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With the home team out, here are 10 World Cup teams worth cheering

The U.S. national team is sitting out this summer’s World Cup but that doesn’t mean U.S. fans have to remain on the sidelines. Of the 32 nations that did qualify for the tournament, several offer compelling arguments for support. Here, in no particular order, are 10 teams worth cheering for:

Mexico: With more than 40 million followers in the U.S., El Tri is already one of the most popular teams in this country in any sport. And since much of that fan base resides in Southern California, it shouldn’t be hard to find your way to the Mexican bandwagon.

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Iceland: The smallest country to qualify for a World Cup, Iceland is a David in a field of Goliaths led by a coach who worked part-time as a dentist until 2016. Plus the team colors are red, white and blue so you don’t even need a new wardrobe.

Egypt: Before this year Egypt had qualified for the World Cup just once since World War II — in 1990, when it was eliminated in group play without winning a game. It returns this summer led by Mohamed Salah, a dynamic striker who entered the final day of play Sunday leading the English Premier League in scoring with a record-tying 31 goals.

Panama: With a roster led by former Galaxy goalkeeper Jaime Penedo and more than a half-dozen other current and former MLS players, Panama will be playing in the World Cup for the first time. Its stay could be short though since the team was drawn into a group that includes Belgium and England.

Peru: Goalkeeper Leao Butron is the only man in the World Cup player pool who was alive the last time Peru played in the World Cup, in 1982. And they barely made it to this one, edging Chile on goal differential to escape the South American qualifying tournament, then beating New Zealand in a two-leg intercontinental playoff.

Argentina: Is it possible to be the greatest player of all time without winning a world championship? Lionel Messi, who lost to Germany in extra time four years ago, may have to answer that question if Argentina comes home empty-handed again.

Portugal: See Argentina, above, only substitute Cristiano Ronaldo’s name for Messi’s. Ronaldo has won a European title with his national team and multiple Champions League crowns with Real Madrid but never a World Cup.

Germany: The defending champions are so deep they sent a B team to Russia last summer and came home with the Confederations Cup title. Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, though, since no Confederations Cup winner has ever won the World Cup the following year. And in the last 80 years only one World Cup winner — Brazil in 1962 — successfully defended its title.

Denmark: Last spring the Danes were 51st in the FIFA world rankings. But then they went unbeaten in their final nine European qualifiers to reach the World Cup for the second time in 16 years.

Brazil: No country has won this tournament more often than Brazil, although the Selecao’s last World Cup, played on home soil, ended in an embarrassing 7-1 semifinal loss to Germany. Brazil rebounded to win gold in the 2016 Olympics then finished first in the South American qualifying tournament under new coach Tite.

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