This is the dullest time for the hardcore NFL fan. You can only read so many "At minicamp, (late-round receiver you'll never hear of again) looks like the team's next star!" updates before you pass out.
Every four years, something fills the void: The World Cup.
Maybe you, Mr. Football Fan, don't watch futbol. Too little scoring, too much flopping, too many vuvuzelas. Well, you're missing out. The World Cup is a tremendous event. Put it this way, the world cares as much about this soccer tournament even more than you care about that preseason opener against the Bills. Crazy, I know!
We're here to help. We've paired all 32 World Cup teams with a NFL counterpart, to give you a reference point as you watch the matches in Brazil.
Arizona Cardinals – Algeria
World Cup qualifications for Algeria have been scarce, as this is just its second trip since 1986. Should sound familiar to Cardinals fans.
Atlanta Falcons – Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina weren’t on the soccer scene until very recently, but come in pretty well respected, like the 2012 Falcons. Hopefully they don't have a 2013 Falcons run coming.
Baltimore Ravens – Greece
Greece plays a really unappealing but relatively successful defensive-first style, leading to many awful low-scoring games but a fair share of wins. Ray Lewis would be proud.
Buffalo Bills – Netherlands
The Netherlands have finished as the runner-up in the World Cup three times but never have won the title. In 1978 the Netherlands played in the title game against Argentina, was bothered that their opponent stalled, and had a chance to take a late lead but a kick hit the left post. Not exactly “wide right” and the Giants controlling the clock in Super Bowl XXV, but close.
Carolina Panthers – Costa Rica
In Costa Rica’s first World Cup, they made a great run to the round of 16 but haven’t done much since. We’ll have to compare Costa Rica’s 1990 run to be the 2004 Panthers’ NFC title. Not sure how "Jake Delhomme" sounds in Spanish, however.
Chicago Bears – Chile
Although you might think Chile has been a pretty good soccer team through the years, really there’s just one moment of glory, a third-place finish in 1962, which is a far distant memory by now. Someone in Chile will have to tell me if that team made a "World Cup Shuffle" video and if the people there still talk incessantly about that team decades after the fact.
Cincinnati Bengals – Australia
Australia was a total non-factor until recently, but this is its third straight World Cup. Unfortunately, they haven’t had a long run in the World Cup yet. If their key player is a heavily criticized redhead, I’m really gonna be freaked out.
Cleveland Browns – Honduras
Before this year Honduras hadn’t had two World Cup qualifications in a row, and has never won a World Cup game. If this was accurate we’d have to find a team that never, ever qualifies for the World Cup to compare to the Browns, but we’ll take what we get.
Dallas Cowboys – England
In 1966, England won the World Cup. Despite accomplishing practically nothing in the tournament since then, they’re probably the most talked-about team in the world. Wayne Rooney has been a good player but still gets constantly criticized for not winning a World Cup. And you’ve never seen him and Tony Romo in the same room, have you?
Denver Broncos – Argentina
Argentina is known for having the best player in the world, Lionel Messi, who despite his greatness has never led Argentina to a title. He still lives in the shadow of former great Diego Maradona, who brought home a championship. The good news: Probably unlikely that Argentina will lose 43-8 in the final. Or that Messi will start screaming out "Omaha!" before corner kicks like he's Peyton Manning.
Detroit Lions – Ivory Coast
Ivory Coast has gotten a lot of hype in the past few World Cups, but hasn’t gotten out of the group stage. It’s kind of surprising with the talent on the roster that Ivory Coast hasn't done better. Right, Lions fans?
Green Bay Packers – Uruguay
Uruguay won the first World Cup, in 1930, and another in 1950. So there's some history. Uruguay is still pretty good these days too, but an injury to star Luis Suarez might put a dent in its title hopes. Hopefully if Suarez needs to be replaced, his backup is better than the soccer equivalent of Matt Flynn.
Houston Texans – Colombia
You’d think, given their location, that Colombia would have had more World Cup success. But they have almost no positive history at all to speak of. And on top of that, they’re completely overshadowed in results and attention by nearby Brazil. Hmm.
Indianapolis Colts – Japan
Japan has made the round of 16 in two of their last three World Cups, and is hoping for a big breakthrough. And Tokyo and Indianapolis are virtually the same, I'm pretty sure.
Jacksonville Jaguars – Iran
Iran is the one team in the field that nobody really knows or expects anything from. Iran’s main purpose in the World Cup is to act as group stage fodder for the better teams, and most soccer fans probably won't even know it was in the tournament. Sorry, Jacksonville.
Kansas City Chiefs – France
There has been some success for each squad (1998 for France, 1969 for the Chiefs) but the story about each team right now is the total meltdown the last time we saw them in the playoffs (the Chiefs’ loss to Indianapolis and France’s total fiasco in 2010). At least the Chiefs didn’t threaten a boycott in Indianapolis.
Miami Dolphins – Belgium
Belgium used to be pretty competitive on the World Cup stage, usually making it to at least the round of 16, with a fourth-place finish in 1986. They’ve fallen off since then, not even qualifying for the World Cup in 2006 and 2010. But no bullying scandal, which keeps it from being an exact match.
Minnesota Vikings – Mexico
When it comes down to it, Mexico’s soccer team is best known for its playoff failure. They’ve made the round of 16 the past five World Cups but haven’t advanced past that. It’s not quite the heartbreaking pain the Vikings have put their fans through, but close.
New England Patriots – Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo and Tom Brady walk into a bar at the same time. Who goes home with the supermodel?
New Orleans Saints – Switzerland
The Swiss didn’t qualify for the World Cup for 20 straight years, a dry stretch from 1970-1990 that only Archie Manning could identify with.
New York Giants – Italy
Italy and the Giants: Both four-time champions, both criticized for recently falling on their faces. Italy was terrible in the 2010 World Cup, and the Giants were terrible in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. Both 2014 versions of these teams are about impossible to predict, too.
New York Jets – Cameroon
Cameroon is still living off one huge upset, when it stunned the world with a win over Argentina in 1990. They've been a pretty big disappointment since. But hey, there’s always that upset win. Did anyone on that Cameroon team guarantee the win over Argentina, and now the fans have to hear the story over and over and over and over? I’m not sure.
Oakland Raiders – Nigeria
Nigeria was pretty good early in its World Cup history, making the round of 16 in its first two qualifications. But it hasn’t won a World Cup game since 1998, making you wonder if those glory days even existed.
Philadelphia Eagles – Russia
When you think of Russia, and actually look at how little they’ve done in the World Cup, it’s rather surprising. Surely they’ve won at least one World Cup, right? Nope. Did you know Santa Claus is known as "Ded Moroz" in Russia? Booski, booski!
Pittsburgh Steelers – Germany
You don’t hear a ton about Germany, not compared to other teams like Brazil or England, but what the Germans do is just win with great, solid play. The Germans have three World Cup championships and seven appearances in the final. Steelers fans have to recognize that consistency. Let's get the Germans to start waving the "schreckliche Handtuch" during the games.
San Diego Chargers – Ecuador
There aren't a lot of memorable moments in Ecuador World Cup history. Just a couple of qualifications and one trip to the round of 16. Heck, there’s not even a Kellen Winslow game to remember fondly.
San Francisco 49ers – Brazil
It always seems like Brazil has stars and success. Their old teams are fondly remembered and this year’s team is one of the favorites to win it all. Pele scored goals at an unbelievable rate, like Jerry Rice scored touchdowns for San Francisco. Who has it better than Brazil? Noooooobody!
Seattle Seahawks – Spain
Spain finally broke through in the last World Cup and did something they never had before: Win a championship. No “Legion of Boom” on Spain’s soccer team, but you get it.
St. Louis Rams – United States
You can’t find many places in the world where soccer isn’t king. You can’t find many places in America where the NFL isn’t king. But the same way most of us only give passing interest in the USMNT is the way the Cardinals-obsessed fans treat the Rams. And, like the Rams, the U.S. got the hardest draw imaginable. We'll call the NFC West the "Division of Death," see if it catches on.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Ghana
Ghana wasn’t noteworthy until the 2000s, when they started qualifying for the World Cup. Now they’re pretty underrated coming into the World Cup but might be a little dangerous. Insert Lovie Smith joke here.
Tennessee Titans – Croatia
If you remember anything about the Croatian soccer team, it’s probably from when they competed as Yugoslavia. Since competing as Croatia, there has been one nice run, to the semifinals in 1998, and not much else that matters. Luv Ya Blue.
Washington Redskins – South Korea
South Korea panicked a bit and fired its coach in 2011 to try and make the World Cup. There’s little continuity to the squad coming into the World Cup, as a surprisingly high 45 players were used in qualifying. The South Koreans are basically Daniel Snyder and a controversial nickname from being Washington’s doppelgangers.
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