It is exactly two days until the biggest tournament in the World Cup kicks off. On June 14th, Russia will begin the World Cup against Saudi Arabia as 32 teams aim to become the best team in the world. Every four years we have three or four teams that are favourites to win this competition but like Euro 2016, when Portugal famously beat France, you always have one or two teams that could be sprung a surprise in Russia. So who will be the underdogs of the World Cup?
World Cup Surprise Packages
Portugal are definitely one of most underrated teams in this year World Cup. After success in the European Championship, which they beat all the odds to win the whole tournament, you would think Portugal would have a decent chance for glory again. The 23-man squad was announced by Fernando Santos and the likes of Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias and Andre Silva all got surprise call-ups. Despite some in-experience, Portugal’s defence is one of the most capped at the tournament with Pepe, Bruno Alves and Jose Fonte making up 223 caps altogether.
However, with a strong 23-man squad there were a few players that would be disappointed by missing out. Wolves’ key player, Ruben Neves, is definitely one player upset to miss out. The 21-year-old was an influential player for Wolves as he helped them gain promotion back to the Premier League but misses out on the plane to Russia. But Portugal main man Cristiano Ronaldo will be hoping to carry on his great season with Real Madrid to his national side.
Croatia are far from the youngest team in the competition, with six players aged 30 and over. The key man for Croatia is Real Madrid star Luka Modric, which could be his last World Cup. Along with Modric, they have a quality midfield filled with Ivan Rakitic, Ivan Perisic and Milan Badeji. Croatia definitely have one of the strongest and experienced midfields in the tournament but the lack of youngsters might be the problem for Zlatko Dalic.
The lack of pace could provide the downfall for Croatia as Marko Pjaca is the only stand-out winger in the 23-man squad. The rest of the attack is filled with target men such as Mario Manazdukic, Andrej Kramaric and Nikola Kalilinc. All three are 5’11, which is more of a target man’s height. Having three of the same strikers shows the lack of different options Croatia will have.
Like Ghana in 2010, Senegal could be the best of the African teams. They are a very solid team and somewhat under-estimated to get out their group. Sadio Mane is the leading man for the Senegalese but Monaco’s Keita Balde could raise a few eyebrows. The striker scored eight goals and provided 11 assists in his season in France. The pace in the starting eleven will frighten teams, especially with an old-age defence like Poland.
Forget about the attack for a minute. Senegal do have one of the best upcoming defenders in Italy. Kalidou Koulibaly has made a name for himself in Napoli and is set a move away from Italy. The 24-year-old has attracted interest from major European giants like Barcelona, Manchester United and Chelsea. Along with midfield, they have two very well known Premier League players. Idrissa Gueye of Everton and West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyate have had successful careers in England, but could form a strong relationship along with a powerful midfield.
Every four years England fans always have that sub-belief of success. But in Russia, fans do really feel the three lions will struggle this summer. One of the most in-experienced teams out of the 32, that tells you everything England fans worry about. Let’s not forget most of our 23-squad will feature at the next World Cup so what better way to get them prepared. Plus we have some great players like Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Kyle Walker who all had a brilliant season at their clubs. But the lack of experience puts terror into England fans minds.
However, if you throw that away, the starting eleven does look promising. We have one of the best strikers in the world, a promising full-back, a talented playmaker, and young, strong centre-half. Even though we might fail to progress from quarter-finals, there are still great things about this England team which is just growing and might surprise a few out in Russia.