World Cup 2014: Who should I cheer for?

Costa Rica, with the lowest military spending? Or maybe Cote d’Ivoire, with the lowest carbon emissions?

Costa Rica, with the lowest military spending? Or maybe Cote d’Ivoire, with the lowest carbon emissions?

Who do you cheer for in a World Cup game when your team’s not playing? As a Scot I face this dilemma for every single match. Do I pick the likely winner, or the underdog? Maybe a country I’ve been to, or have some connection with?

Having lived in England for many years, I’ll probably adopt it as my team for tomorrow’s England-Italy match. On the other hand, Italy definitely has the better food. And it’s beautiful. Then again, I would really like to believe that the English would never elect a Berlusconi.

The pitting of diverse countries against each other over the next month invites comparisons. I’ve never thought to compare Chile and Australia, playing tonight – except maybe on their wine.

The site, launched by the World Development Movement, ranks the 32 countries competing in Brazil according to five social justice indicators: military spending, carbon emissions, human development score, percentage of women in government and financial secrecy.

We’ve also given each country an overall ranking by adding together their scores on each of those five indicators. OK, so it’s not very scientific. Nor is the ranking intended as a serious assessment of how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ each country is.

But the results are still pretty interesting. Costa Rica ranks top of the table, with zero military expenditure and 39 per cent women in government. Spain, Mexico and Argentina take the next three places.

At the other end of the table is Iran, with only 3 per cent women in government. England comes in at number 20, while the US, with its high carbon emissions and astronomical military spending, is close to bottom at 29.

So where does that leave me for the England-Italy game on Saturday night? Fans may be more interested in whether England can rise above the humiliation dealt out by Italy in Euro 2012 in the form of Andrea Pirlo’s cheeky penalty chip into Joe Hart’s box. This seems something of an ask to me, given that Italy made it to the final two years ago after knocking England out, won the World Cup in 2006, and sport creative talent sorely lacking in England’s first eleven. But who knows…

What I can tell you is that Italy, coming in at number 8 on ‘Who should I cheer for?’, does a fair bit better than England on our social justice rankings. In fact it does better on four out of the five criteria, with lower carbon emissions, better financial transparency, more women in government and lower military spending. Despite all those years of Berlusconi.

Miriam Ross works for the World Development Movement

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