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
Group D
Argentina fans are hotheads, like all South Americans. Albiceleste fans consider themselves to be part of the squad. Players often find that their performance in the field of play reflects on their daily life. For example, following the victorious 1986 World Cup final, Argentina squad fans piled up heaps of flowers outside the home of Diego Maradona's mother. They sang and danced and prayed for Maradona's family all night.

The life of Argentina football fans revolves around their national team. They frequently stop by the squad's base to talk, share ideas, give some good advice.

Speaking at the 2018 World Cup press event in Buenos Ayres, Fabricio Di Giambattista, President of the Argentinean Federation of Travel Agencies' Associations, promised that an average of at least 20,000 fans will be supporting the Argentina squad at every match in Russia.

  • World Cup at home: 1978
  • Trips to the World Cup: 16
  • Taste of victory: Gold in 1978 and 1986; Silver in 1930, 1990 and 2014
  • They call themselves: La Albiceleste (White and Sky Blue)
  • Outfit highlights: the sun, squad jerseys, flags
  • Colours: white & blue
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Nizhny Novgorod, St. Petersburg
For years, the Iceland national team has done quite well in international competition qualifiers, but never quite cut it. Not until the recent breakthrough that saw the descendants of Erik the Red make the 2016 Euro championship in France. Some 30,000 Vikings left home to support the squad, leaving their island quite depopulated, as went the popular joke at the time.

In France, the Vikings are remembered by… well, the usual Viking stuff like horned helmets, beards and axe-swords (inflatable). But most of all they are remembered by their "soccer war chant" – Khoo! – with a synchronized overhead hand-clap. The Euro was not even over when other squads' fans borrowed this simple yet powerful chant.

For the Iceland squad, the Euro championship concluded with an epic homecoming party in Reykjavik's main square. The footballers beat the drum on stage, while the massive crowd below chanted "Khoo!" and clapped hands. They say as many as 100 thousand people showed up, or about 1/3 of Iceland's population.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: none
  • Taste of victory: none
  • They call themselves: The Vikings
  • Outfit highlights: Viking costumes, the "soccer war chant"
  • Colours: blue and red
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don
Football fans from the Balkans are in a league of their own, and it is the elite league of Europe's fan community. Few squads boast a support base as powerful as what the former Yugoslavia squads have.

The Croatians wear no elaborate costumes, but you can always detect them in the fan crowd by their original chequered outfits. The synchronicity and the decibels emanating from the Croatian stall sector are to be reckoned with. They call themselves "Vatreni" which means "The Fiery Ones," for good reason. They received this nickname from Croatia head coach Slaven Bilic about ten years ago, when he recorded a rock number of the same name with his band.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: Bronze in 1998
  • They call themselves: The Fiery Ones, The Chequered Ones
  • Outfits highlights: chequered red and white jerseys and flags
  • Colours: red, white and blue
  • Group fixtures: Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don
Similarly to other African fans, Nigerians practice shamanic rituals during football matches. Shamanism at football matches is officially prohibited on the Black Continent, but not elsewhere – and not at the World Cup. The fans of the Super Eagles go at it no holds barred. If you're fortunate enough, you may spot a Nigerian football fan with a live chicken. This bird is considered a lucky talisman in Nigeria. The prohibition on bringing live chickens into stadiums was imposed fairly recently. Nigeria claimed it was their chickens who propelled them to the top of their group in 1998.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 5
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 1994, 1998 and 2014
  • They call themselves: The Super Eagles
  • Outfits highlights: jerseys, flags, grain face paint
  • Colours: green and white
  • Group fixtures: Kaliningrad, Volgograd, St. Petersburg
Group E
Costa Rica
Brazil is the world's only team that has never missed a single World Cup, so Brazil fans are the World Cup old-timers. The five-time world champions, who call themselves the Seleção, have some very demanding fans. The squad have to remember at all times that any error on their part may entail unpleasant consequences. On those rare occasions when Brazil fails, heart attacks are quite common. One fan actually committed suicide when Brazil lost to Uruguay at home in the legendary World Cup 1950 final.

Contrary to a widespread myth, very few Brazilians will wear carnival outfits for a World Cup. The all-important must-have for a Brazil fan is the bright yellow jersey – the classic Pentacampeones top. The other articles of dress are also dominated by bright colours: green, blue or orange. The white trousers are in the past. Ilf and Petrov wrote about those, remember? Brazilians prefer casual, comfortable clothes. They will wear shorts and flip-flops in the summertime. They also like to carry a World Cup replica around.

  • World Cup at home: 1950 and 2014
  • Trips to the World Cup: 20
  • Taste of victory: World Cup Gold in 1958, 1962, 1970, 1994 and 2002; Silver in 1950 and 1998; Bronze in 1938 and 1978
  • They call themselves: Seleção
  • Outfit highlights: the squad's bright yellow jerseys
  • Colours: yellow, green and white
  • Group fixtures: Rostov-on-Don, St. Petersburg, Moscow
Switzerland fans are prone to mood swings. Usually friendly and positive, they can get pretty rough when their squad is failing. They think nothing of booing their own squad. Switzerland's head coach Vladimir Petkovic once admonished the Swiss fans on account of their behaviour, asking them to be nicer to the squad.

But the Swiss fans are nice and fun overall, especially when they dress up, wearing hats shaped like slices of cheese, or alpine cow costumes. The cow costume is a set of spotted pyjamas with an udder, complemented by a horned face mask. For sound, they use Swiss cowbells enlarged several times over.

  • World Cup at home: 1954
  • Trips to the World Cup: 10
  • Taste of victory: quarter finals in 1934, 1938 and 1954
  • They call themselves: Schweizer Nati
  • Outfits highlights: cheese hats, cow costumes, cowbells, watches
  • Colours: red and white
  • Group fixtures: Rostov-on-Don, Kaliningrad, Nizhny Novgorod
The Costa Rica national football team was the 2014 World Cup Brazil sensation. Standing no chance at all in their group against England, Italy and Uruguay, they ended up topping the group against all odds. Then the Ticos kicked Greece out of the 1/8 finals, but eventually lost to the Netherlands on penalties in the quarterfinals. The Ticos' fans continued to shock the public with their death-themed attire – skulls, scythes and what not - throughout the tournament. A snap of some similarly clad Costa Rica fan with a poster that read "Good bye, England" went viral. Wrestler masks similar to the Mexican ones were also frequently spotted in the Costa Rica stall sector.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: 2014 quarterfinals
  • They call themselves: Los Ticos
  • Outfit highlights: national jerseys and flags
  • Colours: blue and red
  • Group fixtures: Samara, St. Petersburg, Nizhny Novgorod
Serbia fans, along with Croatia, are some of the most ebullient exponents of the European football fandom. Wherever a Serbia national team plays – whether it's the football national squad, junior squad, or basketball team – that's where the Serbia fans are in droves, providing powerful support. Last September, a crowd of some 20,000 fans gathered in central Belgrade after Serbia had finished second in the basketball Euro championship, joining the squad in the singing of the national anthem.

Everyone, young and old, sings perfectly in chorus in the Serbia fan sector.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 1 as Serbia team, 1 as Serbia and Montenegro team, 1 as Federal Republic of Yugoslavia team, 8 as Yugoslavia team.
  • Taste of victory: Bronze in 1930, fourth place in 1962
  • They call themselves: White Eagles
  • Colours: white, blue and red
  • Group fixtures: Samara, Kaliningrad, Moscow
Group F
South Korea
The Germans – fans and squad both - always stand out at World Cups. The fans are a great show in their own right, just like the "Deutsche Maschinen." When they go strutting, the sea of national colours, wildest costumes and hectolitres of beer makes it look like the Oktoberfest.

The official fan club of the Germany national football team, set up a few years prior to the 2006 World Cup Germany, includes a large contingent of celebrities, as well as regular fans. Soon thereafter the German TV host Oliver Pocher composed the national football anthem, Schwarz und Weiss (Black and White, the national squad colours), which the fans sing during matches.

Sometimes the Germans may seem to be acting a little strange in their spectator stalls. Is it because the squad has pampered them with too many wins? Sometimes it seems that Germany fans are not so excited to see their squad score a goal. Perhaps they take it for granted.

  • World Cup at home: 1974, 2006
  • Trips to the World Cup: 18
  • Taste of victory: World Cup Gold in 1954, 1974, 1990 and 2014; Silver in 1966, 1982, 1986 and 2002; Bronze in 1934, 1970, 2006 and 2010
  • They call themselves: The Bundesteam
  • Outfit highlights: leather shorts, top-hats, dindles
  • Colours: black, red and yellow
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Sochi, Kazan
It is perhaps easiest of all to tell a Mexico fan in a crowd. For one thing, his sombrero is visible from a mile away. Ponchos are rare. Maybe summertime is not the right season to wear something as warm as a poncho. The Mexicans love to wear wrestler masks, dress up as superheroes or as Aztec Indians. That's what they call themselves: The Aztecs.

The Mexico squad played in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup, and a few thousand Mexico fans travelled to the far-off land of Russia to support them.

  • World Cup at home: 1970, 1986
  • Trips to the World Cup: 15
  • Taste of victory: quarterfinals in 1970 and 1986
  • They call themselves: The Aztecs
  • Outfit highlights: superhero costumes, Aztec costumes, sombreros
  • Colours: green, white and red
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Ekaterinburg
No Scandinavian fans have ever been heard bad-mouthing their squad, and the Swedes are no exception. They are peaceful, dress up as Vikings, drink beer, and occasionally wear their ice hockey squad sweaters to football matches. Although hard criticism of the squad is taboo, some light-hearted trolling is acceptable. Sweden lost to Ukraine 1-2 in the group competition of the 2012 Euro championship. One missed goal was a corner shot that went in because the defender, Mikael Lustig, had taken a wrong position, leaving a gap between himself and the goalpost. That's where the ball went in. The fans' response was to stage an online flash-mob, posting their selfies hugging all kinds of objects that looked remotely like a goalpost: lampposts, traffic signs, trees and what not.

  • World Cups at home: 1958
  • Trips to the World Cup: 11
  • Taste of victory: Silver in 1958, Bronze in 1950 and 1994
  • They call themselves: The Tre Kronor (Three Crowns)
  • Outfit highlights: national jerseys and flags
  • Colours: yellow and blue
  • Group fixtures: Nizhny Novgorod, Sochi, Ekaterinburg
South Korea fans call themselves "Red Devils," same as Belgium fans. The Asian fans also dress the same as their Belgian peers to match their nickname: red horns, tails and pitchforks. However, their peaceful conduct clashes with both their moniker and their dress. South Korea have one more nickname: Taegeuk Warriors, in honour of the coat of arms depicted on the South Korea national flag.

  • World Cups at home: 2002
  • Trips to the World Cup: 9
  • Taste of victory: 4th place in 2002 World Cup
  • They call themselves: Taegeuk Warriors, Red Devils
  • Outfit highlights: horns and pitchforks
  • Colours: red and white
  • Group fixtures: Nizhny Novgorod, Rostov-on-Don, Kazan
Group G
The fans nicknamed the Belgium squad "Red Devils" for their extreme playing zeal in the 1920s. The nickname stuck to both the squad and the fans, who call themselves "Red Devils" to this day. Accordingly, the colour red is preponderant in their attire. Horns can often be seen on their heads and pitchforks in their hands.

The fans actively engage with their squad on a regular basis. When one of the squad's leading players, Radja Nainggolan, fell out with the coach and the quarrel threatened to become permanent, it was the fans who assisted in the player's return to the squad. The fans would hang out banners in support of Nainggolan for nearly a year, and eventually had their way.

  • World Cups at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 12
  • Taste of victory: 4th place in 1986 World Cup
  • They call themselves: Red Devils
  • Outfit highlights: horns, pitchforks, Gallic helmets
  • Colour: red
  • Group fixtures: Sochi, Moscow, Kaliningrad
Panama fans and the Panama national football team are both new to the world championship. Los Canaleros, which is what they call themselves, are a resourceful lot. We know that much from the decisive qualifier against Costa Rica, when the Panama fans put up a banner in Russian, saying: "Hey, squad! Our dream is to make the World Cup!"

Panamanian authorities declared a national holiday on the day when Panama secured its first-ever World Cup ticket.

  • World Cups at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: the Russia trip is their first
  • Taste of Victory: World Cup entry
  • They call themselves: Los Canaleros
  • Outfit highlights: jerseys and flags
  • Colours: red, white and blue
  • Group fixtures: Sochi, Nizhny Novgorod, Saransk
Tunisia fans stand out from the rest of the African football fandom. The Eagles of Carthage, as they call themselves, really go out of their way to encourage their squad, but their style is closer to European mainstream. The common all-African routines of crazy dancing and individual acrobatic stunts are rare in the Tunisia sector. Tunisia fans rather like to paint their faces and bodies. They mostly paint eagles. An Eagles fan painted the World Cup Russia emblem on his body at one of the squad's recent group matches.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 4
  • Taste of victory: group stage
  • They call themselves: Eagles of Carthage
  • Outfit highlights: eagle images and costumes, body painting
  • Colours: red and white
  • Group fixtures: Volgograd, Moscow, Saransk
Football is a religion and often also a lifestyle to the English. It is common to not miss a single match of their squad for years. They can sing their football chants and drink beer forever in celebration of the England team. Even though England has been down on luck for decades, having won virtually naught since the 1966 World Cup Gold, the fans always have high expectations for their squad.

The Lions can get mean and vengeful. Disappointed with the play of their midfielder Raheem Sterling at the 2016 Euro Cup in France, the fans started a fund-raising campaign to send Sterling home to England. It took them one hour to collect the 300 pounds.

  • World Cups at home: 1966
  • Trips to the World Cup: 14
  • Taste of victory: Gold in 1966
  • They call themselves: The Three Lions
  • Outfit highlights: squad jerseys, red crosses
  • Colours: white and red
  • Group fixtures: Volgograd, Nizhny Novgorod, Kaliningrad
Group H
Polish football fans have the reputation of being among the most fervent and fanatical on the continent, rivalled only by the Balkan fans. They will march in colourful processions at every international competition, stretch giant banners at the matches, stage all kinds of scenic shows. Their song repertoire is the envy of every other fan: they seem to have a song up their sleeve for any occasion. There is a song for the beginning of a match, a song for a missed goal, scored goal and crushing defeat, and there is a song for the opposing team (it starts with the line: "Go home! We won't tell anyone"). The Poles will always go to the wire with their squad, although they are well aware of the squad's capabilities. When Poland got kicked out of group in the 2012 Euro at home, the squad invited their fans to Warsaw's main square to thank them for their support. The plaza was totally packed.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 7
  • Taste of victory: Bronze in 1974 and 1982
  • They call themselves: White Eagles
  • Outfit highlights: jerseys, flags
  • Colours: white and red
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Kazan, Volgograd
This beggars belief, but shamanic rituals during football games really are officially banned by law in many African countries. And yet sorcerers abound in the audience, and Senegal is no exception. The shamanism ban, however, does not apply to the World Cup: expect to see a lot of African fans doing weird rituals, it's all par for the course to them.

Senegal's sorcerer-in-chief, Lingel Ngoi Bai, visited the 2002 World Cup, where the Senegal team had its debut. He made no attempt to conceal his identity and talked the media. He promised he would be working his magic from his hotel room to "banish the evil spirits from the goal of Senegal." The sorcery surely did no harm: the first-timer squad sensationally made the quarterfinals.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 1
  • Taste of victory: quarterfinals in 2002
  • They call themselves: Lions of Teranga
  • Outfit highlights: obis and talismans
  • Colours: green, yellow and red
  • Group fixtures: Moscow, Ekaterinburg, Samara
It is only logical that Colombian fans should call themselves Los Cafeteros, or Coffee Growers. Like all South Americans, they root for their squad sincerely, with fervour and flair. The Colombians are religious – you can often see them pray to the Lord at the stadium, and they will also sing psalms. Some Colombian fans will dress up like the Pope, or like cardinals, monks or nuns. Colombian fans can occasionally go too far in their frenzied passion for football.

  • World Cup at home: none
  • Trips to the World Cup: 5
  • Taste of victory: quarterfinals in 2014
  • They call themselves: Los Cafeteros
  • Outfit highlights: costumes of clergyman or superheroes
  • Colours: yellow and blue
  • Group fixtures: Saransk, Kazan, Samara
Like all things Japanese, the football fans from the land of the rising sun are cool and unusual. Their costumes of staggering complexity and artful diversity place them notches above the rest of the crowd. If a Japanese undertakes the job of making a costume, he or she will surely end up with a work of art. They will dress up as samurai, geishas, fabulous creatures, transformers, and what not. One of the trademark traits of Japanese football fans is their incomparable politeness. There is not a single football-related incident on record involving a Japanese person. Moreover, Japanese fans will clean up their stall before leaving the stadium.

  • World Cup at home: 1
  • Trips to the World Cup: 5
  • Taste of victory: ⅛ finals in 2006 and 2010
  • They call themselves: Blue Samurai
  • Outfit highlights: costumes of samurai and fabulous heroes
  • Colour: blue
  • Group fixtures: Saransk, Ekaterinburg, Volgograd
Photo credits
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, Maja Hitij/Getty Images, Omar Vega/LatinContent/Getty Images, liewig christian/Corbis via Getty Images, Jamie Squire/Getty Images, Nick Potts - EMPICS/Getty Images, Adam Davy - EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images, Catherine Ivill - AMA/Getty Images, Quinn Rooney/Getty Images, Artem Korotaev/ТАСС, Matthias Hangst/Getty Images, VI Images via Getty Images, Cem Ozdel/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images, EMPICS/PA Images via Getty Images, William Van Hecke/Corbis via Getty Images, Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images, Gabriel Aponte/Getty Images, Gabriel Rossi/Getty Images, Alex Livesey/Getty Images, Mike Egerton/PA Images via Getty Images