Ethan Zuckerman has an excellent round-up of selection strategies for who to support in the 2010 World Cup soccer tournament. Options include strategic support, support through spite, non-FIFA support, and aesthetic considerations. A couple he left off:
Flopping Artistry: To American eyes, one of the most notable features of international soccer is the way that players dive on the ground wailing at the slightest hint of contact. Inexplicable as this is, it is evidently an essential part of the sport, so why not select teams based on their players’ ability to mimic a gut-shot Tim Roth in Reservoir Dogs? Until the whistle blows, of course– at that point, they hop up and sprint back into position as if nothing happened, which it did.
Stalling Artistry: Another annoying-to-Americans feature of international soccer is the way that some teams with a one-goal lead will simply stop even pretending to play offense, and just content themselves with running out the clock. For forty or fifty minutes, sometimes. Again, this makes no sense to me, but it’s evidently essential, so why not rank teams on their ability to do nothing at all for as long as possible?
Sheer Perversity: This is kind of an all-purpose strategy for any sport: root for the outcome that will upset and distress the hard-core fans the most. This typically involves rooting for the underdog, which is good fun anyway, but in soccer can also mean rooting for the flakier outcomes– major powers eliminated in penalty-kick shootouts, or by fluke goals, etc.
And, of course, the negation of each of these strategies is also a valid strategy (though you could probably argue that each of these negated is a subset of Ethan’s “aesthetic” option…). Other possibilities are endless– rooting for countries based on the number of Nobel Prizes in Physics they have received, for example, or the quality of their beaches, or whatever.
What’s your favorite strategy for choosing between teams in the World Cup when you’re not from either of the countries involved?