FIFA World Cup has always been about tournament favourites. Everyone talks about Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, and Spain before the World Cup starts. And they deserved so because they are the teams with the most appearance in World Cups, but what about the teams who are ready to prove their stalemate to these top teams. Today, we’ll talk about those dark horses of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.
It’s pity that we are missing big names like Italy, Netherlands, Chile, USA, Cameroon, Ghana, Greece, Cote-d-Ivoire, and Bosnia and Herzegovina at Russia 2018 World Cup, but it has given room for others to prove their worth in the tournament.
Teams like Egypt, Poland, Saudi Arabia, Serbia, Senegal, Morocco, Tunisia, Sweden, Denmark, and Peru will enter the tournament after some gaps. They’ll be very eager to prove their worth on football map. Along with few of these newcomers, we’ll discuss the potential of some heavyweight dark horses.
Belgium (Group G)
Belgium is everyone’s favourite dark horse since last World Cup. The Red Devils boast of some fascinating names who have dominated the club football in recent years. They have the quality experience player in every department. They don’t only possess quality on papers, but they really are world’s best player and playing for best football clubs in the world.
Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea) with gloves, Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Toby Alderweireld and Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham Hotspur), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona) with their defensive duties, Kevin de Bruyne (Manchester City), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Mousa Dembele (Hotspur), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United) in midfield, and Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Dries Mertens (Napoli), and Michy Batshuayi (Borussia Dortmund) in attack.
A lineup which can bring fear to any team. They didn’t do very well last time but they’ll be ready to make an amend in Russia. Considering their Group G rivals England, Panama, and Tunisia, no one can doubt their road to the knockout stage alongside England. The real challenge will be going further than that.
Croatia (Group D)
Croatia may not be a fascinating name for most of us, but considering the quality they have in their teams, you can never rule them out. They have Luka Modric, Mateo Kovacic (both Real Madrid) and Ivan Rakitic (Barcelona) to decorate their midfield dynamo. They boast of a forward line including Mario Mandzukic (Juventus), Ivan Perisic (Inter Milan), Nikola Kalinic (AC Milan), and Andrej Kramaric (Hoffenheim) to tear apart any defense in the world. Dejan Lovren (Liverpool) and Sime Vrsaljko (Atletico Madrid) centre-back pairing to tackle any danger in their defensive half and a world-class goalkeeper in Daniel Subasic of AS Monaco.
However, they’ll be in the group of death alongside favourite Argentina, Nigeria, and Iceland, but their chances of making into the knockout can never be ruled out. It will be interesting to see how they progress further.
Poland (Group H)
You simply can’t ignore Poland because they have the deadliest striker in their team. Robert Lewandowski, Bayern Munich forward scored 16 goals in Russia 2018 World Cup qualifying rounds. None of the big names close to him in scoring except unlikely Saudi Arabia’s Mohammad Al-Sahlawi and UAE’s Ahmed Khalil who matched his goal tally.
But, it’s not only about Lewandowski. Poland really have a good team. They have Lukas Fabianski (Swansea City) and Wojciech Szczesny (Juventus) two world-class goalkeepers in their team. Kamil Glik (AS Monaco) and Grzegorz Krychowiak (PSG) in central defending, Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Piotr Zielinski (Napoli), and Jakub Blaszczykowsk (VfL Wolfsburg) in midfield and winger role, and two of the good strikers in Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich) and Arkadiusz Milik (Napoli).
Considering Group H strength which includes Colombia, Poland, Japan, and Senegal; it’s highly unlikely that Poland won’t make it to the knockout stage. But the real challenge will be how they progress further.
Serbia (Group E)
Serbia missed the last FIFA World Cup held in Brazil. They are back finishing as Group D winner in qualifying rounds. They topped a group which included Gareth Bale’s Wales, Republic of Ireland, and Austria. Orlovi (The Eagles) don’t have big names to boast in the forward department but they have quite some experience in their midfield and defending departments.
Former Chelsea man Branislav Ivanovic (Zenit Saint Petersburg) is a serious campaigner alongside Aleksandar Kolarov (AS Roma) in the defending department. Nemanja Matic (Manchester United), Sergej Milinkovic-Savic (Lazio), Dusan Tadic (Southampton), and Marko Grujic (Liverpool) are shining armour in their midfield department to assist Newcastle United striker Aleksandar Mitrovic.
However, the Group E is very challenging. Brazil, Costa Rica, and Switzerland will be up against the Serbian who had a good World Cup last term. Let’s see how far they go with their individual experiences against the experienced nations in the World Cup.
Nigeria (Group D)
Group D is a ‘group of death’. It includes Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria, and Iceland. None of the team of this group can be ignored, but we’re still eliminating Iceland from this group. Yes, that tiny nation who eliminated England in Euro 2016 knockouts. I have the respect for the Iceland progress in recent years but they are up against Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria.
Argentina is one of the favourites. We have talked about Croatia, now it’s time to talk about Nigeria. Super Eagles have always proved their stalwart coming from African nations. They have the quality in their sides and ignoring them will be a mistake. They don’t have big names in their defending department but their midfield and attacking players make up for their defensive fragility.
Former Chelsea player John Obi Mikel (Tianjin TEDA) will captain the side. Ogenyi Onazi (Trabzonspor), Wilfred Ndidi (Leicester City), Joel Obi (Torino) may be cast alongside him. Their real jewel is their forward department. Victor Moses (Chelsea), Alex Iwobi (Arsenal), Kelechi Iheanacho (Leicester City), and Ahmed Musa (CSKA Moscow) will be real threats to any team.
Senegal (Group H)
I’m very excited to watch out for Senegal. Lions of Teranga really impressed last time they make into the World Cup finals. Their 2002 campaign was impressive as they make their way to quarterfinals and even beat France on their way. They will have the chance to rejoice those memories again as they’ll be up against Colombia, Poland, and Japan. Here, they also have a chance to eliminate one of the heavyweights to make progress into the knockout rounds.
They have quality players in Sadio Mane (Liverpool), Kalidou Koulibaly (Napoli), Idrissa Gueye (Everton), Badou Ndiaye and Mame Diouf (Stoke City), Cheikhou Kouyate (West Ham United), Mbaye Niyang (Torino), and Keita Balde (Monaco).
It will all depend on how good they deal with the World Cup pressure. They surprised everyone last time they qualified and now it’s time to live up to the expectation.
Besides them, there will be Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, James Rodriguez’s Colombia, and Mohamed Salah’s Egypt. Let’s see how far these teams go. FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 is going to be the entertaining one. I got a feeling that this summer will serve us some quality football.