There are 32 teams at the World Cup, and with them come 32 team nicknames. Some of these monikers do not get high marks for originality, as they literally mean “national team” or are mere descriptions of a team’s colors. Others are far more interesting, with whimsically hued animals or nicknames that ascribe traits not normally associated with a certain countries. (Who knew that Belgians were particularly devilish?) In any case, here’s the rundown for this year’s World Cup, broken up into their corresponding categories.
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Russia: Sbornaya literally means “national team.” Come on, Russia. Your machine may never break, but your nickname game is broken.
Portugal: Selecao means “the selection.” Could you dumb it down a shade, Portugal?
Iran: “Team Melli” translates to “the national team.”
Germany: Die Mannschaft has an almost industrial heft to it but simply means “The Team.” You win the World Cup as many times as Germany has, you can choose whatever nickname you want.
SHOWING THE COLORS
Uruguay: La Celeste, the most common nickname for Uruguay, is pretty straightforward, as it means “the sky blue” and the team wears … sky-blue uniforms. But give me La Garra Charrúa (“the Charrúa Claw”) anytime. The secondary nickname is taken from the indigenous people of Uruguay and makes it sound as if Uruguay’s soccer team is composed of a bunch of old-timey pro wrestlers.
Spain: The 2010 champions could have just gone with the red of the Spanish flag and called it a day, but instead we have La Furia Roja — the Red Fury. It’s a nice touch.
France: Les Bleus sums up the color of France’s uniforms. Yawn.
Peru: La Blanquirroja is a fun-sounding word with a decidedly less-exciting meaning: “the white and red.”
Denmark: De Rød-Hvide is Danish for La Blanquirroja, more or less.
Argentina: La Albiceleste means white and sky blue.
Mexico: El Tri, after the three colors of Mexico’s flag (green, white and red).
Sweden: Another literal explanation of a team’s colors, with Blågult meaning “blue and yellow.”
Poland: Biało-czerwoni translates to the “white and reds,” which — and this will shock you — is the color of Poland’s national team. The team also is known as Orły, or the Eagles.
POSSIBLY MENACING ANIMALS
Saudi Arabia: The Green Falcons! Caw!
Morocco: When not touring as a mid-level college-rock band, the Atlas Lions are taking the pitch with a pretty solid nickname taken from the mountain range that dominates Morocco.
Nigeria: If you don’t dig the Super Eagles, I’m not sure you can be helped.
Brazil: Canarinho (“Little Canary”) is kind of the anti-Super Eagles, because who is going to be intimidated by a canary, but apparently there are many such yellow birds in Brazil.
Serbia: Orlovi are the Eagles to the English-speaking among us, a tip of the bill to the mighty birds that adorn the country’s coat of arms.
England: The Three Lions nickname is taken from an emblem that dates to King Richard I, who ruled from 1189 to 1199. Coincidentally, this also was the last time England was relevant on the world soccer stage.
Senegal: Les Lions de la Téranga, or the Lions of Teranga. In Senegal, Teranga is a concept of intense fellowship and hospitality that has become a way of life for the Western African nation.
A NOD TO HISTORY
Egypt: The pharaohs were ancient Egyptian rulers. The Pharaohs hope to advance past the World Cup group stage for the first time in their history.
Tunisia: The Eagles of Carthage take their name from the ancient Tunisian city. I know more today about the Third Punic War than I did yesterday. Thanks, Eagles of Carthage.
Japan: Samurai Blue pays tribute to Japan’s warrior class of past centuries and to the color of its jerseys.
MISC. GOOD NICKNAMES
Iceland: Strákarnir okkar, which translates to “Our Boys.” Don’t let the rah-rah nickname fool you: Iceland is ready to pillage.
Switzerland: Schweizer Nati or La Nati pretty much both mean “Switzerland national team” and almost got the Swiss thrown in the Literalist pile, but I’ll be rolling with Rossocrociati, or “Red Crusaders,” because a good national-team nickname should always suggest some sort of event involving swordplay.
Costa Rica: The Costa Rican people are known as Los Ticos, so it’s a pretty apt moniker for the country’s national team. Wikipedia suggests that the team also goes by “La Muerte,” which means “death” and is so metal, but Costa Rica is perhaps the least menacing place on Earth and I can’t wrap my head around this.
South Korea: The Taegeuk Warriors take their nickname from the circular symbol on the South Korean flag that denotes “supreme ultimate” and represents the duality of nature.
Belgium: Any way you translate it in a nation with three official languages — De Rode Duivels in Dutch, Les Diables Rouges in French or Die Roten Teufel in German — the Belgians are the Red Devils.
Panama: La Marea Roja means “the Red Tide,” which you probably should avoid both at the beach and on the pitch. Panama also goes by Los Canaleros, because it has a canal.
Colombia: They grow a lot of coffee beans in Colombia. Thus we have Los Cafeteros, or the coffee growers.
THE WORST. JUST THE WORST.
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