World Cup Team Comparisons for Bengals and AFC North

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 03: Haris Seferovic of Switzerland shows his dejection following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Sweden and Switzerland at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 3, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)
SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JULY 03: Haris Seferovic of Switzerland shows his dejection following the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Round of 16 match between Sweden and Switzerland at Saint Petersburg Stadium on July 3, 2018 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images) /

The World Cup, the biggest sporting event on the globe, is starting to heat up. How do these nationals compare with the Bengals and the AFC North?

It’s not football season yet, but in a way, it is very much “football” season. Training camp has begun, but more importantly, we are in the throes of the FIFA World Cup. The group stages have come and gone, as well as the first round of the knockout stages. Only eight teams remain, including favorites like Brazil and France, as well as host Russia. As the World Cup tension continues to rise, let’s compare a national team to each one of the teams in the AFC North, including the Bengals. The comparisons will factor in recent and historical team success, as well as roster makeup. Let me know if you think there’s a better comparison for any of these teams or whether you agree!

Cincinnati Bengals = Switzerland

What’s the knock on the Bengals every year? They’re good, but they can’t win in the playoffs. Over the course of the last decade, the team has made the playoffs six times. Each of those seasons, they have lost in the wild card round. The continued losing in the playoffs frustrates Bengals fans (including myself), but even the most have to admit the Bengals are still an above average team.

Switzerland has faced many of the same problems as the Bengals in their World Cup appearances. Like the Bengals, Switzerland has been really good recently, but hasn’t had that translate into World Cup success. They are currently on a 4 appearance streak in the World Cup, but haven’t advanced past the first round of the knockout stage in any of those four seasons. In their entire history, Switzerland has never advanced past the quarterfinals.

This year was probably the best chance Switzerland had of getting a knockout stage win. Going into the World Cup as the 6th best team in the world, Switzerland got a favorable draw against Sweden in the knockout round. Almost every metric projected Switzerland to win, but they missed several open shots en route to a 1-0 loss. That performance by the Swiss was very reminiscent of the 2013 Bengals team. They went 11-5, and 8-0 at home, before drawing the lowly Chargers in the wild card round. However, sloppy turnovers and porous defense allowed the Chargers to steal a victory in Cincinnati.

The similarities between the two teams run deeper. Many people blame the lack of playoff success on head coach Marvin Lewis. Certainly, his tenure as head coach has yielded terrible postseason results. Likewise, the Swiss head coach – Vladimir Petkovic – has had trouble in the playoffs. Until winning a championship with Lazio (an Italian team), he had put together good regular season teams, but no playoff winners. He even had to resign from Turkish club Samsunspor because they were facing relegation.

Both of these teams have been incredibly tough to watch as playoff season approaches over the last few years. Unfortunately for Switzerland, their run is already over. Hopefully, the Bengals don’t face the same fate.

Pittsburgh Steelers = Brazil

This one is pretty simple: the Steelers have been, and continue to be, one of the elite franchises in the NFL. Pittsburgh has been a model of consistency for the last five decades, and has had massive success in the process. The Steelers have won 6 Super Bowls, the most of any team in the NFL. Even now, they continue to be excellent. However, it has been a while since they won a Super Bowl. The Steelers should threaten to make it again this year, although they will face stiff competition.

Likewise, Brazil has been the model of consistency for national soccer teams. Brazil has 5 World Cups to their name, also the most of any nation. They have also qualified for the World Cup every single time – 21 consecutive appearances. The Brazilian team is always excellent, although like the Steelers, they have not won in a while. They haven’t won since 2002, even though they have been close each of the last three Cups. Brazil is definitely positioned to win again this year, but they’ll have to go through Belgium and France to even get to the final.

Oh, and there’s a connection between JuJu Smith-Schuster and Neymar (Brazil’s best player). So there’s that, too.

Baltimore Ravens = England

Is there a more boring good team than the Ravens? Every year they put together a solid season, usually making the playoffs, but without a lot of panache. Nobody is particularly enamored with Joe Flacco, and their strong defense lacks star power. England is very similar to that. They have participated in 15 of 21 World Cups, and often find their way into the knockout stage. However, they never have any of the soccer studs recognizable to the casual fan. With these two teams, they just find a way to win. And somehow, both of them have won championships.

Cleveland Browns = Austria

You may have noticed that Austria did not qualify for this year’s World Cup. That’s because they didn’t, and haven’t qualified for a World Cup since before 2000. The Browns have had the same problem making it to the playoffs. They have been putrid essentially since the turn of the century. The Browns and Austria both have a storied past, though. The Browns won NFL championships almost 100 years ago with Otto Graham at quarterback. Similarly, Austria was once a soccer power, making it to the World Cup semifinals in 1954. Also, both teams have a bit of optimism surrounding them now! The Browns finally have some young pieces, and Austria has rejuvenated fan interest with some defeats of traditional European powers. There’s hope for both teams yet.