Soccer Kicks off in South Africa

Franck Fife, AFP Getty Images

Soccer Kicks off in South Africa

The world of soccer functions independently of international markets. Of the 32 countries lining up for the quadrennial World Cup, which runs from June 11 to July 11 in South Africa, only two of the world's five largest economies are serious contenders. Just one of the up-and-coming BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) is taking the field (Brazil, of course), but economically imperiled Portugal, Italy, Greece, and Spain are all represented.

Although soccer is nowhere near a dominant sport in the U.S., one of the more remarkable phenomena of the most recent World Cup in 2006 was that TV ratings in the U.S. continued to swell even after the country's team was knocked out of contention. This year the U.S. team should progress into the next round but probably no further. Whom should the typical American spectator root for, then? Fans choose teams for all sorts of reasons, ranging from star players to the stylishness of their jerseys. Some just pick the one that seems most quirky. Put simply: Fear Brazil, back the plucky Serbs, and don the fetching green of Cameroon.

Click on to review the 32 national soccer teams that are ready to do battle at the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) 2010 World Cup.