Squad #33

Squad #33
Thirty two national football teams will be contending the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.™ Every match will be observed from the spectator stalls by a large audience of fans. Welcome2018.com introduces the world championship's 33rd contender: the national team of fans.
Group А
Saudi Arabia
It is easy to tell Russian football fans at international competitions. They will wear striped Navy jerseys, ear-flap winter hats, Budyonovka Red Army helmets or Kokoshnik headbands. Sightings of Ded Moroz and the Snow Maiden are not infrequent. Before the match the Russians will roll out an extra huge banner that covers the entire stall sector. Lastly, the Russians will always sing Katiusha.

Russian fans tend to be inquisitive and are always eager to initiate small talk with their foreign peers. They seem to have a knack for connecting with foreigners in a friendly way despite the language barrier.

Russian fans were on their best behaviour during the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. The foreign squads, in particular, were thankful to the Russian fans for their support, which, they claimed, was just as strong as the support they get back home.

  • World Cup at home: 2018
  • Trips to the World Cup: 3
  • Taste of victory: 4th place at 1966 World Cup
  • They call themselves: Russkies, Rusichi, Rus
  • Outfit highlights: ear-flap hats, striped Navy jerseys, Kokoshnik headbands
  • Colours: white, blue & red
  • Group fixtures: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Samara
It is easy to spot a Saudi Arabian football fan. He will be donning an ankle-length dishdasha, or thobe, and a kufiyah – the traditional headscarf. Arab fans call themselves "Sons of the Desert," which they truly are. They usually carry themselves with dignity. No wonder there: most of them are, one way or another, related to some kind of royalty. They rarely dress up. The green national flag in his hands is as dressed up as a Saudi football fan gets.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 1994
  • They call themselves: Sons of the Desert
  • Outfit highlights: thobe and kufiyah
  • Colour: green
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Volgograd
A repeat winner of the African Nations Championship, it has been a while since the Egypt squad was last seen in a World Cup. This time, a large army of hopeful Egyptians is expected in Russia.

It is a no-brainer to guess what the Egyptian fans wear and what they call themselves. This will be the first World Cup since 1990 for the Pharaohs and they'll be dressed to impress. Pharaoh costumes really stand out and they look awesome amid the miscellany of the spectator stalls, particularly since they are such a rare sight. Notably, the Egypt fan crowd leads Africa in noisiness. When Egypt clinched its World Cup Russia entry and the jubilant fans invaded the field of play, even some paraplegic was seen jumping out of his wheelchair on the rim of the field.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 2
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 1934
  • They call themselves: The Pharaohs
  • Outfit highlights: Pharaoh costume
  • Colours: red, black & white
  • Group fixtures: Ekaterinburg, St. Petersburg, Volgograd
Uruguayan fans call themselves "The Charrúa" after the ancient Amerindian tribe that inhabited the territory of today's Uruguay thousands of years ago. The way the Uruguay squad fans paint their faces, it is easy to confuse them with the Argentineans: both use their national white and blue colours and the sun. The Uruguayans have no signature outfits. The Charrúa worship their squad leader, striker Luis Suarez, who currently plays for Spain's Barcelona. Nearly every Uruguayan fan with any self-respect will be bringing a Suarez face mask to the game.

  • World Cup at home: 1930
  • Trips to the World Cup: 12
  • Taste of victory: Gold in 1930 and 1950
  • They call themselves: The Charrúa, The Sky-Blue
  • Outfit highlights: blue squad jerseys, player masks
  • Colour: blue
  • Group fixtures: Ekaterinburg, Rostov-on-Don, Samara
Group B
They call the Portuguese the "Brazilians of Europe," which is only logical: they speak the same language as the Brazilians, their national character is similar, and so is their football methodology. The only difference is that the Portugal squad cannot boast nearly as many wins as their South American peers. The fans nonetheless really love their squad and expect them to win every time, ever since Eusebio. All Portugal fans wear their squad jerseys, and 80 percent of them will have a portrait of Christiano Ronaldo on them. Many will be bringing masks of the Portuguese football legend, too.

They did not wait in vain: Portugal finally made Euro Champion in 2016. After the triumphal final, videos went viral on the web where the Portuguese were shown in the streets of Paris comforting the tear-eyed French.

The Portugal squad and fans have previously visited Russia for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup. They are remembered as nice, friendly people. After the tournament, they said they had enjoyed their Russian trip and debunked the myth that Russia is not safe.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 6
  • Taste of victory: 1966 Bronze
  • They call themselves: the Seleção das Quinas (after the five blue shields on Portugal's historical coat of arms)
  • Outfit highlights: Christiano Ronaldo masks, squad jerseys, national flags
  • Colours: burgundy green
  • Group fixtures: Sochi, Moscow, Saransk
If you spot a crowd of people in bright red jerseys with some yellow parts of ornaments, you are looking at Spanish football fans. Their moniker goes well with the classic red of their jerseys: La Furia Roja. That is what they call the squad and the fans. Some of the fans will don torero outfits, but most will wear their squad uniforms.

The Spanish torcida can be treacherous. The fans are apt to turn their backs on a player any time, and will trenchantly criticize the player who has disappointed them. The ostracized player will in most cases stay away from the pitch: the pressure is too much. The stalls will rumble every time he as much as touches the football.

  • World Cup at home: 1982
  • Trips to the World Cup: 14
  • Taste of victory: Gold in 2010
  • They call themselves: La Furia Roja
  • Outfit highlights: Spain squad's red jersey
  • Colours: red and yellow
  • Group fixtures: Sochi, Kazan, Kaliningrad
The Lions of the Atlas, which is what Moroccan football fans, as well as the squad, call themselves, are one of the most cohesive support groups on the African continent. The Morocco fans will use a broad arsenal of "performing" implements in their red sector of the stalls: flags, banners, pipes and drums. Their shtick are "moving" banners, which are rare in Europe. Those are banners that fans pass around across the sector. As all Africans, Moroccan fans are equally passionate in their disappointment when their squad fail, and in their jubilation when the Lions of Atlas win.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 1986
  • They call themselves: Lions of the Atlas
  • Colour: red
  • Group fixtures: St. Petersburg, Moscow, Kaliningrad
The Iranian national football team was known as "Lions of Iran" before a better sounding name, "Princes of Persia," was coined. Despite Team Melli having no big wins to their credit, the fans always follow their squad around the world. They have visited Russia before, for a Russia-Iran friendly in September 2017. The Iranian fans seemed to enjoy the football match they played with their Russian peers in Kazan.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: group playoffs
  • They call themselves: Princes of Persia
  • Outfit highlights: national squad jerseys and flags
  • Colours: white, green & red
  • Group fixtures: St. Petersburg, Kazan, Saransk
Group C
France set up an official fan club for its national football team right before the 1998 World Cup, naming it Irresistibles Francais. The club was officially disbanded in 2005, but the fans carried on by themselves. There is another football fan grouping in France, the F.A.N.S. des Bleus.

The French fans are conspicuous, what with the abundance of their national colours on display. Hats with the image of a rooster, the symbol of France, are very common.

French fans will sing France's national anthem, the Marseillaise, before the match. Actually, they will sing the Marseillaise whenever they fell like it. But when they are not happy with the squad's play, they will whistle up a storm. Some time into the 2010 friendly with Spain, which France lost 0-2, the entire Stade de France defected and started rooting for the guest team.

  • World Cup at home: 1998
  • Trips to the World Cup: 14
  • Taste of victory: Gold in 1998; Silver in 2006, bronze in 1958 and 1986
  • They call themselves: Les Tricolores
  • Outfit highlights: rooster, the national emblem of France
  • Colours: blue, white & red
  • Group fixtures: Kazan, Ekaterinburg, Moscow
Australian fans are certain to make one of the most colourful groups at World Cup Russia. In fact, they are the heroes at any World Cup as they usually have to travel the longest distance to get there. The main attribute of the Socceroos? Well, the kangaroo, of course! The kangaroo is omnipresent in the yellow-green tide in the form of toys, hats, puppets and inflatables. One Aussie fan who came to Russia for the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup had carried his kangaroo inflated the whole trip.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 2006
  • They call themselves: The Socceroos
  • Outfit highlights: inflated kangaroos
  • Colours: yellow & green
  • Group fixtures: Kazan, Samara, Sochi
The Peru national football team was last seen in a World Cup in 1982. Having missed the world championship for 35 years, Peruvian fans celebrated with gusto when the tidings came that the squad won their Russia ticket.

The celebration actually began at the 28th minute of the reciprocal qualifier at home against New Zealand, when Jefferson Farfan scored his first. Only seconds later, the seismographs in Lima registered a small earthquake.

After the final whistle blew, the city was swept by a red and white tide of Los Incas, and the government declared a national holiday that day. "Vamos Roja y Blanca!" reverberated across Peru for another 24 hours, accompanied by the sounds of the national anthem. Peruvian fans will be a great addition to the World Cup menagerie.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: breaks into the second round in 1970 and 1978
  • They call themselves: The Incas
  • Outfit highlights: Inca costumes, national colours
  • Colours: red and white
  • Group fixtures: Saransk, Ekaterinburg, Sochi
The Denmark national team can be proud of its army of fans – some of the most loyal supporters in the world. No matter how lousy their play, the fans will always stand by the squad with nary a peep of criticism.

Danish fans call themselves Roligans, having inherited this nickname from the Danish fan movement of the 1980s. It derives from the word "rolig," which means "calm" in Danish, ironically merged with the English word "hooligan". In keeping with their name, the Roligans are probably the most calm and peaceful football fans around. The Denmark squad trust their fans. When one of the players is, for whatever reason, unable to play, he will watch the game sitting in the fan sector as opposed to a VIP box.

Like all Scandinavians, Danish fans sport Viking outfits, complete with red and white horned helmets.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 1998
  • They call themselves: Olsen's Eleven
  • Outfit highlights: horned Viking helmets, beards
  • Colours: red & white
  • Group fixtures: Saransk, Samara, Moscow
On April 26, we'll publish a story about fans of teams in Group С.
Stay tuned in for more news!
Photo credits
Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images, Robbie Jay Barratt — AMA/Getty Images, Lars Ronbog/FrontzoneSport via Getty Images, Matthias Hangst/Getty Images, Jamie McDonald/Getty Images, Aleksandr Demyanchuk/TASS, Fared Kotb/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, Mustafa Yalcin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, Jeff Gross/Getty Images, Hannah Peters/Getty Images, Maja Hitij/Getty Images, Foto Olimpik/NurPhoto via Getty Images, Matthew Lewis/Getty Images