How to Pick a European Club for New World Cup Converts
The 2014 World Cup broke TV viewing records around the world, with billions tuning in to see Germany lift the biggest prize in football.
If the action in Brazil has piqued your interest in the world's No. 1 sport, then firstly, welcome to the fold! Secondly, where have you been all this time?
FIFA's showpiece tournament might be the pinnacle of the beautiful game, but some might say that the very best of the action happens for 10 months every year across Europe.
World Cup fans who need some direction for the domestic season should read our guide to picking a European team...
If You Like Counter-Attacking Football...
In terms of tactics, there was a very clear message at this World Cup: Tiki-taka is dead, and it was slayed by the dragon named counter-attacking football.
Nowhere was this more clear than the Netherlands' destruction of Spain in the group stages. In Brazil, sitting back and waiting to attack on the break with pace was favoured over the beautiful-but-boring sideways passing of the former World champs.
This tactical shift was also reflected at the highest stage of European football last season. Pass-happy teams such as Barcelona and Bayern Munich faltered, while counter-attacking teams such as Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid went all the way to the final of the Champions League.
If the frenetic and bold counter-attacking shown by the likes of the Netherlands and Germany floated your boat, then you should think about backing one of the Madrid sides. If star-studded European champions are your thing, opt for Cristiano Ronaldo's Los Blancos. If you prefer to back the underdogs who took the league by storm, back the Rojiblancos.
If You Like Charismatic Managers Like Miguel Herrera...
Mexico may not have taken a trophy home, but in many people's eyes, their manager, Miguel Herrera, definitely won the World Cup.
Essentially, what Herrera lacks in a visible neck, he makes up for in so many other ways.
If a charismatic and affable manager is what you seek, then you should pick Borussia Dortmund, who are led by Juergen Klopp.
If You Enjoyed Watching Germany...
In each of their World Cup games, Germany played a very high defensive line, they rarely took their foot off the gas, they often played with a "false nine" (due to only having one 36-year-old striker in the squad) and they were extremely entertaining.
In many ways, they were the international version of Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich. Pep Guardiola's side have also utilised a striker-free formation, they play a high line and—much like Germany—they are usually a class above the competition.
It's no coincidence that seven of the players who helped Die Nationalmannschaft win the big prize were Bayern players.
So, if you like the German champions, choose the German champions.
If You Like Team USA...
The United States national team left Brazil with their heads held high. Against all odds, they escaped the "group of death" and earned respect from the rest of the world for their aggression, passion and never-give-up attitude. 'Murrica!
Fans of Team USA might like to pick Stoke City as their European team. Hear us out on this one.
Like the USA, they're not the most glamorous offering in the football spectrum, but they are also known for their aggressive style, and they win kudos for maintaining their Premier League place among teams with more financial power and finesse.
Stoke also have three Americans on their books: Geoff Cameron, Brek Shea and Maurice Edu.
Plus, their club colours are red, white and (a bit of) blue. What more could an American fan want?
If You Like Brazil...
If there is any team that can be compared to the current Brazil lineup, it is Arsenal.
The Gunners tend to start a campaign with an awful lot of hype, despite their fans complaining that they don't quite have the right players. Then, any hopes they have of winning the campaign are swiftly ended when they suffer a humiliating defeat. When it's over, half the fans want the manager to stay and half want him to go.
Now, read that last paragraph back and replace "The Gunners" with "Brazil."
See, told you.
If You Like the Underdog...
If you enjoyed the unexpected success of the likes of Costa Rica and Algeria, you might be the type of person who enjoys rooting for the underdog. In English football, there are few better examples of a David constantly overcoming Goliath than AFC Wimbledon.
Under their original Wimbledon FC name, the tiny southwest London side took just nine years to go from being a non-league team to a top-flight one in 1986. Then, two years later, they did the truly unthinkable, beating European behemoths Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.
Despite a minuscule budget and a relatively small fanbase, the Dons enjoyed nine seasons in the Premier League before a decline that eventually saw them sold to a consortium in Milton Keynes. They were renamed and given new club colours.
This extremely controversial move failed to kill Wimbledon's spirit, however, as fans started their own club from the very bottom of the football pyramid. Like its former iteration, AFC Wimbledon only took nine years to join the Football League.
These days the fan-owned club play in League Two. Next month, they will face the franchised Milton Keynes team in the League Cup. Might we suggest you follow the underdog in that one?
If You Like Winning Things...
Backing the underdog is great, but if you prefer more silverware-based gratification from your football, then you may wish to follow a team that gets on the podium a lot.
A good option would be Paris Saint-Germain, who have been fuelled by Qatari petrodollars since 2011. Their bottomless cash reserves mean the Parisiens can buy whomever they want, and they have assembled a megastar cast that includes Edinson Cavani, Ezequiel Lavezzi, Thiago Silva, Thiago Motta and The Mighty Zlatan.
The only other team in France who can even approach the financial clout of PSG are Monaco, but Laurent Blanc's side ran virtually unopposed last season, picking up the domestic treble.
PSG's owners have designed their "project" to go deep into the Champions League, a quest they have been improving upon each season. Don't be surprised to see them in the final four in the next few seasons.
If You Like WAGs...
While several World Cup teams operated strict "sex bans," many were complemented by an array of travelling WAGs.
The most notable supporting ladies were probably those of the German side, who were on the field in Rio to help celebrate their win.
However, the European side with the strongest WAG contingent might just be the aforementioned Brazil-alikes Arsenal.
Among the Gunners' better halves, you shall find the likes of Mandy Capristo (Mesut Ozil), Polly Parsons (Thomas Vermaelen), Melanie Slade (Theo Walcott) and recent addition Laia Grassi (Alexis Sanchez).
If You Like Drama and Chaos
Few teams at the World Cup had a more tumultuous time than Ghana.
While battling through the group of death, James Kwesi Appiah's side suffered bouts of in-fighting that saw two players sent home. Then, things really descended into farce when the Ghanaian football association was forced to fly $3 million out to the players to satiate their demands. The day after he was pictured kissing his share of the cash, John Boye then scored an own goal to help send his team home.
If you seek this kind of instability in a game of relatively predictable outcomes, then there are two current front-runners for your attention.
With the season just weeks away, Blackpool still only have eight contracted players on their book, filling out the numbers in a recent pre-season game with "trialists." In eastern Europe, meanwhile, Shakhtar Donetsk have confirmed that six of their star players have refused to return to the country due to the ongoing political conflicts.
If You're a Hipster...
Did you spend the summer waxing lyrical about Algeria's speed on the break while drinking from a jar in your local East London pop-up speakeasy? Do you now like to ride your fixie bicycle to five-a-side games and wear Iran's away kit while playing? If so, you might be a football hipster in the making.
If this is the case, your club should probably be FC St Pauli. The Hamburg club play in Germany's second division and are known as a "Kult" team for their extremely liberal and left-leaning fanbase.
They are a truly unique team, who are famed for an incredible matchday atmosphere. Plus, they play in brown shirts, which are, like, totally not mainstream, man.