The FIFA World Cup 2018 is approaching us faster day by day like a comet, making things more and more exciting for the lovers of the game. 32 teams will participate from all over the world with the hope to giving their all and making their nations proud. Like always there will be a few teams with the ‘favourites’ tag and a few with ‘dark horses’ tag in the upcoming soccer extravaganza. The favourite teams are easy to gauge in teams like Germany, Brazil, France, Spain and Argentina who has a World Cup pedigree, strong performance in qualifying rounds, solid squad depth, big name players etc. But along with the favourites there are the so called ‘dark horses’ who can take the competition by storm and can bewilder us by triumphing in Russia. It is much more difficult to predict the ‘dark horses’ than the ‘favourites ‘in this competition. Nevertheless, we have identified five dark horses who can spring in a real surprise for the soccer world and win the coveted FIFA world Cup 2018 trophy.
Uruguay: A two time World Champion, Uruguay is expected to perform well in the upcoming World Cup in Russia. They have been seeded in one of the easiest groups of the tournament alongside Egypt, Saudi Arabia and hosts Russia.Uruguay under their Coach Oscar Tabarez has a typical team formation and approach wherein he looks to defend before going all out for attack. His general team combination has a very compact defence with conventional full backs who generally sit back and defend. Hence it becomes extremely difficult for opponent teams to score against Uruguay. With Luis Suarez (Barcelona)and Edinson Cavani (PSG), Tabarez has a more than potent attacking threat upfront. Both have been in stupendous form. Suarez and Cavani have been playing together for quite some time, and has a tremendous understanding between them. Budding but equally exciting players Bentancur and Laxalt will add a lot of quality to the midfield. If they can better their 2010 World Cup performance, then it will not be a fluke for Uruguay to win in Russia.
Senegal: The Lions of Teranga are the highest ranked African team (ranks 23 amongst International teams). This is their second qualification in World Cup finals after 2002 where they narrowly lost to Turkey in quarter finals (in extra time). They have not lost a single game in their final qualifying group which had strong teams like South Africa, Burkina Faso and Cape Verde. Their key players are Sadio Mane(Liverpool),Kieta Balde(Monaco),Idrissa Gueye(Everton),Kalidou Koulibaly(Napoli) etc. who all ply their club soccer in top European clubs. Senegal has a very formidable team in place. Placed in Group H, with teams like Poland, Japan and Colombia, Senegal would be one of the favourites along with Colombia to qualify to the knock out rounds and cause a major upset.
Switzerland: Ranked world number 6 by FIFA, Switzerland has one of the best team combinations and their team strength comes from the cohesiveness more than their individuals. But they too have big name players in all positions of the field. They boast of a very strong midfield trio in Behrami(Udinese),Xhaka(Arsenal) and Dzemaili(Bologna) who has been playing for years and compliments each other really well. They have solid experienced full backs in Rodrigues (Milan) and Linchtsteiner(Juventus). Going forward the trio of Shaqiri(Stoke City),Embolo(Schalke) and Seferovic(Benfica) are in great shape and form. Placed in a tough group with Brazil,Serbia and Costa Rica, if the Swiss manage to squeeze through to the knock out stages, then they will be a tough team to beat.
Portugal: Cristiano Ronaldo(Real Madrid), Portugal’s skipper, will look to build on their European Championship 2016 triumph and subsequent success in European qualifying campaign, in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 to be held in Russia. They were extremely steady in their qualifying group which consisted of heavy weights like Switzerland and Hungary. A lot will depend on superstar Ronaldo’s form and coach Fernandoo Santos’s tactical gameplay. It is also expected that senior players like Anthony Lopes (Lyon), Bernardo Silva (Manchester City), Adrian Silva (Leicester City), Ricardo Quersema(Besiktas) will give able support to their skipper. If Portugal goes to win the World Cup in Russia, it will be a combination of Ronaldo’s blistering goal scoring ability, compact defence, tactical and creative midfield and a big chunk of luck factor.
Belgium: Although Belgium has never won a major football tournament burring the 1920 Antwerp Olympics,many experts and fans think that Belgium has a very realistic chance of winning the World Cup in Russia. They have top established players in every department of the game.The Belgium team boasts of players like De Bruyne(Manchester City), Hazard(Chelsea), Courtoius(Chelsea), Lukaku(Manchester United), Witsel(Tianjin Quanjin), Mertens(Napoli), Vertonghen(Tottenham hotspur) etc. who has been doing splendidly in club football season after season . Since the time Roberto Martinez has taken over as coach from Marc Wilmots, Belgium team has shown an amazing transformation in terms of their team spirit and gameplay. They went on become the first qualifiers from Europe remaining undefeated in their qualifying matches. If they can top their group which consists of England, Panama and Tunisia, and avoid a strong team in the first knock out stage, then they can truly go on to win their maiden World Cup trophy.