Soon the World Cup will dominate sports conversations around the globe. And while soccer has made inroads in the U.S., some Chicagoans may not be up to speed. But there's no need to study maps and atlases. RedEye has comparisons to help everyone understand who's who in what Pele called The Beautiful Game.
USA = Cubs
Team USA failed to qualify for the World Cup between 1950 and 1990, but there's been much talk of rebuilding efforts in recent years. And while American sports fans still are wondering if soccer is a thing, the Stars and Stripes have developed exciting players in Clint Dempsey and the dreadlocked Kyle Beckerman and are led by German coach Jurgen Klinsmann, a soccer legend. USA's hordes of fans—who, like Cubs die-hards, range from optimistic to completely delusional—are hoping for a Cinderella story in Brazil.
The Netherlands = Bears
The orange-clad national team of the Netherlands is as important as any in the World Cup field. The Bears won Super Bowl XX nearly 30 years ago, but the Netherlands has never won a World Cup, placing as runners-up in 1974, 1978 and in 2010. The Netherlands' mindset is an offensive one, and its captain, Robin van Persie, has the range and strike capability of a Jay Cutler. Yet these perennial bridesmaids have a tendency to self-destruct in late stages, making them also reminiscent of the Bears in their collapse against Green Bay last season.
Uruguay = White Sox
Cup winner in 1930 and 1950, Uruguay always has something to prove and still talks about its last championship even though it seems like eons ago. Its superstar striker, Luis Suarez, is known for his mouth—both for trash talk and biting other players. Yet Suarez's ability to elude defenders and put the ball in the net makes him one to watch. South Siders just might enjoy Uruguay's underdog rep, style and tough neighborhood swagger.
Germany = Green Bay Packers
A well-oiled machine that excels at its own technical style of play, like the Packers, Germany takes pride in dismantling teams with grace. The third winningest country (behind Brazil and Italy), Die Mannschaft are a factor in every World Cup. Their golden boy captain, Philipp Lahm, is so evocative of Aaron Rodgers that he should have his own State Farm commercials. Germany can pass, play defense and also is known for great cheese.
England = Minnesota Vikings
England considers its rivalry with Germany the biggest one around. But just as the Packers habitually brush off the Vikings, Germany regards other teams as larger concerns. Capable England has top talent, such as Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney, but together the Three Lions tend to phone in performances and take their eyes off the ball. The Vikings won't win the Super Bowl this season, so expect only an above-par performance from England as well. Luckily their fans always have a drink handy.
Argentina = Detroit Tigers
Like the Tigers and superstar pitcher Justin Verlander, Argentina and wunderkind Leo Messi were supposed to be unstoppable last time around. La Albiceleste (or The White and Sky Blue) have not only a deep roster but also have won World Cups (1978, 1986). Argentina has the talent to run the table, if only it can get through local rivals.
Brazil = N.Y. Yankees
Brazil's squad has a few familiar names, such as agile Barcelona star Neymar and his strike partner who goes by the name Hulk. With five World Cup titles, the Brazilians are the Yankees of the world's most popular sport. It also is notable that Brazil boasts a long list of accolades and retired legends, and The Little Canary rarely fails to advance out of the group stage (the last time was 1966). This year's team is less impressive than in the past but has one thing going for it: home-field advantage.
Spain = Boston Red Sox
The current Cup holders have won everything important as of late, just like the Red Sox, including the 2010 World Cup and European Cups in 2008 and 2012. Spain's style, known as tiki-taka, is a combination of offense and defense with creativity in frequent passing. Spain historically has taken a back seat to other soccer powerhouses. But now, like the Red Sox, The Red Fury are the team to beat.
Andy Frye is a RedEye special contributor.Want more? Discuss this article and others on RedEye Sports' Facebook page.