The greatest sporting event on the planet, the World Cup, kicks off next week.
The month-long soccer tournament is the most watched television event in the world. Nearly 1 billion people watched at least part of the final match in 2010 between Spain and the Netherlands.
For comparison, a little over 108 million people worldwide watched the Super Bowl in 2013, compared to the 3.2 billion who watched the 64-game tournament four years ago.
A quick tutorial for those unfamiliar with the format. The 32 teams are divided up into 8 groups of four. They play a round-robin style tournament earning 3 points in the standings for a win and 1 point for a draw. The top two teams from each group advance to the knockout stage.
To help you better understand the spectacle I’ve put together a short synopsis about each team and, as a bonus, I’ve paired each team with their relative equivalent from the Utah political landscape.
Brazil – The host country and favored to win it all for a record sixth time. They haven’t lost on their home soil for 11 years. They’re talented, skilled and powerful.
Utah political equivalent – Utah Republican Party
Croatia – Barely qualified for the tournament by squeaking past Iceland in a play-in game. They were in the 1998 semi-finals, but have struggled to perform on the biggest stage ever since.
Utah political equivalent – Legislative Democrats
Mexico – Talented but undisciplined. They won the 2012 Olympic gold medal, but narrowly avoided elimination when the U.S. was able to beat Panama in qualifying. Capable of brilliant moments and outrageous howlers.
Utah political equivalent – Aaron Osmond
Cameroon – Defensive minded team. Not very creative on the pitch. Players don’t get along with each other and are prone to infighting.
Utah political equivalent – Republican State Central Committee
Spain – Defending champions, ranked #1 in the world. Laden with stars, they’re looking for back-to-back titles.
Utah political equivalent – Gary Herbert
Netherlands – You never know what you’re going to get from the Dutch in a major tournament like this. They went through qualifying undefeated, which sets them up for a big run this year, but it all depends on if they can remain focused.
Utah political equivalent – Mia Love
Chile – This is one team nobody wants to play. They are talented and tough to prepare for.
Utah political equivalent – Dave Hansen
Austrailia – The Socceroos are the lowest rated team in the tournament. They are young and inexperienced. Realistically, they’re not going to go far this year, but they can dream.
Utah political equivalent – Democratic AG candidate Charles Stormont
Colombia – Qualified for their first world cup in 16 years. This club doesn’t mind playing in the heat, using the environment to their advantage, hoping opponents will wilt under the searing sun.
Utah political equivalent – Chris Stewart
Greece – Looking to reach the knockout stage for the first time ever. They’ve performed well in other big tournaments, but never on the big stage.
Utah political equivalent – SB100, the statewide non-discrimination bill
Ivory Coast – Playing in their third consecutive World Cup. This squad is experienced and talented, but old.
Utah political equivalent – Orrin Hatch
Japan – Technically sound, this squad can be terrible on defense at times. They limp into World Cup after a horrible showing at last year’s Confederations Cup.
Utah political equivalent – Doug Owens
Uruguay – They won the last World Cup held in Brazil in 1950. They have a belief that they are tougher and stronger than their opponents, but they have an aging defense that could be an achilles heel
Utah political equivalent – Sutherland Institute
Costa Rica – Haven’t reached the knock-out round in more than two decades. They’re a confident team, but they might panic if they get behind.
Utah political equivalent – Utah Democratic Party
England – Only twice before have they failed to make it out of the group stage of a World Cup. Despite that proud tradition, there’s not much expected out of this year’s squad.
Utah political equivalent – Peter Corroon
Italy – Fun to watch because of one person – striker Mario Balotelli. He’s borderline crazy, and brilliant in one package. Their defense is mean and they win by keeping the ball away from their opponents.
Utah political equivalent – Jim Dabakis
Switzerland – Young, talented and on the rise. They are a tough team to score on.
Utah political equivalent – Ben McAdams
Ecuador – Wins at home, but can’t pull off a victory on the road.
Utah political equivalent – Salt Lake County Democrats
France – In the last four World Cups, France has either failed to win a game or made it to the finals. There’s no in between for them. They’ve only once made the knockout stage outside of Europe.
Utah political equivalent – HB477
Honduras – Have qualified for back-to-back world cups, but this squad is not very talented. It would be a major shocker if they advance past the group stage.
Utah political equivalent – Donna McAleer
Argentina – One of the best attacking teams in the tournament. Sometimes they favor offense at the expense of their defense.
Utah political equivalent – Ken Ivory
Bosnia-Hercogovina – Offense firepower a-plenty with this squad. They are always looking to go for the jugular.
Utah political equivalent – Jason Chaffetz
Iran – Have only one win in their last nine World Cup games. This year will probably hold much of the same.
Utah political equivalent – Ross Romero
Nigeria – The Super Eagles are the current African champions. A solid squad, but they tend to stay under the radar.
Utah political equivalent – Rob Bishop
Germany – Dangerous and powerful. Their defense is showing some cracks, but they are capable of winning it all this year.
Utah political equivalent – Mike Lee
Portugal – They have arguably the best player in the world on their squad, Christiano Ronaldo. Poised for greatness if they can live up to their potential.
Utah political equivalent – Spencer Cox
Ghana – The Black Stars were expected to advance to the knock-out stage again until they were put in the same group with the #2 (Germany) and #3 (Portugal) team in the world. They are talented and confident. Their coach, James Kwesi Appiah, is nicknamed the “Silent Killer.”
Utah political equivalent – Curt Bramble
United States – Desperate for legitimacy, the U.S. team ended up in the so-called “group of death” with two of the top teams in the world. Any other year and we’d be talking about a possible deep run for the Yanks.
Utah political equivalent – Becky Lockhart
Belgium – This club is disciplined and not prone to making mistakes. They are patient and deliberate on the field.
Utah Political Equivalent – Wayne Niederhauser
Algeria – The Desert Foxes are a dangerous, dangerous club. They are capable of beating anyone on any day. Underestimate them at your own peril.
Utah political equivalent – Mike Leavitt
Russia – A home-grown squad with a stiff defensive spine. They play high-tempo soccer, but can be vulnerable to another team that plays a similar style.
Utah political equivalent – Greg Hughes
South Korea – The Taeguk Warriors are a rising power in international soccer. They have tremendous future potential and are only getting better and better.