One of the core reasons that sports excite us is that you can never really predict the results. This fact is highly evident in a 90-minute football match. The time-bound adrenaline rush that comes with every kick at the ball, every difficult turn taken, every impossible move made, expectations are unexpected in this game. No matter how glorious past of winning a team owns, and no matter how weak one seems, there is always a calculated chance that unexpected teams might perform mightily. No wonder that youngsters go nuts over match results, from gentle discussions to heated arguments, from cities to villages, at campuses, tea-stalls, social gatherings — all about the game and the teams. Sadman Zaman writes about such teams who might show their flares at FIFA World Cup 2018.
As the greatest show of the earth is going to begin, excitement of the tournament is currently running through the veins of the football crazy fans throughout the globe, including people who previously didn’t have much enthusiasm for the game before. Most of them are supporting favourites like Brazil, Germany, Argentina, Spain et cetera more or less.
In the context of Bangladesh, this assumption is relatable. We can observe enthusiasts going crazy on football teams, however, most of the times, these teams are prominent football powerhouses like Brazil, Argentina or Germany. This has also a connection with our previous generation. Should we consider today’s youth, most of their parents were young in the 70s, 80s and 90s. In those decades, Brazil used to be the absolute star of the football world with formidable names in their squad. With them, traditionally, Italy, Argentina and Germany used to get a lot of support from Bangladesh.
Following this trend, most of the football enthusiasts of Bangladesh still fall under the unavoidable category-either Brazil or Argentina. In the last couple of decades, with the advancement of technologies and popularisation of European leagues, younger generation is being exposed to a whole bunch of players from other countries thus creating a fan base for non-conventional football teams. Moreover, low ranked football teams, nowadays, have star players making them a worthy opponent in the big stage of world cup.
So, in the contemporary scenario, there are teams that can make a break in the tournament with their high spirited, fearless rising stars who may even increase the excitement to a greater extent. This is a list of some teams to be watched out for.
The tiniest nation playing in the World Cup, having no proper football infrastructures due to arid climate and frigid winter, Iceland once didn’t have any idea about soccer. They didn’t have any professional team either. Their miraculous journey to World Cup from scratch, starting from Euro 2016 to their recent ranking of 22 from behind 100 actually proves that nothing is impossible at all. The Vikings would sail their ships with players like Sigurdsson, Finbogasson and many others.
Egypt boasts the achievement of being the African champions for the highest number of times and being one of the powerhouses of African soccer. But after several near misses in qualifiers, the Pharaohs are back after a long hiatus. They have the goal machine Mohamed Salah and other world class players like El Neny, Ramadan Sobhi, Shikhabala who may propel the team to the knockouts. Fans are really expecting a world class football from the new generation Pharaohs who may prove their might once again.
Senegal has last played in the 2002 edition of the World Cup, upsetting and knocking out the then defending champion France from the group stage and shockingly progressing to the quarter finals. Although it might seem to be a fluke to many football pundits and critics, this African team has emerged as a decent one who have players like Demba Ba, Sadio Mane and many more in the recent times. These players have experience of playing football in various competitive leagues across Europe combining power, accuracy and tactics. Let the Lions of Teranga roar once again with their unique style.
The Swedish were once regarded as European giants, but that glory has faded in the late 20th century. Lack of quality football had forced them to participate sporadically in the World Cups and they have missed it on the last two successive occasions. But they are back again, after an impressive qualifying campaign and defeating Italy in the play offs which have caused them to be considered as a serious threat to Germany and Mexico in group F. Though they are missing the legendary Ibrahimovic, but under their present coach they have extensively developed their teamwork and chemistry and have ranked 18 from 51. Youngsters like Lindelof, Forsberg, Guidetti will try to show what they are made of.
Once one of the European heavyweights, three times third place winner and getting Olympic title under their belt one time, Poland is again back in action with a brand new attitude. They have played their last World Cup in 2006 and after that they became totally dormant. They are back again in the global stage having shown magical success in the qualifiers and unprecedented success in Euro 2016. They have even managed to make a place within the top 10 of the FIFA rankings. Moreover, they just used to play based on counter attacking three to four years back, but suddenly they have started playing dynamic football and they have been defeated in a single match of their qualifier campaign with stars like Robert Lewandowski, Wojciech Szczesny, Lukas Pisczek. They are really expecting to cause any upset to any favourites as they have been in terrific form in the last few matches. They may have a good chance to break into the knockouts, but they need to play above their level best for further progress.
Crowned as the Euro 1992 champions and winners of the confederation cup, Denmark has a rich football history. The Danish dynamites, although failed to progress in Euro 2016, have made a magnificent comeback in the recent past and are ranked as one of the top 20 national teams after enjoying a remarkable qualifying campaign. Unfortunately they have failed to provide enough compared to their caliber, talent and prodigy on several big occasions. Although having players like Eriksen, Schmeichel and Kjaer, it would be really tough for them to compete against Asian champions, Australia and newcomers like Peru and favourites like France.
Within the last three to four years and in the last two tournaments of the Copa America, the Peruvians have showed that their standard is more or less equal to continental favourites Brazil, Argentina or like the emerging powers as Colombia or Uruguay. Although they are back on the global stage after a long hiatus, their physical fitness, stamina and above all, their spirit can prove them as something not as ordinary as any other teams.
For their indomitable style of playing, the Moroccans are one of the dark horses of the World Cup who are nicknamed as the Atlas Lions. Although they had a glorious past, the lions have forgotten to roar in the past few years. No one has expected them to qualify in the World Cup as they have struggled with their form in the African Nations Cup. They somehow have managed to grab a World Cup spot. But after that, the team has rapidly rejuvenated under Herve Renard. Having some foreign players, let’s see whether Mehdi Benatia and CO. can upset favourites Spain and Portugal in the group stage. The recent friendlies have shown that the team is worth mentioning. It won’t be a fluke if they defeat any of the opponents.
Once regarded as minnows, these teams with their teamwork and passion can be a definite threat to any favourites as their recent performance graph shows that they can never be underestimated at any aspect. They would really add colours to the excitement and will fight with their last drop of blood to end the tournament with their heads high. We hope to see more actions. Let the battle begin.
Sadman Zaman is a student of University of Dhaka.
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