WHO SHOULD YOU CHEER FOR? The World Cup's a tough time for wannabe cosmopolitan progressives. We always hear about the Europhiles populating the left, but the truth is, Europhilia requires a bit more than a taste for good cheese and an affection for the welfare state. Indeed, it demands a near encyclopedic knowledge of soccer. And not just teams who've already penetrated the literate lefty's consciousness (I'm looking at you, Barca and Arsenal), but the unknown squads, the local teams, the regional powers. And even that knowledge, once acquired, proves itself rapidly obsolete come World Cup time, as the multinational European outfits disassemble so their players can rejoin their native country's all star teams. So who to root for? Who's good?
The latter question is tricky, though Brazil, Germany, Italy, and Argentina are all good answers. But as for who you should cheer for, there's help a-coming. Who Should I Cheer For lets you support soccer the way you support Europe: on humanitarian and socially democratic criteria. "How about supporting the team that gives the most aid to poor countries?" it asks. "Perhaps cheering on the country that spends the most on healthcare? Or booing the country that spends the most on weapons?" Yeah, how about it?
Take today's match-ups. Germany versus Poland ends in a rout for Poland, though for reasons I don't understand. Germany, after all, has a higher life expectancy, spends a greater percentage of its GDP on healthcare, spends less on its military, more on aid, and has less income inequality. On the downside, Germany belches out more carbon, and has more multinational corporations, a metric that strikes me as pretty dumb. But hey, this is science folks, and Internet science at that, so Poland it is.
Trickier, it seemed, would be Tunisia versus Saudi Arabia, mainly because I know nothing about Tunisia. Luckily, WSICF is here for me! Tunisia, it turns out, is the third most supportable team in the tournament, while the Saudis languish back at number 29 (one slot ahead of the United States). They emit 15 tons of carbon per person, spend almost 8 percent of their GDP on defense, have "very high" income inequality, eight top multinationals, and a poor human rights record. Plus, Tunisia, with 52 percent external debt, gets sympathy points. So there you have it. Better soccer watching through science.