After what feels like six months, the World Cup Final is finally here. France and Croatia will face off on Sunday at 11 a.m. EST to determine which country will hold bragging rights for the next four years (and if Zagreb will burn itself happily to the ground). The final comes on the heels of a thrilling tournament that, in all likelihood, you saw some clips of — maybe a game or two. So, who should you root for with the kid?
And, yes, you should watch. Not only is it fun and good for the kid if he or she plays soccer, it’s an important learning moment: Soccer is something the world cares about and Americans don’t. It’s a way to understand one’s own culture.
Still, it’s not good being the under-educated bandwagon fan. That fan is the worst. So go in able to articulate why you’re rooting for whomever you’re rooting for. Have a justification. Borrow ours!
Croatia: The Case for the Underdog
We’re Americans and there is nothing America loves more than watching the underdog take down the arrogant favorite. And Croatia is the ultimate underdog, a scrappy squad that has defied expectations every step of the way by winning in extra time and on penalty kicks. Captained by a tiny man with big man swagger, Croatia is aggressive and dynamic. They are also beloved by their countrymen.
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But let’s focus on the leading man. Croatia is led by Luka Modrić, a scrappy 32-year-old midfielder who looks like the House Elf from Harry Potter and has the heart of a fucking lion. He’s not a household name in the states even though he’s one of the world’s most consistently excellent players. He tackles big men. He talks shit. He’s the athlete all undersized kids should look up to (barely) in awe. And when Croatia wins — and they do win — he tends to sit on his teammates’ shoulders or play with toddlers on the field. He is, in short, highly relatable for kids. Modric is also the key to the match for Croatia, so it makes sense to have kids focus on him.
France: The Case for the Favorite
Look, nobody is going to argue that rooting for the underdog is a lot of fun. But you know what’s more fun than rooting for the underdog? Rooting for the team that actually wins. Croatia’s Cinderella story has been inspiring and memorable, but Jay-Z put it best when he proclaimed, “Moral victories is for minor league coaches.” And if you are looking to forego moral victories in favor of real victories, you are probably better off hopping on France’s bandwagon.
France was widely considered one of the favorites heading into the World Cup and over the course of six games, the French have been the most dominant team in this tournament. They have managed to comfortably beat several powerhouse teams, shutting down Messi and Suarez in their wins against Argentina and Uruguay, by leaning on a few veterans and the 20-year-old wonderboy Mbappe.
Many will argue that Croatia has the better narrative but when it comes to which team is actually more fun to watch, it’s hard to argue that France isn’t the more entertaining squad. Throughout the entire World Cup, they have allowed only four goals despite facing some of the most potent offenses in the world. Up to this point, Croatia has relied on keeping games close and sneaking out a late win but it’s a strategy that likely won’t win against France. So while your buddies root passionately for Croatia to pull off the upset, take some pride in the safe pick and cheer on France as they cruise to a comfortable victory.
Both teams are going to be fun to root for, but anyone who roots for a “good game” is a jerk and a hack. Anyone who does so in front of children is teaching bad behavior. Choose a team and yell at the television. That’s how soccer (and football for that matter) is meant to be watched.