FIFA WC 2018 : Dark Horses

prakhar Bharadwaj Roar Rookie

By prakhar Bharadwaj, prakhar Bharadwaj is a Roar Rookie New author!

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    It seems just like yesterday when Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 during extra time in front of 75,000-odd fans at the Maracana in Brazil and a TV audience of millions to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious international football tournament on the planet.

    Now four years later football fans the world over are happily preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup which will be hosted in Russia from June 14th to July 15th of this year.

    The billion-dollar question, of course, is which teams will go into the tournament as the favourites and which will go in as the long-shots or ‘dark horses’?

    The favourites are easy to determine: they are led by defending champions Germany, who will be seeking their fifth FIFA World Cup title to tie eternal favourites and current record-holders, Brazil. Other favourites are France, Spain and Argentina.

    Much more difficult to predict is how well the dark horses will perform in Russia this year. For example, which of them can excel in the group and knockout phase?

    Of the 32 teams entered in the tournament, we have identified the four FIFA World Cup teams we consider the most promising dark horses of this summer’s World Cup in Russia.

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    Saudi Arabia
    Although Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest long-shots to win the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year, the Green Falcons have more than their fair share of supporters who believe they can make it through the group stage and beyond.

    When the national football squad of the sovereign Arab state qualified for the 2018 World Cup in September last year, Saudi football fans couldn’t believe it.

    This year’s competition will be the fifth that Saudi Arabia will compete in, having previously qualified in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006.
    Although the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup campaigns eluded the Green Falcons, they did enough in 2017 to secure their place as one of the 32 teams that will face off in Russia this summer.

    As part of Group A, Saudi Arabia will take on Russia, Egypt and Uruguay.

    Statistically, this is the easiest group in the tournament and if the Green Falcons can hold off the tournament hosts as well as their African and South American rivals, they have a good chance of shocking their detractors.

    In preparation for the 2018 World Cup, several Saudi players have gained invaluable experience by being loaned out to play for various clubs in Spain’s La Liga.

    Nigeria
    In the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the Nigerian national football squad reached the knockout stage before being unceremoniously dispatched 0-1 by France in the round of 16. This means the Super Eagles have had four years to plot their revenge and be better and stronger than ever before.

    Fans of this African team were thrilled when they secured a coveted spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia. As part of Group D, the Super Eagles will face Argentina, Iceland and Croatia, and while the South American team will be tough to overcome, their European rivals should be less so.

    This will be Nigeria’s sixth World Cup outing and the squad will be looking to progress for the first time from the round of 16 to the quarterfinals. Along with Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, Africa’s World Cup hopes are pinned on the Super Eagles.

    Russia
    When the World Cup kicks off, millions of Russians will be hoping that their national football squad Sbornaya chalks up a solid victory against Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

    Favoured to beat Group A rivals the Green Falcons, the Russians are considered to be one of the competition’s anomalies that will either rise to the occasion or crash and burn.

    A big question surrounding the hosts is if they will be boosted by home team advantage to make it through the group stage.

    Another question is if they will have anything left in their tanks if they do. While few fans or bookmakers expect Russia to excel in this year’s FIFA outing, a handful of crafted goals plus consistent saves from team captain and star goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could change all that.

    Despite coming into the 2018 competition as the lowest-ranked of the 32 teams, having never made it past the group stage in its previous World Cup outings in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 or 2014, Sbornaya will be high on the list of dark horses.

    Losing streaks exist to be broken, and what a coup it would be if the Russian national football squad’s performances turn their fortunes around come to the end of the tournament.

    Australia
    Australia has seen its national football (soccer) squad improve by leaps and bounds over the last decade. In fact, its national team or Socceroos as they’re known down under have managed to qualify for every FIFA World Cup since 2006.

    Prior to that they only managed to qualify in 1974.

    Massimo Luongo takes on the Colombia team

    In the 2014 World Cup, the Socceroos found themselves in Group B where they faced some tough competition in the form of the Netherlands, Chile and Spain. Although the side failed to win a single game and scuppered its World Cup aspirations, many fans believe the Socceroos have a far better chance of making it through the group stage this year when they face France, Peru and Denmark.

    While France is a formidable team, Australia should be equally matched against Peru and Denmark.

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    The Crowd Says (35)

    • April 18th 2018 @ 6:15am
      tim said | April 18th 2018 @ 6:15am | ! Report

      If we’re talking dark horses to make the round of 16, maybe…

    • Roar Guru

      April 18th 2018 @ 6:21am
      Kaks said | April 18th 2018 @ 6:21am | ! Report

      Dark Horse to win the world cup or Dark horse to get out of their group?

      If we’re talking dark horse to win the world cup, I would assume that a Denmark is more fitting than any of the teams mentioned above. Unfortunately the list above would be lucky to win a game (sadly, Australia included).

      • Roar Guru

        April 18th 2018 @ 8:20am
        AdelaideDocker said | April 18th 2018 @ 8:20am | ! Report

        Portugal or England would be up there as dark horses to win, as well, if not among the favourites? If Australia don’t, I’m gunning for the Germans to win again.

        Could you imagine if Denmark won? Or, better yet, if Iceland did!

        • Roar Guru

          April 18th 2018 @ 9:18am
          Kaks said | April 18th 2018 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          I have to admit, I would love to see a minnow like Iceland win as unrealistic as it may be!

          I remember how Denmark won the European Championship in 1992 when they were very very fortuitous to qualify due to unfortunate circumstances (Yugoslav War) and boy was that great.

          • Roar Guru

            April 18th 2018 @ 9:27am
            AdelaideDocker said | April 18th 2018 @ 9:27am | ! Report

            Ha! Iceland winning would be fabulous.

            I’m headed to Germany in August so I wanna experience what that place would be like if they win!

            • Roar Guru

              April 18th 2018 @ 2:59pm
              Kaks said | April 18th 2018 @ 2:59pm | ! Report

              I have friends who were in Germany when they won the 2014 World Cup, and let’s just say I was green with envy when I heard their stories. Enjoy mate and fingers crossed for you!

          • April 18th 2018 @ 10:49am
            clipper said | April 18th 2018 @ 10:49am | ! Report

            Or Greece winning in 2004, after starting at 300-1

    • Roar Guru

      April 18th 2018 @ 9:11am
      Grobbelaar said | April 18th 2018 @ 9:11am | ! Report

      Of the four mentioned as dark horses, two are Asian.

      That’s a deep shade of ebony.

      An unusual amount of love for the Saudis. Their WC record is dismal, and they are unlikely to do anything this time round to change that record. There’s a good reason for this. The Saudis are hopeless.

    • April 18th 2018 @ 9:21am
      rex said | April 18th 2018 @ 9:21am | ! Report

      Love to be wrong, but the I think the best we can hope for is perhaps a draw and a couple of honourable defeats.

      • Roar Guru

        April 18th 2018 @ 10:24am
        Mango Jack said | April 18th 2018 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Keeping it within 2 goals against France, a draw against Denmark and a win against Peru would be a fantastic result and could see the Roos scrape through to the second round.

    • April 18th 2018 @ 9:42am
      BigAl said | April 18th 2018 @ 9:42am | ! Report

      FIFA WC has NEVER been an event for Dark horses ! – I’m amazed they’re allowed to get away with it.

    • April 18th 2018 @ 10:10am
      Brian said | April 18th 2018 @ 10:10am | ! Report

      Saudi Arabia – Worst team there. they wouldn’t get out of any group.
      Russia and Nigeria could get out of their groups
      Australia I’d love to say we are on par with Denmark, I keep trying to work out how.

      • April 18th 2018 @ 12:55pm
        kangajets said | April 18th 2018 @ 12:55pm | ! Report

        Australia would be no where near par with Denmark , unless Christian Erickson is out of the game.

        A result against Peru maybe .

        A France meltdown is unlikely, but not unprecedented, we can only hope

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