First Football Read: Top three dark horses for the 2018 FIFA World Cup
A brief read suggesting three dark horses for the 2018 FIFA World Cup: Belgium, Portugal and Uruguay
With less than two months to go until the start of this year’s FIFA World Cup, now is the perfect time to start weighing up the chances of each team involved. While perennial favourites such as Germany, Brazil or Spain stand out as the most likely winners, most football fans would agree that the biggest element of intrigue lies in the so-called lesser teams making their push for glory.
We’re here to run through three dark horses that have an outside chance of bringing the trophy back to their home nation.
Let’s start with Belgium, a team that has previously been touted as an outside chance for both Euro 2016 and the previous World Cup in Brazil. The Red Devils come into Russia 2018 in blistering form, unbeaten in qualifying with a record 28 points from a possible 30.
At odds of 10/1, Belgium might not be most pundit's first-choice football prediction to lift the trophy, but on paper, their squad is surely one of the strongest, position by position. Kevin De Bruyne and Vincent Kompany come into the World Cup straight off the back of domestic glory with Manchester City, while Romelu Lukaku recently secured his place as the national team’s top goalscorer. Add Chelsea stars Eden Hazard and Thibaut Courtois into the mix and it’s plain to see that Belgium have a wealth of world-class talent at their disposal. If their defence stays fit and healthy, this squad have to be considered as serious contenders against any team.
Reigning European champions Portugal have never won the World Cup in their history, but their victory in France two years ago certainly proves they have what it takes to go all the way in a major competition.
At long odds of 20/1, one thing’s for sure: any success they have in Russia 2018 will likely depend on the form of talisman Cristiano Ronaldo. The good news for the Portuguese faithful is that Ronaldo has been playing out of his skin since Christmas, leading Real Madrid to yet another Champions League semi-final and seeming to find the net game after game. Bernardo Silva and André Silva have also proven fantastic additions to an already strong squad, which makes it quite easy to picture Portugal reaching the semi-final stages at least.
Even though it might be difficult to make a case for Uruguay to win the entire competition, this is definitely a team to watch. Second behind Brazil in the South American qualifying round, the 25/1 Uruguayan squad definitely boasts enough talent to progress into the latter rounds.
Captain Diego Godin remains one of the best centre-backs in the world and is likely to be joined in the back line by Atletico Madrid teammate Jose Maria Gimenez. Their joint experience is supported by a wealth of young midfield prospects such as Federico Valverde and Matias Vecino, both attack-minded players with a thirst for goals. That said, what really tickles our fancy is the dynamic pairing of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani up front. The group draw has been fairly favourable for Uruguay, so we expect to see more than a few goals from these two.
Article Published: 25th April 2018
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