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BFW Roundtable: Who are we rooting for in the World Cup quarterfinals?

We’re laying out our rooting interests...who are you supporting?

Ukraine v Croatia - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Germany is gone...the United States is gone...there are a scant few Bayern Munich players left at the World Cup in Qatar. With the teams left...who should you root for if you primary squad is already eliminated?

Let’s take a look BFW style as our staffers put down their thoughts on who they are rooting for and why.

Chuck — Croatia

I know, I know...start playing taps for Croatia’s World Cup hopes now...and we are not even talking about the team’s upcoming match-up against that yellow-shirted juggernaut from Brazil.

Let’s examine my rooting interests, so far in this tourney:

  • Germany: Massive flameout and spectacular example of underachievement.
  • Denmark: The SBN quiz told me I should root for Denmark...and they, well, stunk.
  • United States: Nice showing, but not ready for primetime yet.

I’ll apologize in advance Croatia fans, but here’s why I am rooting for your side:

  1. I like the jerseys. Give me the red and white checkered pattern ALL DAY. I love every iteration of these jerseys and yes, I would look like a table cloth wearing one (I don’t care!).
  2. I like Luka Modrić honestly and I feel like it would be an awesome story to watch play out if he can somehow lead this group of overachievers over Brazil and to the championship. Modrić has had a spectacular career working as part of the machine at Real Madrid, but — like in 2018 — he is the leading man for Croatia and he plays that role quite well.
  3. The obvious Bayern Munich connection with Josip Stanišić (even if he isn’t playing a whole lot...or really at all).
  4. Josko Gvardiol. One of the standout defenders of this World Cup, if Gvardiol can find a way to stifle the amazing Brazilian attack, it would show the planet he is legit.
  5. Chaos...Croatia sending brazil packing would just create the ultimate chaos in the tournament and who doesn’t like that?

Teddy “Maverick” Son — Brazil

I did not have that much sympathy for Brazil up until this year. I thoroughly enjoyed Brazil’s demise against Germany eight years ago, and, well, I guess I didn’t really have a reason to like them.

That all changed last June. Brazil came to Seoul to play a friendly against South Korea, and they were the most gracious guests you could want. The whole Brazilian team made good use of their time in the Land of the Morning Calm, going sightseeing to combat jet lag. Their first stop was the Seoul Tower, where I literally was just a day before the team visited. Ah, timing is of the essence, eh? Neymar in particular splurged on some churros with ice cream while he was there, and he treated the entire team to it as well. Their second stop was Everland, the biggest theme park in Korea, it’s basically our Six Flags. The Brazilians evidently had a whole lot of fun there, which was charming to see. The public was quite friendly to them, and they were just as friendly back, their fan service was on point all throughout their stay.

When game time came, though, the players did not go easy on Korea, and soundly defeated them 5-1. Despite the heavy defeat, though, no one harbored any ill will. If anything, the fans were grateful to Brazil for taking the game seriously and teaching Korea a valuable lesson. Players like Neymar and Thiago Silva took the Korean hospitality very well, and thanked the Korean fans for their hospitality on social media. It was a very heartwarming visit for both Brazil and Korea, from the moment they arrived to the day they left. That wasn’t all — a lot of Brazilian fans also took to YouTube to comment their thanks to Korea for receiving their players so well.

Brazil and Korea were reunited at the World Cup, with the South Americans winning again. However, for us Koreans, it was a fond reminder of that lovely visit from Brazil in the summer. I wish nothing but the best for Brazil in their quest to win their record sixth World Cup. If Germany or Korea can’t win it, might as well be our pleasant guests.

But if they don’t, I honestly don’t care who does, as long as it’s not England. Can you imagine how insufferable their fans will be if they win it? I’ll probably vomit violently.

RIPLT — Morocco

Pardon me if there’s a hint of saltiness here, but after Morocco avenged us by kicking Spain out of the World Cup, I want Noussair Mazraoui and co. to win against Portugal. Yes, I know they smashed Switzerland 6-1, but Morocco are far better than Switzerland and if someone like Spain was driven to the brink by the Africans, Portugal would struggle as well. I also loved Achraf Hakimi’s panenka against Unai Simon in the shootout and his celebration afterwards. Yassine Bounou was immense too, big credit to him.

Let’s look at my other teams: Germany is of course first choice but floundered and were rewarded with an early flight home. Belgium...remember when I got them five times in the SBN quiz? Well, they lost to the team I’m supporting in the Quarterfinals, serves them right and that’s also karma for me getting them five times.

To round this off, I’m going to channel my inner football hipster and say that Morocco will reach the final...and maybe win it.

There’s also this:

INNN — The meteor headed towards the earth

Football ended in 2022 when Germany got knocked out for me. You can call me a neutral I guess but I'm honestly just looking forward to the return of club games.

If I had to pick, though ... Morocco. It's time the World Cup had a new winner. Also, Mazraoui is quickly becoming one of my favorite players with his performances.

#EnglishTom — ENG-GER-LAND

IT FINALY HAS TO COME HOME LADS, INNIT?! All the more reason to bust out hilarious renditions of “World in Motion” by New World Oder and “Freed from Desire” with different, altered lyrics about different, unsuspecting player’s being “on fire.” Hell, why not, lads?! CHAZ SMITH ON FIRE, YOUR DEFENSE IS TERRIFIED......DA NANA NANA NAAAAA NAAAA NA NANA NA NAAAAAA.

In all seriousness, England have the firepower; Harry Kane, Bukayo Saka, Phil Foden, ‘Raz’ Sterling, Mason Mount, Jude Bellingham, Jack Grealish, Marcus Rashford, etc. Not to mention, I actually think Harry Maguire, John Stones and Declan Rice are having fantastic tournaments, creating a solid back line and defensive shell just ahead of the back four. France have REALLY struggled to keep clean sheets while England have kept them in all but the match against Iran, which were comprised of one worldy strike and a fluke penalty. England can go the distance. SOUTHGATE, YOU’RE THE ONE, YOU STILL TURN ME ON, FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME AGAIN!

Cyler — Morocco

As a self-proclaimed football hipster/an insufferable 'I told you so' machine according to anyone I've ever held a conversation with on football, I'm legally obliged to back the underdogs.

Okay but seriously, I've always had an affinity for units that perform beyond all expectations and do it with a set of world class players (think AS Monaco 2016/17, Ajax 2018/19, *sigh* Japan 2022), and Morocco is no different. Yassine Bounou has admittedly had a poor season for Sevilla but he's shown up in Qatar, Nayef Aguerd has been overlooked far too much at West Ham after a fantastic season in France for Rennes, Sofyan Amrabat has been a revelation that even I didn't see coming, Youssef En-Nesyri is well known as an incisive number nine, and Hakim Ziyech is one of my favourite players of all time, somebody who has been dealt criminally unlucky hands. I will die on the hill that him and Mohamed Salah were on par over the course of the 2018/19 season.

This is all without mentioning Morocco's aces: the wing backs. Achraf Hakimi and Bayern's very own Noussair Mazraoui are both in contention for the title of best right back in the world, and with Mazraoui filling in at left back, Morocco have the best wing back partnership in the tournament. Both players have been simply fantastic, Hakimi being the more impressive marauding forward while Mazraoui's more well rounded sensibilities have offered stability to the backline, although this underpins Mazraoui's potential going forward through narrower areas in a pinch. They have all the ingredients to cook up a storm in the remainder of the matches and I'm confident they will reach the semi-finals, although it gets dicey from there with one of France or England looming in the horizon.

If for nothing else, I am proud to see a nation from the Arab world reach such a position at the grandest stage of them all, and hope they have a lot more left to give. Rabbi a'inni wa-la tu'in 'alayya, wa-nsurni wa-la tansur 'alayya, wa-amkur-li wa-la tamkur 'alayya, wahdini wa-yassir ol-huda ilayya, wa-nsurni 'ala man bagha 'alayya.

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