The World Cup is down to its final eight teams. The United States is gone, as are Mexico, England, Spain and a host of the other most popular teams. So who is left?
The remaining teams come from Europe, South America and Central America. They are a great combination of some of the world's powers, some upstarts and a team out of nowhere.
So who do you root for? We're here to help.
The officially official World Cup rootability rankings:
The World Cup might as well be The James Rodriguez Show.
For years, James was supposed to be "the next big thing." And he showed why, starring for Porto and Monaco, but he's taken it to a whole other level in this tournament. He's had mind blowing goals, amazing passes and sctintillating runs have been the highlight of the World Cup. James isn't "next" anymore. He's "now."
Photo credit: Clive Rose
James is hardly alone. Teo Gutierrez is a great player, as is Jackson Martinez and the rest of Colombia's super fun attack. Plus, they're led by the wonderful Jose Pekerman.
Add in the fact that Colombia is in the midst of somewhat of a revival after being torn apart by the drug trade 20 years ago and they have every box checked:
- Great young superstar, check.
- Attack at all costs, check.
- Likable manager, check.
- Social impact, check.
2. Costa Rica
They don't have a bonafide superstar. They don't have any history. They don't have any crazy characters. They don't even have good-looking kits.
So why should you like Costa Rica? Because they have absolutely nothing!
Costa Rica are barely supposed to be in the World Cup, let alone winning a match. They're sure as hell not supposed to get out of the group and making the quarterfinals is absolutely insane. But here they are, full of underrated players in the form of their lives, playing their asses off and praying that's good enough.
So far it has been. Hopefully, it will be a little longer.
Don't root against Cinderella, you jerk.
It's been 28 years since Argentina won the World Cup, when Maradona led them to glory. Now can Lionel Messi do the same?
So far, he's been doing his damndest.
While the rest of the Argentina team has struggled to provide Messi with any sort of consistent help, he's been putting the team on his back by scoring goals and setting everyone else up time and time again. Nobody could accuse Messi of not doing enough and a World Cup win, especially considering the lack of help he's gotten, would be an all-time great performance by the diminutive Argentine.
Wouldn't you like to tell your grandkids that you saw one of the best World Cup performances ever? That you witnessed a man take Maradona's place as arguably the best to ever play the game?
There isn't a lot to love about Brazil right now. They lack cohesion, fluidity and consistency. They are the big bad bullies of world soccer, always winning titles. They are, in their own way, hatable.
But Brazil have two things going for them: they are hosts and they have Neymar.
Watching the hosts play is incredible, with booming national anthems, cities in raptures and stadiums as loud as any you'll find in sports. And as good as that may seem, it's even more amazing when a host wins the World Cup. The parties in 1998 when France won are still shown in World Cup highlight reels and the same would be true if Brazil won.
Neymar isn't too bad either. Blessed with great pace and the ability to control the ball at such high speeds, he can make the seemingly impossible happen. The 22-year-old is already a god in Brazil and would reach uncharted territory if he can lead his country to the World Cup on home soil.
For all of the things that make Brazil unpalatable, being the host and Neymar are more than enough to make up for it.
The country that brought the world "Total Football" almost won the World Cup four years ago by beating the piss out of everyone they came up against. In the end, Spain proved to be too much for their thuggery, and thank god. It wouldn't have been right for the beautiful Dutch to win the World Cup playing the way they played in South Africa.
Now the Dutch are back to play a more beautiful style of football. They poured in the goals in the group stage, scoring 10, and added two more in the last three minutes against Mexico to book their spot in the quarterfinals.
They still lack some star power -- Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben are the only ones on this team in transition -- and don't have the beloved characters like Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten or Clarence Seedorf of year's past so it's tough to go all-in on a team of relative unknowns. But there's till reason to root for them and if they do finally get their first World Cup this year, at least they'll do it playing close to the attacking style that made the country famous.
They have Paul Pogba. That alone makes France cool.
So are Yohan Cabaye, Blaise Matuidi, Mathieu Valbuena and Antoine Griezmann. So there is a lot of good in France.
The problem is they also have Olivier Giroud and Karim Benzema, neither of whom has looked mildly capable and have ruined all of the good things that France might do. They also have won a World Cup recently, aren't super attacking and fun and aren't an underdog. They don't fit into any easy "this is why we root for you!" box.
So there's good, bad, no narrative and nothing exceptional. Meh.
Theoretically, Belgium should be the team of the people. They're a small country, an upstart and filled with a ton of fun, young players.
But they haven't scored many goals, they're super physical and in four matches they haven't done anything cool.
Somehow, a team with Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku and Dries Mertens has been boring. They'll run through teams and win, probably with a goal in the last 10 minutes, but nobody has any fun in the first 80 minutes. Nobody has any highlights everyone is passing onto their friends. Nobody remembers Belgium.
They're not evil, but ugh.
The Germans don't tend to be the most likable of groups in anything. Now toss in slow, methodical play and there is absolutely no reason to like Germany.
Chalk it up to injuries, but Germany have been dour. They spend most of the match passing the ball back and forth 35 yards from goals and don't create many chances. They couldn't possibly play any slower and despite an array of attacking talent, none have emerged as stars.
Maybe if Marco Reus or Ilkay Gundogan were healthy, they could have made them somewhat fun, but they're not. And they're not while also being a world powerhouse and killer of all teams' dreams.
Plus, Joachim Löw picks his nose and Mats Hummels has dumb facial hair.