The 2018 World Cup will begin in a few days, and the sporting world’s attention will turn to Russia and the other football. College sports and international soccer share one very strong similarity....narratives, and also having a shit ton of teams.
So, let’s have some fun and see which Big Ten teams best fit with World Cup Nations.
Also, we came to this idea before the mothership wrote their piece. We just take longer to get to things. That’s the TCR way. Also that piece was deciding what college football team fit each international side why we are doing which international team fits each college team. This is TOTALLY and COMPLETELY different.
(fine it’s the damn same)
Let’s get to it.
Rutgers Football - Russia
“I’m here. Where’s my money?”
Penn State Basketball - Australia
Penn State plays basketball, but its fans at large don’t really care about the sport. Sure, sometimes they aren’t terrible, but the fans would much rather watch Penn State Football, Wrestling and, hell, even Ice Hockey over the shooty-hoops. Penn State basketball is largely irrelevant, but you will never rid yourselves of them.
The exact same thing is true of Australia. They aren’t good enough to win the World Cup, but are always there. They would much rather be playing Aussie Rules Football, Rugby or Cricket however.
Indiana Football - Canada
“Wait....what is this sport?”
Penn State Football - Belgium
Both teams are full of exciting talent, and have a gunslinger streak to them. Despite the great collection of talent, neither team can ever put it together and overtake their rivals. They can never quite reach their true potential and fall to nearby powers again and again (Ohio State and Germany).
But they are always the dark horse.
Indiana Basketball - Argentina.
Hoosier Basketball and el Albiceleste were at the top of their sports in the ‘70s and ‘80s but have not done much on a largest stage since then. Both still produce great players. The Hoosiers had that run to the final in 2002 while Argentina managed to get the World Cup final in 2014. Other than that, they have underwhelmed.
Both reached stratospheric heights in an era when short shorts were prevalent in their sports. Also, both have rabid fanbases with an an overly inflated view of their respective school/country.
The old Latin American arbitrage joke - “Buy an Argentinian for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth” - applies equally to Indiana.
Illinois Football - Hungary
Illinois’ Red Grange was the biggest star in the early days of college football. He was a dominate force on the field and helped jump start the popularity of football in America.
Hungary’s Ferenc Puskás is widely considered one of the best players ever and was a huge star for club and country in his career which lasted from 1948-63. He scored 84 goals in 85 games for Hungary and helped them to rise to be the best team in the world in 1954 only to lose in a major upset in a final against West Germany.
Both program have titans of their sports who only have pictures in black and white. Despite great early years from both programs due to these legends, both are now largely irrelevant. Hungary hasn’t made the World Cup since 1986 and Illinois Football....well, is Illinois Football.
Northwestern Basketball- Panama
Northwestern’s First NCAA tournament was in 2017. Panama’s first world cup appearance is in 2018. Their fans should enjoy their success while it lasts because it won’t last long.
Northwestern Football - Iceland
Given the limited populations they can draw players from (Iceland’s small population and Northwestern’s high admission’s standards) and the difficulty they face in their respective conference and football association, Northwestern and Iceland are arguable the biggest overachievers in their respective sports. Don’t be fooled, however, both have great facilities and tremendous resources to go with good coaching.
Illinois Basketball - United States
The USMNT and Fighting Illini basketball have immense potential, but they have squandered it lately. Poor coaching, player development, and roster management have led both to their lowest points in recent memory with the USMNT not qualifying for Russia 2018, and Illinois Basketball missing the last five NCAA Tournaments.
Both have exciting young players with superstar potential in Christian Pulisic and Trent Fraizer, but more questions than answers currently on how to fix themselves and reach their potential.
Purdue Football - Peru
Peru and Purdue have both been down recently, but are starting to see a resurgence.
Peru has a player who does a lot of drugs. Purdue Pete was made by a man on drugs.
Also: Peru, Purdue. Case closed.
Minnesota Basketball - Switzerland
Minnesota and Switzerland both have surprisingly high admission/citizenship standards. They’re also peaceful, boring and just there.
Minnesota Football - Sweden
Minnesota and Sweden are both cold places with pasty yet jolly populations who are industrious and were blessed with practical smarts. Both fanbases are content with their lot in life. Minnesota will come out and poke Michigan, Ohio State or Wisconsin once a decade. Similarly, The Swedes will give England, Germany, or France hell once in a while.
Maryland Basketball - Uruguay
Remember that time Maryland won the National Championship in 2002? Yes. Remember that time Uruguay won the inaugural World Cup competition in 1930 and then again in 1950? No.
Talent, lots and lots of talent have rolled through both College Park and Montevideo, two locations off the beaten path relative to other teams that have consistently won championships in their sports.
Also Luis Suarez bites people and turtles do that all the time.
Nebraska Football - Netherlands
They are both powers in their respective sports that have fallen on hard times but both are expected to reemerge. They both rose to prominence in the 70s with an innovate scheme that created a position-less way of playing their respective sports. Tom Osborne perfected position-less offensive football with the option while the Dutch became Clockwork Orange by perfecting position-less soccer with “total football”. Also, Dutch fans and Huskers football fans will travel anywhere to see their team’s play.
Michigan Basketball - Brazil
Beyond just the blue and yellow clad uniforms, Michigan Basketball and Brazil soccer represents a certain dominance over their respective sports AND more recent heartbreaking failures. Michigan lost in the national championship game both in 2013 and 2018. Brazil lost to eventual World Cup Champions Germany 7-1 at home in 2014, a loss that soccer fans will talk about for generations. Brazil, like Michigan under head coach John Belein, approaches the game with a creative offensive flair that’s often a step ahead of what other teams are doing. The Wolverines play positionless basketball — expect Brazil this go-around to attempt to do the same.
Iowa Football - Mexico
This comparison is rooted in similar rabidness: When Iowa or Mexico has a big night game in primetime, their respective stadiums — Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City or Estadio Azteca in Mexico City — are ablaze with some of the best, loudest fans in the world. The Azteca is known as a cauldron in the international game, and Iowa, like Mexico hasn’t won much of anything. There are occasionally some elite players that pass through these two systems, and while both make a lot of literal noise — there’s not much to show for any of it. But boy are they consistent.
Michigan State Basketball - Spain
What do Spain and Michigan State have in common? At any given time in the last 20+ years and beyond, a squad loaded with some of the best talent the world/nation has ever seen. Some can call it a disappointment in the grand scheme of things: Michigan State with only two national championships in their history considering how many good teams they’ve had. Spain with just one World Cup title to their name. Still, with names like Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson and Raúl Gonzalez Blanco — two of the best to ever do it — coming through those respective programs — Spain and Michigan State are giants in the game and modern day contenders to win every competition that stands in their way.
Wisconsin Football - France
On its face, these teams seem to be quite different. Wisconsin can be rather boring, methodical, and predictable, which the French are full of young exciting attacking talent that you never quite know what you will get out of.
But take a deeper look. Both Wisconsin and France have unique and distinct cultures. The Badgers and Les Bleus have spent the last few years on the cusp of winning championships and reaching the ultimate heights, but fail in key moments.
Both have the talent and quality to be one of the best, but neither has done it recently. They are in the second tier of teams, and are trying to break through.
Both are popular picks to win in 2018 and are set up well for the future.
Purdue Basketball - Colombia
Purdue has some elite talent on their roster. The Boilermakers will be a Big Ten favorite again next season with Carsen Edwards and Matt Haarms. Purdue is still just a tad off from being the best in the nation. Colombia have elite talent in James Rodriguez and Radamel Falcao. They were quarterfinalists in 2014, but are also a tad off from being a South American powerhouse.
Michigan Football - England
Overrated and excessive/obsessive media hype is the theme here. When the phrases “international soccer/football” and “college football” are mentioned, usually England and Michigan are the first teams that come to mind. Fact: Michigan hasn’t won a share of a Big Ten Championship since 2004. Fact: England hasn’t won a European Championship ever and their last and only World Cup title came in 1966. Talent exists at The Big House and at Wembley, but it’s often inflated by the media and a high-and-mighty perception that overshadows reality.
Wisconsin Basketball - Italy
It’s crazy to think the Wisconsin Badgers qualified for the NCAA Tournament every single year from 1998-1999 through 2016-2017. That’s 19 seasons of consistently good basketball in a competitive conference. After an uncharacteristically bad season in Badgerland, that streak came to a halt. Like Wisconsin, the Italian National Soccer Team was consistently good with a solid, defensive-first system in place for what seemed like decades. Italy failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after an uncharacteristically poor qualifying campaign. The NCAA Tournament felt odd this past March with the Wisconsin Badgers missing out. This 2018 World Cup’s biggest, albeit self-inflicted snub is not the United States nor is it Holland/Netherlands — it’s Italy.
Maryland Football- Denmark
In the same way that we often forget Maryland has a football team, we also tend to forget Denmark has a soccer team that inconsistently qualifies for the World Cup. Illinois fans in particular don’t know much about Maryland football — after all, the Illini will play Maryland for the first time ever this coming Fall.
The Danes are not bad at all, just like Maryland football most season. However, Denmark will be out of the World Cup before you even realize they were there and leave no lasting impression, just like Maryland Football.
Ohio State Basketball - Egypt
This comparison doesn’t work in terms of team quality with Egypt qualifying for just their third World Cup this year, and the Buckeyes being one of the better programs in the Big Ten — hey there are only like six high level international soccer teams and 24 teams on this list, sue us.
But, it does work in one key way. When both teams are good, they are (almost-always) one man teams.
Egypt is defined by a single great player, Mohamed Salah. Salah exploded onto the scene for club and country this season scoring buckets of goals for Liverpool while dragging Egypt through World Cup qualification.
Ohio State has had many similar one-man team kind of guys.
- Greg Oden (2006-07, yeah Conley was there too, but that team was all Oden)
- Evan Turner (2008-09 and 2009-10)
- Deshaun Thomas (2012-13)
- D’Angelo Russell (2014-15)
- Keita Bates-Diop (2017-18)
And just like those Ohio State teams, the success or failure of this Egypt side is all on one guy, but if Salah can keep his form in Russia, Egypt can surprise many.
Michigan State Football - Portugal
Mark Dantonio has turned Michigan State into a good Big Ten football program with a conservative, defense first approach. Dantonio has one of three Big Ten titles for the Spartans and was the first coach to win MSU something since 1990. Just two summers ago, Portugal won their first trophy when they took home the European Championship in France playing rather defensively for a team with a player like Ronaldo.
Holland and Portugal are the best nations to never win a World Cup and MSU rarely gets close to a national title. Both have little hardware to be considered elite, but on their day can take out anybody.
Nebraska Basketball - Costa Rica
The Cornhuskers are built to play in the NIT. The lone run Nebraska’s basketball team ever had was when they won the NIT in 1996. Tyronn Lue was on that team and probably telling his teammates how many timeouts are left (Still bitter about Game 1). Costa Rica’s only World Cup triumph came in 2014 when they finished first in a group with Uruguay, Italy and England. They made the quarterfinals to the world amazement. Nebraska is usually NIT bound. Costa Rica is usually bound to be eliminated quickly at World Cups.
Ohio State Football - Germany
“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” - Gary Lineker
The same can almost be said of Big Ten Football since Urban Meyer took over the Buckeyes.
Iowa Basketball - Japan
Iowa has made the tournament 22 times since the NCAA began seeding. They are usually an at-large Big Ten team that creeps its way into March as a 7 or 8-seed. The last time Iowa made the Sweet 16 was 1999. That makes six straight tournaments of not getting by the second rounds. Japan is always at the World Cup as an at-large team from Asia and has only maybe two good World Cups to boast about.
Iowa and Japan are always good enough to make it, but never make any noise when it counts the most.
Rutgers Basketball - Qatar
Also just here because of the money, just like Qatar will be in 2022.