It’s the sporting event of the year, nay, the half-decade, and we can’t believe it’s already upon us.
As fun as watching Roger tear up Wimbledon is, and as enthralling and ultimately grossly unjust as this year’s Champions League final was, nothing quite compares the release of four years of anticipation that is the FIFA World Cup.
With 32 nations having already begun to battle it out to see who’ll lift that elusive (for England, at least), gleaming Jules Rimet trophy, we’ve now got a fairly decent idea about the cut of each team’s jib, and how likely they are to actually make it all the way, let alone out of their groups.
As such, we’ve put together this list of which universities most closely match up with which teams, and we’re also proud to feature never-before-seen, iPhone-X-camera-quality snaps of each nation’s stars chilling in their respective campuses (campi?). So scroll on down to find your uni in our supremely helpfully alphabetically ranked list, and feel free to lambast me in the comments section when yours isn’t Portugal or something.
University of Aberdeen — Colombia
Aberdeen students are known to be a right load of nutters, with their high-energy antics ensuring they’re never boring. Similarly, the Colombian national team have got their surprising share of big-name antics causers, with forwards like Radamel Falcao and James Rodriguez giving life and colour to the team. There’s also the quite obvious history of drugs when it comes to Colombia, so there’s that.
University of Bath — Poland
Poland are a bit of an odd one. They’re ranked 8th in the world at the minute by FIFA – and were as high as fifth just last summer – but they’re consistently quite an unexciting, droll team with only one actually good player (who also happens to be a traitor to Klopp, the dick). This lends them neatly to a comparison to Bath: a highly-ranked, well-respected uni which has a reputation for being pretty much… well, just not Bristol or Cardiff. Just nothing really. Keep doing what you’re doing we guess, but you’ll never win a World Cup or top a uni ranking table that way.
University of Birmingham — Denmark
Birmingham don’t really tend to do too well, but they’re quite a well-liked university by their students and they seem to have a grand old time trekking into city centre to spend about two quid on four drinks. Denmark, naturally, have quite a similar vibe – they’ve got a whole host of unremarkable but quite casually likeable players like Eriksen and Jorgensen, and they’re kind of muddling along through their group right now despite not being anywhere near the best. Much like Birmingham somehow seem to do in league tables. Hmm.
University of Bristol — Belgium
Belgium are everyone’s hipster choice of team in the last few years, it seems. They’re positioned just far enough behind your Frances and your Brazils so that they’re never reaaally in proper contention for a title, but they’re always floated about by people who think they’re giving you insider tips as being the team to put your money on. Similarly, Bristol are never, ever going to be as good as Oxbridge. It might be one of the most fun cities to be a student in, with an amazing nightlife, but we’re sorry, they’re just not. So get your Golden Virginia packet out, plunge your key into your little baggie of white stuff and whack a tenner on Lukaku scoring a brace. Belgium and Bristol, a match made in hipster heaven.
University of Cambridge — Spain
The two institutions which frequently hold the number one spot in their respective, er, industries, are too similar not to be matched up in our list. Cambridge students’ natural intelligence and Spain’s tiki-taka flair ensure they held all major international titles available to them from 2008-12. Life at the top must be fun.
Cardiff University — Croatia
Cardiff are another odd one. The city is much-loved by its residents and frequently produces quite significantly accomplished graduates, looking like a very pretty place the whole while. but it’ll never get near the tippity top of uni rankings. Croatia, too, see the likes of Rakitic and Modric take to the field for them every competition, and they play really decent stuff, but they have about as good a chance of winning this World Cup as Manchester United do of not being the most soulless team in the Premier League next year: slimmer than a Love Island contestant.
Coventry University — Mexico
Poor old Coventry. In and of themselves, they’re a pretty decent uni who make a really good go of it considering the relative paucity of their resources. Everyone who goes there has a great time, marvelling at how cheaply fun can be had, and no-one really expects much from them. They are, however, forever in the shadow of their nearby relatives Warwick, who constantly outshine them in every aspect of competition. Now replace the word ‘Coventry’ with Mexico and ‘Warwick’ with ‘South American footballing nations’ and tell me both sentences aren’t 100% true. Don’t @ me, Cov students.
Durham University – South Korea
When South Korea reached the semi-finals of the World Cup they co-hosted with Japan in 2002, a lot of people were confused at seeing their name up there with the big boys in the final four (and Turkey). Many claimed they had used dirty tactics to get there, and to be fair upon examination a lot of decisions going their way – and not being called against them – look increasingly dodgy. We’re not saying Durham are in any way using dodgy tactics to get near the top, but where I do see a comparison with South Korea is how confused I consistently am at seeing Durham ranked among the very top unis in the country, anecdotally. They’re really not that great at all, and when you see their name floated alongside Oxford and Cambridge it’s akin to seeing the South Koreans in a final four also featuring Brazil and Germany – perplexing and just plain wrong.
Edinburgh University — Switzerland
Did you know how highly Switzerland are ranked by FIFA? Top 20? Top 15? Well, technically yes, but we were surprised to learn that they were as high sixth in the world, as of June this year. Mindblowing, they’re not that good are they?! That’s pretty much exactly what we said when we learned that the lovely city of Edinburgh’s uni was ranked fifth in UK in QS’ World University Rankings this year.
Exeter University — Japan
Exeter aren’t the highest-ranked of unis in the world, if we’re being frank. But they always turn up and do a highly good job, somehow coming in fairly decently in league tables and providing a safe haven for Oxbridge rejects the world over (if they also got rejected from Bristol and Durham…). Similarly, Japan always do a decent job at tournaments. They’ll never set the footballing world alight but they’ll always put on a good show and, you know what? That has value too. Sort of like Exeter sort of does.
Glasgow University — Iceland
Both Iceland and Glasgow are quite fiery, feisty, beautiful little places which always seem to do a whole lot better than expected. Both engage in seemingly drunken (and for one of the two, very drunken) chanting on a regular basis, perplexing outsiders but also earning a grudging respect and admiration for how mental and entertaining they are. The only difference is that Iceland were able to beat England in 2014, whereas Scotland weren’t in that small little referendum. But hey ho.
Goldsmiths, University of London — Tunisia
Goldsmiths students are a mysterious bunch. One never knows much about them or their uni, and when you do encounter them out in public it’s always a bit of a shock as you never really know quite what to expect. In much the same vein, Tunisia turned up pretty much out of nowhere at this World Cup and proved to be an extremely unlikeable bunch of twats, basically, trying to game the referee and win by using rugby tactics. Hey, Goldsmiths are pretty good at rugby too, aren’t they? My comparisons even amaze me with how apt they are sometimes.
Imperial College London — Sweden
Imperial and Sweden are both quite odd brands. Both are clinically effectively in what feels like a rather sterile manner, with Imperial regularly topping the league tables without ever seeming to show any signs of having a soul or character behind them. Similarly, Sweden grind out dodgy 1-0 victories without ever threatening to actually play entertaining football.
King’s College London — Portugal
Overachieving every now and then, being a bit too up themselves, and constantly comparing themselves to their far superior neighbour and claiming they’re on the same level. These are the hallmarks of King’s College London and the Portugal national team. There might not be a Ronaldo equivalent on the King’s staff or student body, but one of them always wishes they were LSE and the other can’t help but wish they were Spain. We can see it, there’s no use hiding it.
University of Leeds — Senegal
Neither Leeds nor Senegal are ever gonna come top of anything official in terms of being a top uni or a World Cup winner, but you can’t deny that both of them are purveyors of fun, nonpareil. Whether it’s the Otley Run bringing out drunken students in their droves or Mane’s glorious finishing and joy-filled celebrations, both are always up for a good old party. And you can’t really say fairer than that, can you? No, no you can’t.
University of Leicester — Australia
Leicester are a fun bunch. They don’t have the best nightlife or the best uni ranking, but people seem to flock to them ad infinitum, praising them to the heavens for the beautiful scenery and… we’re not sure what else, culturally speaking. Australia are pretty similar – the gap year destination of choice, with only its beautiful vistas to tempt people, and an utterly shit football team. God knows how they made it to the World Cup.
University of Liverpool — England
Liverpool are a very well-liked and respected institution in the UK university world: despite only coming 36th in the top unis ranking for 2019, everyone seems to think they’re up there as one of the better Russell Groups. Similarly, the English national team are a source of constant disappointment to their multiple, ever-hopeful fans – everyone seems to think we’re a great team (we are on paper, I suppose) and a favourite for every competition we’re in (also true on paper, I reluctantly admit) but the last time we got close to a deep run in a major tournament was in 2002 when we got ousted by Ronaldinho’s Schrödinger’s-intention freekick against Seaman. Where do both of these two get their reputations from?
London School of Economics — France
LSE and France are both nearly the cream of the crop, but rarely actually there. Whether it’s losing out to Portugal at the final hurdle of consistently taking the bronze behind Oxbridge, both organisations know exactly what it’s like to be in the top three for something, but haven’t been number one for god knows how long. They’re also both quite pretentious, so there’s that. And they’re both in very pretty places.
University of Manchester — Brazil
Ever a mainstay, University of Manchester is one of the most beloved and populated universities in the UK. It’s almost synonymous with the classic uni experience with its array of great clubs, entertainment, absolutely amazing festivals and general facilities for student debauchery. The old guard, if you will. And Brazil are no different. They’re pretty much the most football-y footballing nation on the planet, having given us all time greats of the game like Roberto Firmino and Lucas Leiva, and showcasing a flamboyant, fun style which football is all about. Both are pretty darn great in our book.
Newcastle University — Egypt
Newcastle is a very well-liked by everyone up and down the country as a uni – there’s very little to hate about it, and it’s full of friendly, nice people. The odd twat, sure, but precious few compared to other unis on this list. Similarly, it’s incredibly hard to hate Egypt. Just look at Mo Salah’s beautiful, smiling face and you’ll be overtaken by a serenity difficult to find outside of a particularly good back and shoulder massage. Both are friendly and inoffensive.
University of Nottingham — Argentina
Nottingham is a big hitter in the uni world. It’s one of the biggest names, with one of the biggest student bases, and it also has a vague air of success and prestige about it which precedes its students wherever they go. Nonetheless, it’s not actually that great a uni for anything. It’s never near the top of league tables, it’s not amazing for sport, and it’s not quite as fun as Trent is. Similarly, despite having the greatest player of all time and a ridiculously stacked attack force, Argentina just consistently fail to turn up and actually deliver on the promise their name brings with it. As the painful loss to Croatia made clear, Argentina aren’t actually one of the big boys of the football world, as much as they might like to think they are.
Nottingham Trent University — Peru
They might not be right next to each other geographically, but Chile didn’t qualify for this World Cup so please allow me to claim Peru and Argentina as essentially neighbours, despite Bolivia’s existence. So yeah, Peru is Argentina’s smaller, more fun little neighbour as a team, without any of the crushing weight of expectations weighing down Messi and the gang and making them fail. They’re not remotely setting the world on fire in this tournament but they’re just happy to be here. Similarly, Nottingham Trent are no Nottingham in terms of the league tables, but they have a lot more fun and don’t suffer from the same expectations to be amazing as Uni Of seem to keep setting for themselves. What fun!
It’s FIFA World Cup season, which means there is no better time to figure out which UK uni matches up to which team vying to win football’s biggest prizeOxford University — Germany
Yeah, we get it Oxford, you’re the best. Or at least the second best, depending on the year. You can always expect to see Oxford taking one of the top two spots in England and coming at least in the top five in the world come uni league table season (everyone’s favourite time of year, no?), and Germany are the same. They’re always in and among the finals or at least the semis, but, barring that 7-1 four years ago, they don’t really do it with too much flair the same way 2008-12 Spain did. They’re boring. But hey ho, fair play to them, the consistency is very impressive, if unexciting. (Germany might have fucked this comparison for me by the time you read this based on their Mexico result, so please pretend they’re performing at their normal level if this is the case).
Oxford Brookes University — Saudi Arabia
Oxford Brookes are, unfortunately, not ever going to be world-beaters academically, in sporting terms, or even in nightlife because they’re in boring old Oxford. Similarly, as a footballing side, Saudi Arabia really don’t have all that much going for them – they’re already out of this year’s tournament, and were never really expected to go much further. The poor pair of them.
University of Sheffield — Costa Rica
Costa Rica aren’t the best of footballing nations, with no real history behind them and few star names to focus on. This made it incredibly surprising at last year’s World Cup when they advanced as far as the quarter finals, only losing out following a tight penalty shoot out with Holland. Sheffield, similarly, is certainly not one of the big boys – it’s no Oxbridge, it’s not even really a Durham, in terms of quality – but it’s consistently highly ranking for a whole host of subjects when the league tables come around, with some truly famous alumni.
Swansea University — Morocco
Swansea is a lovely, scenic little place to be a student in, with lots to see and do. But not all that much to gain academically. It’s a decent enough uni, but it’s not going to set any worlds alight in terms of how it’ll look on your CV. In the same vein, the Moroccan team to, despite their lack of obvious star quality, play surprisingly tidy and easy-on-the-eye football. In even more of the same vein, it doesn’t work out too well for them. They’re out of this year’s world cup already, but at least it was fun to watch while it lasted, eh?
Warwick University — Uruguay
Warwick are at the tippity top of the not quite tippity top tier of universities. They consistently come top ten without ever threatening to actually break into the truly upper echelon of higher education, much like a Uruguay team who are pretty much the best of the rest. Despite their lunatic star Suarez’s best efforts, they’re never gonna break into the semi finals against current opposition, much like Warwick look set to remain firmly towards the bottom of the top ten in the ranking tables for the foreseeable future. They also love a good romp with a stranger, incidentally.
University of the West of England — Russia
This one’s a pretty easy comparison. You’re having a laugh if you think they’re not doping to be playing the way they are this tournament