2014 World Cup: Kobe Bryant experiencing split allegiances

The question appears a no brainer to many.

Are you rooting for the U.S. Men’s national team to win the 2014 World Cup?

“Of course,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant said in an interview with CNN.

Yet, the answer is not that simple.

Yes, like the many of Americans who have suddenly found a devotion to soccer, Bryant will proudly cheer on the red, white and blue. But unlike many of Americans back home, Bryant also has split allegiances on the pitch.

He spent the majority of his childhood in Italy. An avid soccer fan, Bryant has also taken a liking toward the elite soccer players, including Argentina’s Lionel Messi (“the best player in world” the last five years, Bryant says), Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo (“the best in the world at the moment,” said Bryant) and Brazil’s Neymar, whom Bryant said “is going to be the player that carries the next generation.” Bryant also grew up watching the A.C. Milan Italian club team, and he currently pulls for FC Barcelona, the Spanish club team.

So how does Bryant prioritize who to root for and when?

“I root for USA,” Bryant said on ESPN. “But obviously I have strong ties to Italy and have several friends playing on different teams. I try to pull for all of them when they’re playing. But ultimately I pull for USA.”

Bryant has spent the past week in Brazil, marking the third consecutive World Cup he attended that also included Germany (2006) and South Africa (2010). Yet, Bryant admitted that the three games he attended won’t include the U.S. national team. Instead, Bryant viewed the Netherland’s 5-1 drubbing over Spain and Germany’s 4-0 shutout over Portugal. Bryant will attend today’s match between Brazil-Mexico, meaning that game might become a blowout, too. Bryant also gushed about one World Cup finals possibility.

“I’d love to see a Brazil-Argentina final,” Bryant said. “It would be absolutely crazy. I think it would be beautiful for the sport. You have two of the best players going head to head. The best player that is here now and the player that can carry the next generation. It would be a great one.”

But would Bryant choose that outcome over the success of his native USA? How about if the United States played Italy in the Final? Bryant winced, laughed and then squirmed.

Said Bryant: “I got to go with USA.”


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Follow L.A. Daily News Lakers beat writer Mark Medina on Twitter and on Facebook. E-mail him at mark.medina@langnews.com

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