When the 2018 World Cup begins in a few days time, there is, and will always be an underdog that reaches an unlikely stage, possibly beating a heavyweight or two on their journey.
The Ghanians will be a prime example of this, with nobody giving them a chance in South Africa 2010, but surprisingly reaching the quarter-finals, and would have reached the semis if it wasn’t for a famous Luis Suarez hand ball in the final minutes which cost them the tie.
Another team to surprise us all was Costa Rica in 2014, who overcame a group involving England, Italy and Uruguay, which again involved Luis Suarez controversy, making their way to the quarter-finals before narrowly missing out on penalties to the Netherlands – who ended the tournament in third place. Now we can take a look at this years potential dark horses as the Russia World Cup beckons:
When discussing the underdog, the Croatians come to many fans minds, not only because of the group which many will expect them to progress from, but because of the players that have in the squad. This crop of players have been named the finest generation of talent from their country since the 1998 World Cup, where Croatia made the semi-finals. With players such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, as well as Inter Milans Ivan Perisic, they might just make it further than many expect, their fans clearly have the belief its down to the players to produce.
Key Man: Luka Modric (Real Madrid)
The nation with a population of just over 330,000 people, will be arriving in Russia full of excitement as they attend their first ever World Cup. After winning their group in qualifying against tough Turkish and Croatian sides, this fearless bunch of players will feel no pressure as they take on Lionel Messi’s Argentina on Saturday. With established Premier League players such as Burnley’s Johann Berg Gudmundsson and Everton’s Gylfi Sigurdsson, this team may well have a chance of progressing from a tough group, as they take on Argentina, Nigeria and a team they came up against and beat in qualifying, Croatia.
Key Man: Johann Berg Gudmundsson (Burnley)
Prediction: Group Stage
After an exit at the Round of 16 stage in the 2014 World Cup, the Swiss, with a talented bunch of players will like to build on that. With an impressive qualifying campaign, the Swiss finished level on points with Portugal and if it wasn’t for an inferior goal difference to the Euro 2016 winners, then they would have progressed automatically, but a comfortable victory over Northern Ireland in the play offs saw them through. With players of the quality of Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka you would expect them to finish at least runners up in a group that involves Brazil, Serbia and Costa Rica and then the knock-outs can be a complete lottery.
Key Man: Xherdan Shaqiri
Prediction: Round of 16
Any side lead by the deadly striker of Robert Lewandowski will have a good chance of scoring goals wherever they go. After topping their group impressively, winning eight out of their ten fixtures against sides such as Romania and Denmark, the Polish will fancy their chances at this World Cup, with a strong core to the team, involving Piotr Zielinski of Napoli and Wojciech Szczesny of Juventus. However, the recent injury to Kamil Glik could prove costly, as the Monaco man has been an ever-present for Adam Nawałka’s men.
Key Man: Robert Lewandowski
Now, not many are expecting much from Gareth Southgate’s men, who people believe is using this competition as an opportunity to build the side for the major tournaments in 2020 and 2022. Having watched the warm up fixtures for the Three Lions, many are starting to believe that Southgate has got this group of players performing to the best of their abilities. With a patient, free-flowing system with three at the back, the England boss is being bold and getting his side to play with no fear. With the quality of skipper Harry Kane, and the skill of Raheem Sterling and Deli All in behind, who knows how much this England side can achieve, the players seem to have the unity aswell as the quality, so its time to be supportive of the players as it could well be their time.
Key Man: Harry Kane (Tottenham)
Who do you think will be the underdog to shock people at the World Cup? Let us know by commenting below or tweeting us at @AllOutFootball_ using the hashtag #AOF!