2018 World Cup: Who are local coaches, fans rooting for?

With USA missing tournament, England a popular pick in area

The World Cup begins Thursday in Russia without the United States for the first time since 1986.

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While TV viewership in the USA for the tournament soared from 3,273,000 in 2010 to to 4,557,000 in 2014, those numbers could plummet this year because of the absence of the Americans. Soccer may be more popular than ever in this country — witness the rise of FC Cincinnati — but the non-soccer fans who would have tuned into to watch the United States will have a hard time generating passion for the 2018 World Cup.

» LOOKING BACK: Fans gather in Dayton to watch 2014 World Cup

For die-hard fans, though, the World Cup remains the biggest and best sporting event in the world, and there are plenty of reasons to watch. Coaches and fans from around the area were asked last week two questions by email: Who do they want to win the World Cup, and who do they think will win?

Here are their answers:

Eric Golz, Dayton women’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "We are all very disappointed that the U.S. did not qualify as it is a missed opportunity for the growth of our game in this country and the development of the players at the world level. With the U.S. out of the tournament, I reluctantly have to root for England. Our staff here at Dayton includes three Americans, one from Ireland and one from England. England is the only one of those countries that qualified, so in an effort to support my assistant Dean Ward, I will be cheering for England."

Who he thinks will win: "Germany. World-class talent at every position. Very well-coached and organized. They have the resolve and mentality to rise to the occasion in biggest moments."

Dennis Currier, Dayton men’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win and who he thinks will win: "I will be rooting for and predicting Brazil will win the World Cup. They have the best attacking team in the tournament, and I have always enjoyed watching them play — the most exciting style in the world."

Patrick Ferguson, Wright State women’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "I would be rooting for any of the African countries to win, though they never seem to have the defensive discipline to do so."

Who he thinks will win: "I actually think Brazil or Germany has the best chance of winning."

Dwight Burgess, Wittenberg men’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "I am rooting for a couple of different things: England as that's my heritage; Argentina for Messi's sake; and of course, any underdog such as Iceland from 2014!"

Who he thinks will win: "European teams tend to win the Cups played in Europe, so you can't look past the big boys like Germany, Italy or Spain, but I'm going with Argentina!"

Nick Roberts, Urbana University men’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "Although I am now a USA citizen, I was born in England. Usually I follow both (USA and England). I even went to the 2006 World Cup in Germany following the USA. But it could be the usual painful experience for England fans — great promise, but always buckle under pressure, or go out on a PK shootout. … So I am bracing for a painful experience!"

Who he thinks will win: "Germany, I think will win. They are always there in the last eight or four. Won it in 2014. Robotic, efficient, well engineered. They will be the favorites. They got a mixture of youth and experience with a coach that has been there and done it. If not Germany, I think it will be Spain or Brazil. The most talented group on paper is Belgium, but some very big egos will likely spell trouble for them, especially for some major players likely to sit on the bench. England is talented but very young, and it almost feels like they are 'bloodin' this group for future tournaments, so Germany will be my pick. They know how to win tournaments, and that history of success is something that helps immensely."

Brett Faro, Cedarville University men’s soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "I do not have a specific team I am cheering for. Id love to see a few of the underdogs do well like Iceland or Egypt. I would also love to see (Lionel) Messi finally win a World Cup with Argentina. I am primarily looking forward to the high level of play and hopefully some great matchups."

Who he thinks will win: "I think Spain and Germany right now are both extremely talented and have a high chance to win. There are a few others out there like Brazil, France, and Argentina, but I think Spain and Germany both have quality national team programs and a good mix of youth and veterans in their squads that give them a good chance to win."

Shane Latham, Catholic Central boys soccer coach

Who he wants to win: "I will be rooting for England with their Tottenham Hotspur contingent of five players."

Who he thinks will win: "I think Germany will repeat as World Cup winners with Brazil, Argentina, Spain and France the main challengers."

Michael Muncy, president of the Dayton chapter of the U.S. soccer fan club, American Outlaws 

Who he wants to win: "I'm still super disappointed that the U.S. didn't make it to this World Cup. So since I'm a huge Manchester United supporter, I'll be following England. Many of the guys who play for Manchester United or in the English Premier League will be playing for them. Just because I'm rooting for them doesn't mean that I think they'll win it."

Who he thinks will win: "I think there are three teams who could win: Brazil, Germany or Spain. If I was to bet on one, I would pick Brazil. Brazil is a young talented team with guys like Fred, Gabriel Jesus and of course Neymar. They'll be hard to stop."

Neal Bucher, University of Dayton graduate

Who he wants to win: "Big Liverpool FC fan so I am pulling for Egypt, Senegal, and England. Brazil has two Liverpool players, but I can't bring myself to pull for a powerhouse when it comes to the World Cup."

Who he thinks will win: "Germany and Spain have ton of experience and are the most recent winners. I think Spain bounces back from 2014 and wins this year."

Kyle Young, University of Dayton graduate

Who he wants to win: "My wife Samantha was a high school goalie at Simon Kenton High School in Northern Kentucky. She has enjoyed watching (Thibaut) Courtois in goal, so she will be cheering on Belgium. I have enjoyed watching Premier League side Huddersfield Town on Saturday mornings at Yellow Cab Tavern in downtown Dayton, so I will be cheering on their players for Australia and Denmark."

Alex Maloney, Springfield Catholic Central graduate

Who he wants to win: "I'll likely be following/rooting for Belgium if I had to choose a team. During the (English Premier League) season, I follow Chelsea FC, whose best player is a Belgian named Eden Hazard. In fact, after Chelsea won the EPL in 2015, my wife and I named our new dog 'Hazard.' Also, their keeper, Thibaut Courtois, is the Chelsea keeper. I won't get as invested in Belgium as I would for the U.S., but it is still fun to follow a team through the tournament. While it will be disappointing to not see the U.S. playing, it is still fun to watch. For many soccer fans, watching the (European Championships) two years after the World Cup is just as fun as watching the World Cup."

Andy Foreman, Beavercreek

Who he wants to win: "In this year's World Cup, I'll most likely be rooting for Spain. They've got a very underrated group of forwards and will look to prove a point. I'll also be rooting for Egypt. They are my dark-horse nation in the tournament, only because of their star forward, Mo Salah. I think that they can easily make it out of their group."

Who he thinks will win: "I think the favorite to win it all would be reigning champs Germany or Brazil. However, I could see Belgium winning also. The Golden Boot winner could be anyone, but the favorites are obviously going to be Messi, Ronaldo andNeymar with an outside chance that Salah could win it if his nation makes it deep enough into the tournament."

Matt Murray, University of Dayton graduate

Who he wants to win: "I'm a big soccer fan and will be following it starting (Thursday). I will be rooting for England as they seem to be that hard-luck team in each major tournament. They were the Cubs before the Cubs won the World Series. Plus, I watch a lot of EPL and know and follow their entire team. Unfortunately for them, I have them losing to Poland in the round of 16."

Who he thinks will win: "I have Spain and Germany in the finals with Spain winning it all. They have probably the best goalkeeper in the world and a great defense."

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