A World Cup Cheat Sheet for Genealogists

By Andrew Koch Premium

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Learn what team to root for with this World Cup cheat sheet, designed for genealogists.

In a tough blow for US soccer fans, the United States failed to qualify for the upcoming 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. But that doesn’t mean Americans don’t have a team to root for this summer. As genealogists, we’ve discovered where our ancestors come from—and you can still root for your ancestors’ home countries that did make the tournament. Check out this World Cup cheat sheet to help you get started:


World Cup appearances: 17 (1930, 1934, 1958–1966, 1974–2018)

World Cup titles: Two (1978, 1986)


Key genealogical resourcesSouth American genealogy record guide, South American heritage guide download

What to watch: Few teams have the World Cup pedigree of La Albiceleste, who hope to follow their second-place finish in 2014 with another World Cup title. Lionel Messi (often considered the greatest living soccer player) and his crew look to make an impact, despite playing in rocky form as of late.


World Cup appearances: Five (1974, 2006–2018)


World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Australian genealogy records guide, guide to researching British roots in Australia

What to watch: A new coach and old players make up this Australian national team (or, as they call themselves, the “Socceroos”). They’ll have a tough time advancing from their stacked group, made up of France, Denmark and Peru.


World Cup appearances: 13 (1930–1938, 1954, 1970, 1982–2002, 2014–2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Belgium genealogy research guide (FamilySearch Wiki)

What to watch: The talented De Rode Duivels (“Red Devils”) are poised to make a deep run. But their team (a collection of all-stars) will need to gel for the squad to live up to their high expectations.


World Cup appearances: 21 (1930–2018)

World Cup titles: Five (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)

Key genealogical resourcesSouth American genealogy record guide, South American heritage guide download

What to watch: After getting walloped 7-1 by Germany at home during the 2014 World Cup semifinals, Brazil is out for revenge. Behind superstar Neymar, Seleção “(The Squad”) will hunt for a record sixth World Cup title.


World Cup appearances: Five (1986, 1998, 2002, 2010, 2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Danish genealogy guide (article), Danish Genealogy Research Techniques webinar

What to watch: Midfielder Christian Eriksen hopes to lead his team past favorited France. He’ll have support from the “roligans,” Denmark’s fans known for their respectful and peaceful support of the team. (Rolig means “calm” in Danish.)


World Cup appearances: 15 (1950–1970, 1982–1990, 1998–2018)

World Cup titles: One (1966)

Key genealogical resources: English Genealogy Cheat Sheet download, British Genealogy Research Strategies webinar

What to watch: England—often considered a sleeper in major tournaments—strives to finally live up to its hype. Its young roster will have to sneak past favorite Belgium, newcomer Panama and potential spoiler Tunisia. (Note: The member countries of the United Kingdom—England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland—compete separately in FIFA competitions. England is the only of the four to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.)


World Cup appearances: 15 (1930–1938, 1954, 1958, 1966, 1978–1986, 1998–2018)

World Cup titles: One (1998)

Key genealogical resources: Finding Your French Roots article, French genealogy glossary (article)

What to watch: Talented at every position, Les Bleus (“The Blues”) should have no trouble making it past the qualifying round. But can they win it all? Their previous World Cup appearances complicate predictions. They were champions in 1998, runners-up in 2006, and quarterfinalists in 2014. But they had early exits in 2002 and 2010.


World Cup appearances: 19 (1930–1938, 1954–2018)

World Cup titles: Four (1954, 1974, 1990, 2014)

Key genealogical resourcesTrace Your German Roots Online (book), German Genealogy Book Bundle (two books)German Genealogy Cheat Sheet download, Germany genealogy glossary (article), German Genealogy Crash Course webinar

What to watch: The reigning champions hope to become the first country since 1962 to win two World Cup titles in a row. Die Mannschaft (“The Team”) has the talent to make that dream a reality, and the legacy to boot. Germany has finished in the top three in the last four World Cups, and has never finished below tenth.


World Cup appearances: One (2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Discovering Scandinavian Roots article, Icelandic genealogy research guide (FamilySearch Wiki)

What to watch: Fan-favorite Iceland (the least populous nation to ever reach the World Cup) makes its World Cup debut in Russia. The team shocked Europe by upsetting England in the Euro 2016 quarterfinals. To raise even more heads, Iceland will need to sneak past Lionel Messi and the Argentines to advance from the group stage.


World Cup appearances: 16 (1930, 1950–1970, 1978, 1986, 1994–2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Mexican Genealogy Research Guide article, Mexican Heritage Guide downloadLatin American Genealogy Resources article

What to watch: The United States’ arch-soccer rival Mexico looks to end its six-tournament round-of-16 losing streak. El Tri (“the Tri,” short for “The Tricolor”) will need to topple Germany in the group stage and (likely) an energized Brazil in the round of 16 to do so.


World Cup appearances: Eight (1938, 1974–1986, 2002, 2006, 2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resourcesThe Family Tree Polish, Czech, and Slovak Genealogy Guide (book), 6 Websites for Polish Genealogy Research article, Best Polish Genealogy Strategies webinar, Polish Genealogy Cheat Sheet

What to watch: Though finishing third in the 1974 and 1982 World Cups, Biało-czerwoni (“The White and Reds”) have typically struggled in international play. Their recent success comes as a bit of a surprise, and the Poles hope to make an impact in their third World Cup in as many decades.


World Cup appearances: Seven (1966, 1986, 2002–2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: Iberian how-to genealogy article, Portuguese genealogy research guide (FamilySearch Wiki)

What to watch: Still fresh off their 2016 Euro Cup victory, Cristiano Ronaldo (another candidate for best living player) and the Portuguese team look to continue their success. They should have little difficulty advancing from the group stage, drawing Iran and Morocco (as well as Spain, easily Portugal’s biggest threat).


World Cup appearances: 11 (1958–1970, 1982–1994, 2002, 2014, 2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resourcesResearching ancestors in Russia (article), Russian genealogy resource list

What to watch: Hindered by injuries, Russia likely needed its automatic berth to make the tournament. The home team will need stellar play from star striker Fyodor Smolov to avoid becoming just the second host nation to exit the World Cup in the group stage.


World Cup appearances: 15 (1934, 1950, 1962, 1966, 1978–2018)

World Cup titles: One (2010)

Key genealogical resourcesIberian how-to genealogy article, How to understand Spanish surnames (article), Spanish genealogy glossary

What to watch: La Furia Roja (“The Red Fury”) live up to their name, dominating qualifying to earn a spot in their 11th straight World Cup. The team hasn’t lost a game in the nearly two years since coach Julen Lopetegui took over, and they’ll look to maintain that streak against their neighbor Portugal.


World Cup appearances: 12 (1934–1950, 1958, 1970–1978, 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resources: How to find Swedish genealogy records online (article)Trace Your Swedish Family History webinar, Scandinavian genealogy at a glance (article)

What to watch: The Blågult (“Blue-Yellow”) may not have the starpower of some other nations. But Sweden’s well-balanced team (which downed Italy and France in qualifying) could steal enough points from groupmates Germany and Mexico to survive and advance.


World Cup appearances: 11 (1934–1954, 1962, 1966, 1994, 2006–2018)

World Cup titles: None

Key genealogical resourcesSwiss genealogy resources article, Switzerland genealogy resource guide (FamilySearch Wiki)

What to watch: Switzerland drew a tough group, battling heavyweight Brazil, potential dark horse Costa Rica (which made a surprise run in the 2014 World Cup) and technically minded Serbia. But the Swiss have the talent to advance if they can stick to their game plan.