked roster, you have to admit that they‘re fun.

Argentina

Argentina

Why they’re fun:

Lionel Messi. He‘s been the most entertaining player to watch on the pitch for virtually a decade, serving as both a creator and finisher with the ability to seemingly control the ball with his mind more than his feet. Messi is the rare athlete where any time the ball is at his foot, something amazing can happen — his moves past defenders cause audible gasps from the crowd no matter how far from the goal he makes them.

A World Cup win is all that is missing from his resume.

Can they win?

Yes. They were runners-up in 2014, losing a gut-wrenching final to Germany in extra time. If Sergio Aguero can find good form and contribute offensively by finally netting his first World Cup goal, there‘s no reason to think they couldn‘t make another run.

You should root for them if….

You like watching the best be the best on the biggest of stages.

Mexico

Mexico

Why they’re fun:

Fans of the United States Men‘s National Team may never want to admit it, but our greatest rivals are also a delightful team to watch, and there‘s no reason to rob yourself of the thrill of watching them out of bitterness.

Entering the 2018 World Cup, Mexico is a live underdog — a team with enough talent to make noise in the tournament but certainly outmatched on paper. For fans of the USMNT, this is the rare opportunity to cheer for Chicarito, seen above, who is the happiest athlete on the planet after scoring.

Can they win?

They‘re a long shot, but sure, why not. If they can figure out a way to steal a point from Germany and win their group, their path to the semifinal looks plausible. That said, the most likely outcome is a second place group finish that leaves them facing Brazil to open the knockout stage, which would be a tall order.

You should root for them if….

If you‘re the type of fan to root for a team from your division to win the title once your team has been eliminated from playoff contention.

England

England

Why they’re fun:

If your casual soccer fandom is based in the Premier League, you‘ll know a lot of players on this team — all 23 players on the roster play their club ball in the Premier League. Captain Harry Kane is a threat to score whenever his foot finds the ball, and with a supporting cast of talent that includes Raheem Sterling, Jamie Vardy, and Danny Welbeck, England should be something of an offensive powerhouse throughout the tournament.

Can they win?

Yeah! Maybe? You can never really tell with these guys.

England has historically been something of a disappointment at the World Cup — after a fourth-place finish in 1990, England hasn‘t made it back to the semifinals since, and fell short of even escaping the group stage of the tournament four years ago in Brazil.

That said, this year‘s squad seems good enough to buck the trend.

You should root for them if….

You‘re a big Premier League fan. This is similar to a Premier League All-Star team versus the World.

Portugal

Portugal

Why they’re fun:

Unlike Argentina, who surround their superstar with a decent supporting cast, Portugal is more of a one-person show. Thankfully, that one man is Cristiano Ronaldo, and .

Messi is a creator and a genius with the ball in his own right. But Ronaldo is a finisher. The relationship his foot and head have with the ball and the back of the net is unbelievable. They‘re just meant for each other, and there‘s rarely anything opposing defenders can do from stopping them from being together.

Can they win?

It would take a heroic effort, but crazier things have happened. Portugal will have the advantage of having the best player on the pitch in every match they play, and when that‘s the case, there‘s always hope.

You should root for them if….

You loved watching LeBron James carry the Cavaliers to the Finals this year.

Iceland

Iceland

Why they’re fun:

The smallest country to ever qualify for the World Cup, there‘s roughly 325,000 that call Iceland home. Thankfully, 23 of them are skilled footballers, and Iceland has been a fan-favorite of international soccer since their shocking run through Euro 2016 that included a gutsy 2-1 win over England to the quarterfinals.

Iceland making the World Cup is roughly equivalent to the city of Pittsburgh qualifying for the tournament. Their manager is also a dentist. If you love a scrappy underdog, Iceland is your team.

Can they win?

No, but it could still be one hell of a ride.

Argentina will almost undoubtedly win the group, but Nigeria and Croatia are both beatable, and Iceland has shown an ability to play up. If they can steal a win somewhere and the rest of the group is beating up on each other, there‘s a chance they could slide through to the knockout stage.

You should root for them if….

You adopted Loyola-Chicago as your team for their Cinderella run through March Madness.

Egypt

Egypt

Why they’re fun:

Messi and Ronaldo have been the two best players on the planet for the better part of a decade, but this past season Mohamed Salah has struck like lightning, scoring goals at an unbelievable pace for Liverpool.

His play for the national team has carried Egypt to their first World Cup since 1990, scoring five of the team‘s eight goals in qualifying. He‘s a thrill to watch, ceaselessly compelling moving with the ball and with a rocket of a leg.

Can they win?

No, probably not. But they landed in a lucky spot being grouped with the hosts Russia — Group A is escapable, and there‘s no doubt they have a shot at making the knockout stage. At the very least, they‘re in an excellent position to get their first ever win at a World Cup.

You should root for them if….

You are looking for a team with a superstar talent that is still a real underdog, like Russell Westbrook and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Peru

Peru

Why they’re fun:

More than any team in the draw, Peru earned their spot in the World Cup the hard way. A brutal qualification out of South America saw the team take two impressive draws from Argentina and a win over Uruguay.

After winning just one of their first seven matches of qualifying play, Peru lost just two of their final 11 — a run that dramatically ended with a crucial draw against Colombia on the final match day of the table that earned just enough points to reach a play-in game for the final spot in the tournament.

They beat New Zealand 2-0 on aggregate to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1982.

Can they win?

Again, probably not, but they could stir the pot.

You should root for them if….

You‘re looking for a team that none of your friends will have as their front-runner that could still ruin the day of an international powerhouse.

More World Cup 2018:

More World Cup 2018: