It’s become a tradition of sort. Whether it’s a European Championship, World Cup or any other major international competition, every year there’s a team that surprises us all.
What do we mean by surprise?
Competitions such as EUROs or World Cups can be a fairly predictable events with large, heavily fancied sides such as Germany, France, Spain, Brazil, Argentina almost by default going quite far and ultimately winning the crown.
Every time, however, there is that one team which beats the odds heavily stacked against them to rise to the occasion and show the world its true potential and all of its glory.
We had Costa Rica four years ago but who are your potential surprise packages for the World Cup?
Here’s a list of our five choices:
We loved their passion. We enjoyed their team spirit. We all fell for their amazing team work that got them as far as the quarterfinals of the 2016 European Championship. It’s fair to say that Iceland are the potential surprise package of the 2018 World Cup as well.
Not a surprise in its true nature knowing that eyes of the world will be resting on this tiny Nordic nation – the smallest country in population to ever qualify for the World Cup. Hard work over the past couple of years made them a strong, compact unit capable of beating anyone – even England – and we definitely believe Iceland have what it takes to cause an upset or two in Group D against the likes of Argentina, Croatia and Nigeria.
Often described as a one-man team, Poland rests its success at this year’s World Cup in Russia in the hands of Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. The towering Pole has been one of the most constant attacking forces in Europe – and world football – for several years now and his tally of 29 Bundesliga goals in 30 appearances speaks volume of his ability.
What’s more, his astounding 16 goals during the World Cup qualifiers definitely make him the one to watch in Poland squad. Lewandowski is currently a 33/1 price to finish the tournament in Russia as a top goal scorer.
Polish side is a well-balanced squad with respectable names in all lines of the team, starting from the Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny but also the likes of Kamil Glik, Lukasz Piszczek or Jakub Blaszczykowski.
Out of the international limelight since 2010, Serbia will be looking to harness the power of its World Cup winning Under-20 side which beat Brazil in the final showpiece of the New Zealand tournament.
With Sergej Milinkovic-Savic as a proud member of this golden generation now expected to fully shine at the senior level, expectations are high in the Serbia camp. You can call me biased but Serbia boast a well-balanced squad with high quality players in their roster. Getting over the chronic mental fragility will be a test of its own for the Eagles, who should have enough about themselves to see off Costa Rica and Switzerland for the runners-up place in Group E behind Brazil – the 4/1 odds favourites to lift the coveted World Cup trophy.
Seated in Group G alongside Belgium, Panama and Tunisia, Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions should be expected to top it and glide comfortably into the knockout stages. Having eased through the qualifiers, England will carry a great pressure on their back heading to Russia however. Tagged as constant underperformers at the brightest stage England have a suitcase of broken expectations from tournaments past dragging behind them. The Three Lions need to get rid of a great load if they want to make a notable appearance in the World Cup.
Southgate is not given enough credit for bravery and guts so let’s do it here. He composed a list of young players who have had a fine season and who will be roaring and raring to go. Backing England is always seen as a risk, but this time it could turn into a positive surprise.
Same as Poland. Eyes of the nation are pointed towards one man – Mohamed Salah. The 44-goal Liverpool man has suffered an injury in the Champions League final and still remains a doubt for the World Cup.
As we await for the definite confirmation he will be ready to at least help him team to some extent during the group stages, it’s worth noting that Egypt are much more than just Mo Salah. This African country hasn’t been in the World Cup since Italy 1990 and their great comeback has given all players great strength and belief.
The collective mindset will be backed by the likes of Mohamel Elneny and Ahmed Hegazi who hope to harness the international experience and help Egypt go through the group stage ahead of Saudi Arabia and Russia.
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