Which teams can surprise us with a long run in the FIFA World Cup this year? theSportsRush takes a look.
The FIFA World Cup is upon us. All the 32 teams have reached Russia, as they aim for glory this summer. While Brazil and Germany are among the favourites to lift the coveted world cup trophy, teams like Spain, France and Argentina are also posing a strong contention.
But there are teams who have the potential to throw around a few upsets, adding to the intensity of the tournament. We take a look at the ‘Dark Horses’ of the FIFA World Cup this year.
‘The Red Devils’ have been the dark horses for every major tournament since the 2014 world cup, even though they’re piped as the next footballing powerhouse ever since. The quality in their squad is immense, and their players rule the European Leagues every season.
Names like Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois, Romelu Lukaku, Dries Mertens, Toby Alderveireld and Jan Vertonghen are the most familiar ones among the fans of football, due to their consistently dominating performances for their sides.
However, the players have failed to replicate their successes with clubs for their national team. Belgium lost in the quarterfinals of 2014 world cup, and faced the similar disappointment in the Euro 2016. A lack of definite playing style under Marc Wilmots and Roberto Martinez has also led to Belgium’s struggles.
However, Belgium were the first European team to qualify for the World Cup this time, and scored an astounding 43 goals in the campaign. Roberto Martinez will now have to ensure that the team has a solid core to maintain their attacking prowess when they meet the big guns in Russia.
Belgium’s group is relatively easy, as Tunisia and Panama are the teams Belgium can be relied upon to go past easily.
The high quality of the squad is a reason enough to count Belgium as one of the leading dark horses for the world cup.
The story of Three Lions is a story of underutilised potential. England has been home to a throng of world class players ever since the turn of the century.
Scholes, Beckham, Gerrard, Lampard, Carrick, Terry, Ferdinand, Cole, Rooney. You name them.
Yet, England has never had the flair which evinces the quality of the squad. Much of the blame is on the managers who never seemed to understand the midfield potential during the Beckham era.
England would prefer to forget the horrific world cup campaign in 2014, which saw them being ousted in the group stage. England left Brazil without a single victory in three games. Two years later, they crashed out after a shock round-of-16 defeat against Iceland in the Euro.
However, under Gareth Southgate, the English team looks a strong unit. For the first time, England relies on players who proved their mettle in the domestic season, instead of going for the big names for the tournament. Southgate has also opted for the 3-4-3, or 3-5-2 formation, and various players like Kane, Dele Alli, Henderson, Cahill, Walker, Sterling and Stones – who form the core of the team, are comfortable with the formation.
Hence, England can easily exceed expectations this time at the FIFA World Cup.
Colombia’s attacking style of football, complimented beautifully by James Rodriguez, made football fans fall in love with the team in 2014. This time, James will be joined by two Colombian stalwarts – Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado, who were absent in the previous edition due to injury. Hence, the South American nation can be banked upon to provide some interesting games this time around.
Colombia won all the three games in the group stages, and then went on to beat Uruguay, before losing to hosts Brazil in an ill-fated quarterfinal.
Colombia’s qualification campaign to the world cup was inconsistent, due to manager Jose Perkmen trying out different players in different combinations throughout.
Interestingly, Colombia might meet England or Belgium in the Round of 16, and will potentially set up a quarterfinal rematch against Brazil, assuming the favourites go through. And this time around, the Colombian side looks prepared to stay in the tournament for long.
The South American team may lack a superstar, but the transformation they have gone through over the past three years has been incredible. Under Ricardo Gareca, Peru has become a well-trained and tactically flexible side. Their ability to play on the counter is a worry for any team they face, and they are on the back of a good run.
They won two of their three warm-up games, drawing the last against Sweden. They defeated Croatia 2-0 in March, defeated Uruguay in the qualifying round, and drew against the likes of Argentina and Colombia.
Peru may face Argentina in the round-of-16 match, and if they overcome them, they can set up a quarterfinal clash against Spain.
Another South American team which failed to live up to expectations in the 2014 world cup, Uruguay were ousted in the round-of-16 game by fellow continental rivals Colombia. However, they enter this world cup as a strong potential contenders for the trophy.
The pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez is central to their defence. Both play together for Atletico Madrid in La Liga and have excellent understanding between each other. Both the defenders also join Uruguay on the back of a successful Europa League campaign.
Uruguay also boasts of two of the most prolific goalscorers in Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez, both of whom have enjoyed a decent season with their club sides.