The Beautiful Game

The World Cup Starts This Weekend and Local Soccer Fans Are Stoked

We asked four IMG Academy soccer coaches from around the world about their countries' teams and chances.

By Hannah Wallace November 17, 2022

Image: Kari Perrin

The World Cup kicks off Sunday, Nov. 20, when host nation Qatar takes on Ecuador and, soon after, 30 other teams (initially divided into groups of four) will join the monthlong fight for the most coveted trophy in team sports. Here in southwest Florida, staunch soccer supporters have already begun banging their drums and painting their faces.

While many here are hoping for a strong showing from the Stars and Stripes, our local fandom, like the Beautiful Game itself, touches every corner of the globe. For a sense of just how varied and colorful this event and its supporters can be, we asked four soccer coaches—and die-hard World Cup fans—from Bradenton sports mecca IMG Academy to share their World Cup hopes and fears, and what they think their teams will have to do to be successful.

Keith Fulk, U.S.A. (Group B)

Keith Fulk moved to the Sarasota-Bradenton area in the early 2000s to coach for the U.S. Soccer residency program, an elite training center for the country’s best young players that was then housed at IMG. (U.S. Soccer shifted the program to nationwide residencies in 2017.) “There are eight or nine players on the team in Qatar that were here in Bradenton-Sarasota for a two-year cycle,” he says. “It’s pretty cool that I had the opportunity to coach them.”

On IMG’s international soccer fandoms:

“The banter around here is hilarious—just constantly ripping each other. But we have a player from Argentina, and the other day he decided to grill for us. He cooked all this meat with chimichurri sauce. It was incredible. We were all saying it’s the best meal we had in weeks.”

What the U.S. needs to do to be successful:

“Be on the front foot, step up, press high and have a lot of energy. We’re not going to sit back, do the big buildups and keep possession of the ball like some of the best countries in the world, like Brazil. We want to play aggressive, win the ball in the midfield and go right to goal.”

Players to watch:

“Christian Pulisic is a special player. He’s just this kid from Hershey, Pennsylvania, and he plays for one of the biggest clubs in the world [Chelsea FC]. Tyler Adams is kind of the engine of the team and Weston McKennie, they’re part of a great midfield—they were all here [at IMG]. The thing is our youth. You don’t know how they’re going to react on the big stage.”

How to behave like a true U.S. supporter:

“We have a lot of English guys in the office, and since England’s in our group, we’ve been going at them. One guy said today the U.S. was going to lose all three games. I said, ‘England hasn’t won it since 1966 when it was in England and you fixed everything!’ It’s the No. 1 sport in the world, and the environment is second-to-none when it comes to the world supporting their countries. I’m proud to be an American. Still, I’m not going to watch the U.S.-England game with my buddy from England. I’m too involved.”

Opponents to watch for:

“I think England will win the group, but Wales and Iran are good, good soccer countries. The World Cup [includes] the best soccer countries in the world, and the world’s No. 1 sport is soccer. It’s going to be difficult.”

What he would consider a successful World Cup:

“I think we’ll finish second in our group if we can get a point out of England, and I think we can beat Iran and maybe Wales. Hopefully, get a point out of every game. When you have a loss, it’s tougher to get out of the group stage.”

Tom Shortland

Tom Shortland, England (Group B)

“Growing up, soccer—or football, as we call it—is a passion and a way of life,” says Tom Shortland, who’s from Hull in northeast England. “There are pics of me when I was born and when I was young in a mini England kit. I loved to get my face painted in the England flag. I always wanted whatever hairstyle David Beckham had.”

England's style of play:

“England have a philosophy to intelligently dominate. We want to play an attacking brand of football, and we have speed on the counterattack. We’ve also had really effective set pieces [free kicks], so those are things to look out for.”

Players to watch:

“Harry Kane has a lot of responsibilities as the captain and the leading English goal-scorer. But youth is going to be the key—players like Phil Foden and Jude Bellingham. They’re new to this tournament, but they’ve already been thrown into the deep end in the club environment.”

How to behave like a true England supporter:

“England hasn’t won the World Cup since 1966. "Football’s Coming Home" has been played around the country since 1996. I like to play it before the matches. Then I sing along with the national anthem, and I have my kids sing. My wife and kids are American, but my 7-year-old knows all the words [to ‘God Save the King’].”

Opponents to watch out for:

With Wales, it’s really a rivalry. Obviously, having the U.S. in the group is big, especially with living here and coaching the sport here. But the Welsh will be playing the underdog role. That’s the game I’m not looking forward to.”

What he would consider a successful World Cup:

“On paper, we should win the group and get to at least the quarterfinals or semifinals. But for a lot of people, the only success for England will be to make the final. Really, to win.”

Paula Astiazaran Colina, Spain (Group E)

Paula Astiazaran Colina hails from San Sebastian, Spain,and played for Spanish national development teams as a teenager. Her fiancé, fellow IMG coach Charlie Trimmer (see below), is a lifelong Mexico supporter. But rather than butting heads during matches, the two have found common ground on the pitch.

On sharing fandom with her fiancé:

“He likes Spain. He likes how they play. I’ve been forcing him to watch the Spanish league, La Liga, and he likes the style. And my dad was born in Mexico. I have a Mexican passport and I also played with their under-20 team. That’s like my second nationality. So we share.”

Team style:

“Tiki-taka [Spain’s rapid, short-passing style] is a bit controversial, because they say it doesn’t produce. They can keep possession, but that’s not going to help them score goals.”

Players to watch:

“I do like the young players, like Pedri and Gavi. They make a difference in the midfield. And Nico Williams is very young and athletic. He’s going to be at the World Cup with his brother [Iñaki Williams, who plays for Ghana], so that should be good for him. These are the next generation of Spanish players. This is how the team is going to look for the next five or seven years.”

How to behave like a true Spain supporter:

“My [club] team is Real Sociedad, and Nico Williams plays for my rival [Atletico Bilbao]. But when you’re rooting for the national team, it doesn’t matter what club they play for. It’s about everyone coming together. Of course, we don’t really sing. The anthem of Spain is unique, one of the only ones that doesn’t have lyrics.”

Opponents to watch out for:

“I think Spain can win the group, but Germany is very good, as well. That’s going to be a key game.”

What she would consider a successful World Cup:

“Hopefully, Spain will win it all. But I know there’s a lot of international competition right now. So maybe [making it to] the semi-final.”

Charlie Trimmer

Charlie Trimmer, Mexico (Group C)

Born in Mexico, Charlie Trimmer moved to the U.S. when he was 10. But the soccer ties to his birth country remain strong, even while he is engaged to a Spanish fan and steeped in a U.S.-Mexico rivalry that sometimes feels bigger on this side of the border. “If Mexico beats the U.S., that’s the expectation. We did what we were supposed to do,” he says. “The U.S. team, when they win [against Mexico], they rub it in a bit.”

On sharing fandom with his fiancée:

“Mexico and Spain are not big rivals, so we’re able to root for each other’s teams. I like watching Spain. She mostly laughs at me when I watch Mexico, because I’m so into it.” 

Team style:

“Mexico struggles to score. They keep possession, but when they get around the opponent's 18-yard box, they lack production and ideas. They’re like a poor man’s Spain, in a way.”

Players to watch:

“Edson Álvarez plays for Ajax in the Netherlands. When the team has the ball, everything goes through him. Chucky Lozano is dangerous. They expect all the scoring chances to come from him. And Raúl Jiménez should be the top scorer.”

How to behave like a true Mexico supporter:

“I get really into it. I yell at them when they mess up. And we love to sing 'Cielito Lindo'—it’s a very popular song in Mexico. The whole stadium sings it.

Opponents to watch out for:

“Mexico has a tough group. But they always have a tough group, and they always somehow get out. The consensus is that Mexico will battle it out with Poland for second place in the group. But if everything went as predicted we’d already know who’s going to win the World Cup.”

What he would consider a successful World Cup:

“Success is the quarterfinals, getting to the fifth game. In the last six World Cups, Mexico has exited out in the fourth game. They play three in the group stage and then they run into a powerhouse. Now in Mexico, they even have a phrase, quinto partido—‘fifth game.’ We want to get there. Anything after that is the cherry on top.”

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