Pro-tip: England won't win the World Cup. As a result, it's vital you don't botch picking a second team to support if you're to derive any pleasure from the next month. Thankfully we're compiled one damn good reason for and against supporting each team at the tournament. Choose carefully guys.
Support:This crew’s embarking on a voyage as top-heavy as the Titanic and with a softer underside. With basically two decent defenders, when it comes to formations manager Sampaoli is a real artist – no bad thing given that Angel Di Maria looks like a medieval representation of Death, and Javier Mascherano’s best position is in a Hieronymus Bosch painting.
Swerve: You go through the wringer watching Willy Caballero – but I’m backing him to shine, and make himself the world’s most critically acclaimed bald man since Brian Eno. Nonetheless, Sampaoli’s 2-3-2-3 formation is a waltz into defensive oblivion.
The face of a man who's seen Marcos Rojo in training.
Support: Manager Bert van Marwijk looks like Terence Stamp crossed with Paul Weller, meaning he’s catnip to the Brexit generation and might keep your mum interested for the 90 minutes. Also, you just know the team are a fun bunch – tell me you wouldn’t go banana-boating with Mat Ryan, Brad Jones and Aaron Mooy, and I’ll tell you you’re a damn liar.
Swerve: Win-at-all-costs psyche is a turn-off. Given their country has Rupert Murdoch, Julian Assange and Mel Gibson among its ethical torchbearers, there’s always a chance that, somewhere in the bowels of Luzhniki Stadium, Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft will be massaging sandpaper into an Adidas orb, while Nick Kyrgios and Bernard Tomic instruct Tim Cahill how to whisper “your mum’s a bin” in Danish.
Support: You won’t find a more eclectic, Football Manager-esque coaching team than Roberto Martinez, Graeme Jones and Thierry Henry, surely the most maverick backroom gang at the World Cup unless Gareth Southgate suddenly appoints Ian Botham and Stanley Kubrick. Martinez has reluctantly pulled the plug on Christian Benteke, which is no bad thing given his barn door banjo-proofing antics at Palace.
Swerve: They’ve left out Radja Nainggolan, who looks like Heath Ledger if he found himself in Britain First. A party-animal for whom football is a game of two halves, or nine pints, whichever arrives at the table quicker.
Support: I speak for many when I say that my earliest memories of watching the Seleção were cameramen spotting aesthetically-pleasing Brazil fans and their minimalist approach to formal dress. Let’s hope that trend continues. But if anybody asks, it’s like Playboy – we’re all only watching for the analysis.
Swerve: 2014’s doltish double-act Fred and Jô are nowhere to be seen. David Luiz will have to step on garden rakes at home. Dante’s defensive Divine Comedy didn’t get a second series. The problem is now – what’s the point of supporting Brazil without their slapdash high-jinks? Oh, Marcelo – didn’t see you there! Well, never mind then.
Brazil demonstrating South America's lastest celebration craze - The Flannel.
Support: José Izquierdo will cut inside and rifle one in, and there’s something fun about someone’s signature move – like Fabien Barthez dropping the ball, or Boris Johnson dropping the ball.
Swerve:James Rodríguez has the face of a spoiled brat, a failed X-Factor quarter finalist who somehow ends up presenting Live from Glastonbury via a stint on Celebrity Juice. Another problem: if they win the World Cup, cartels might lower prices and there’ll be far longer queues for toilet cubicles in nightclubs across Mayfair.
Support: With a squad featuring Patrick Pemberton, Kendall Waston and Rodney Wallace, why not support a team that sounds like a Californian hip hop collective?
Swerve: Look at their kit’s psychedelic badge for too long and you’ll end up in a bus terminal screaming at the pigeons.
Support: Luka Modric– enough said.
Swerve: In terms of rhyming couplets, Milan Badelj, Domagoj Vida and Sime Vrsaljko hardly lend themselves to ‘Come On Eileen’. Then again, neither do the actual lyrics to ‘Come On Eileen’. A truly hopeless song, scansion-wise.
Support: There are so many Danes to love: Viggo Mortensen, Mads Mikkelsen, Clare. There is, however, also Nicklas Bendtner. So every silver lining.
Swerve: Try telling those Russian ultras you enjoy a bit of Hygge. You’ll be picking up your teeth with a broken arm.
Support: Without your support, Ahmed Elmohamady will spend the group stages whining and scratching at the dressing room door, wondering where Steve Bruce is and when he’s coming back. Also, they’ve got Mo Salah, the drinking man’s Nish Kumar.
The tight smile of a man already panicking about losing Brucey's warm, gravy stained embrace.
Swerve: They’re the only team to submit a player’s nickname: Mahmoud Hassan is listed as ‘Trezeguet’, allegedly due to his resemblance to the former France striker. The problem is, he doesn’t look anything like David Trezeguet. I know ten people who look more like David Trezeguet. Look at yourself in the mirror – trust me, you look more like David Trezeguet.
Support: Nobody likes a ‘full kit wanker’ – every Sunday morning I’m still pairing an Eidur Gudjohnsen 2003-04 shirt with shorts I pinched from Luca Tiratelli at uni (hope you’re well Luca, let’s grab a beer!) But if you do happen to be a head-to-toe onanist, this waterfall of blues is the strip for you.
Swerve: If you live in England, you’re not French and you actively decide to support France, despite the alternatives on offer, you’re less imaginative than Antoine Griezmann holding a tin of boot polish.
Support: Their gaffer Joachim Löw has a rakish appeal, sort of Charlie-Sheen-meets-Brian-Ferry. His teams always grind you down. Even against plucky Northern Ireland during the last Euros, you just knew Germany would break through eventually. To be fair, the only way Northern Ireland could ever have won that game would have been a power-sharing arrangement committing Germany to relinquish their boots and shinpads.
Swerve: Smart alecks. Germany were happily leaving out Mario Gotze, Shkodran Mustafi, Bernd Leno, Emre Can and Leroy Sane while we were all having a collective nervous breakdown over the omission of through-ball maestro and Harry Potter tormentor Jonjo Shelvey. Cocky.
Support: More blondes than an Aryan brewery and a clap we’ve not seen in this country since Lord Byron. Plus their players have incredible names: from Jon Dadi Bodvarsson and Runar Runarsson, to Onmeheadsson, Comeonmysson, Stickitinthemixersson and Lethimknowyourebloodytheresson.
Swerve: When we last played them on 28 June 2016, they knocked us out of Europe only five days after we the UK voted to knock ourselves out of Europe. At that point, we could have stuck Joe Hart or Jeremy Corbyn in goal – they both had problems with their left.
Support: Nice to see manager Carlos Queiroz. He’s always elegant-yet-scary, like a catwalk in a minefield or Hugh Grant with a machete.
Swerve: Down the pub, there will be a loser who looks around smugly before chanting “MOVES LIKE DEJAGAH” whenever the camera picks out Ashkan Dejagah. Do not be that loser.
Support: Their anthem is not only the shortest but the most poetic. “May your reign / Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations / Until the pebbles / Grow into boulders / Lush with moss.” It’s like if Enya wrote World In Motion.
Swerve: The locations of their group games. To put them in perspective for you: picture the three greyest roughest towns you know, then try to conceive of the three greyest roughest towns they know, then kick yourself in the bollocks to simulate the fear and nausea that goes with being in places that my toughest Russian friend told me to “avoid, please”. In other words, imagine Saransk, Ekaterinburg and Volgograd. Or Ilford.
Enjoy that? Part Two is right here baby.