It was a disappointment to Indian football fans that the national team did not qualify for the World Cup in Russia in 2018. However, India is not the only populous country not to be competing. Once qualification wrapped up it became apparent six billion people in the world have no team to root for. This is because four of the world’s five most populous countries – India, Indonesia, China, and the United States – are unfortunately staying at home. This year more than most the title “World Cup” will tested and TV stations will find out if the world will truly turn in no matter what.
But viewing figures are unlikely to suffer that much despite the fact that at least the U.S. and to some extent China are accustomed to being in the field. The simple truth of the matter is that most of the world loves football, and this is football’s greatest event. Many of us follow the best leagues in the world regardless of nationality, and so we’ll tune in to watch stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi playing for their countries.
But what of India’s rooting interests? We can’t say for sure which teams people will be following or cheering for – but The Guardian actually took an interesting look (albeit without polling) at this very subject during the 2014 Cup. No conclusive data was shown for India, but the article cleverly checked in with eBay India to get some idea via merchandise sales. Apparently, during the time of the 2014 World Cup, most FIFA merchandise was sold to supporters of Argentina, Germany, England, and Brazil. So we can at least loosely assume these are the teams many Indians will be supporting with their own team not participating.
The Cup is still a little more than six months away, but with the draw having been made and the whole world talking about it, let’s take a quick look at how these potential India-supported nations are set up.
It’s no surprise that lots of Indian football fans will likely support Argentina, because the team has arguably the world’s most popular player in Lionel Messi. Messi transcends club and national loyalties with his thrilling brand of play and unassuming public persona, making him easy to root for. That said, he has yet to earn a major triumph with the national team, which incidentally struggled to qualify for this World Cup. Argentina was drawn into Group D with Croatia, Iceland and Nigeria, and as one analysis noted, it’s probably one of the best groups for football quality. It’s by no means a sure thing that Argentina will advance in this field, though they’ll still likely be the group favorite.
There’s no real connection that we can discern between India and German when it comes to football, and Germany’s star players aren’t quite in Messi’s league as far as pure reputation goes. As a team, however, Germany has widely been viewed as the national team that plays the most beautiful brand of football of late. It makes some sense that football fans in countries all over the world that didn’t qualify might gravitate to Germany simply because of how the team plays: with pace, and usually with spectacular, well-crafted goals.
England may ultimately make the most sense just because of the deep ties between the two countries. Indian and British culture have so much crossover in general that it’s not difficult to imagine many Indian fans taking up support for the British during the World Cup – even if the English national team has been notoriously frustrating for some time now. Early speculation about the roster suggests a team that is both young and talented for the 2018 Cup however, with players like Dele Alli, Harry Kane, and Marcus Rashford expected to take the place of the likes of Wayne Rooney, Daniel Sturridge, etc. So it could actually be a particularly fun year to cheer on the English.
Brazil certainly isn’t surprising. Though the national team has had its stumbles in recent years (such as when it was humiliated on home soil by Germany in 2014), it’s still viewed as one of the most enjoyable teams to watch. Young phenom Neymar Jr. has elevated himself to very near the Messi/Ronaldo tier as one of the world’s best players, and he’s only one of many Brazilians who can be captivating to behold. As usual, Brazil will be among the favorites, and will probably draw support from all over the world – not just India.
This article was supplied as guest content.