There's much to be said about having a second team to follow during big tournaments. After all, it's not like your first side -- England, in my case -- are going to be playing every day, and it's also not as though you have any real say in your first team anyway. For 31 teams, this World Cup will be painful; for a good chunk of them (including my Three Lions), the World Cup is also likely to be embarrassing.
Unless you've been blessed with Spanish or Brazilian citizenship (not that I really envy them, because having expectations tends to be painful), watching your team at this stage is essentially an extended exercise in waiting for the other shoe to drop. Something bad will happen, and you're going to stand around tenser than a typical first-year engineering student next to an attractive girl until it does, at which point you might cry*.
*And so the metaphor continues.
Adopting a second team isn't a solution to avoiding pain. Pain will come either way. But it's a good way to have more fun in the process of getting to the pain, because sports are, at least in theory, all about fun, and once we lose the deep emotional attachment to a team that makes us really, really, REALLY upset when they lose, watching games is actually quite relaxing.
Obviously you shouldn't bandwagon on one of the favourites. That's just joy-thievery. No, what you want is to be entertained without the burden of expectation. And so, for three reasons and despite Jeanne D'Arc quite clearly being a witch, I am recommending France.
Reason the first: The football. You may have noticed that France are quite a good team. Sure, they very nearly didn't make it to the World Cup after finishing second in their group behind Spain and then going 2-0 down in their playoff against Ukraine, but they've rebounded and despite the loss of Franck Ribéry to a back injury, they're currently playing magnificent stuff. 8-0 against Jamaica is an impressive result no matter how you slice it (and trolling Usain Bolt in the aftermath added an adorable element of cartoon villainy to the whole enterprise), and if you really like this sport you'll surely appreciate their combination of high-scoring forwards with balance in the rest of their side.
Their goalkeeper is talented and entertaining. Their defence is good enough to take seriously, and in Patrice Evra insane enough to truly enjoy. Their midfield contains a pleasing blend of muscularity and precision, with Blaise Matuidi and Baby God Paul Pogba flanking the creative force of Yohan Cabaye like a pair of particularly under-dressed bodyguards. And up front... well, when you can replace Ribéry with Antoine Griezmann and Karim Benzema is your centre forward, you're in good shape.
Will France win the World Cup and thus subject you to charges of joy-thievery? No, probably not. But they'll be a fun ride until the ride is over, which brings me straight to...
Reason the second: Because when they stop being good, it's always funny. In the past four World Cups, the French record is as follows: Won, group stages, finalists, group stages. Or, if you're feeling more descriptive, it's: National heroes, profound embarrassment, ZINEDINE ZIDANE HEADBUTTING MARCO MATERAZZI IN THE WORLD CUP FINAL, small-scale civil war. You'll want to watch France games because if they're on, they'll be lovely to watch, and if they're off it's downright hilarious. The last time this team went to the World Cup, they got one point and half the players decided to conduct a coup against Raymond Domenech mid-tournament. Don't tell me you didn't enjoy that.
The way to get the most out of a combustible team is to follow them closely enough to enjoy all the details but keep emotionally far away enough so that the explosion doesn't singe you too badly. Which makes France perfect already, but we'll keep on going because dammit I am not done.
Reason the third: Having French friends is A Good Plan. Picture this: you are in the United States, at a bar enjoying the games, and everyone is cheering against France because they're jealous of Marquis de La Fayette's contributions to the American Revolution or whatever reason it is that Americans don't like the French right now. There's one lonely French person -- pick whatever gender you most hope to encounter, since we're conducting a thought experiment here -- cheering on their side. If you join them, you can be friends, comrades in arms for a game if not the whole tournament*. And if you can become friends with a French person there is likely to be duck confit and some very decent wine in your medium to long-term future, and that's not a opportunity sensible people turn down.
*It would be wise to conceal your enjoyment of Reason Two when making the most of Reason Three.
To recap, we have great football, hilarious implosions and the possibility of some excellent food if you find a real-life French person to befriend. So, yes. France are now your second team, and you will enjoy the hell out of the World Cup as a result.