5 Potential World Cup Dark Horses

Every international tournament, there always seems to be a “cinderella” story that comes about, with Costa Rica being the team who were a big surprise in the 2014 World Cup. This piece will go over five teams to look out for in this tournament, and how these sides could be potential dark horses to have a lengthy stay in the tournament. Obviously any side can play well for three tournament games and continue that form in the knockout stages, and this list will vary with opinion, but here are the sides that could shock us all in the coming weeks.

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1. Belgium

Can they finally put it all together? A side that has had tons of quality on paper for the last 5 plus years, but have never been able to gel on the field and provide results surrounding all the hype. Even in the Euro 2016, Belgium lost to Wales in the Quarter-Finals, which was seen as a major disappointment in their eyes, and will be looking to build from that in making a deep run this time around. Many of their players have hit a peak time of their careers, including Romelo Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, and Dries Mertens. Aside from England, they should get out of the group and make a push in the knockout rounds.

Key Players: Toby Alderweireld, Kevin De Bruyne, Dries Mertens

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2. Croatia 

To me, the Croatians are always a pesky side that are slept on by many. Looking at their squad on paper, they ooze quality in every position. From Monaco’s Danijel Subasic in goal, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric in the midfield of course, and Juventus’ Mario Mandzukic being one of the key components up front, this Croatia side can cause tons of damage in Russia 2018. They will have their work cut out for them though, as some would call Group D, which has Messi’s Argentina, fan favourite Iceland, and a confident Nigeria, the ‘group of death’ in the tournament. A side that always causes problems, the midfield will be the engine of the team, as Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Milan Badelj, Mateo Kovacic, and Marcelo Brozovic all have quality and characteristics to help them be successful.

Key Players: Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic

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3. Poland

Like Croatia, Poland are one of those sides that can cause some trouble, but never put it together to make that deep run. Could 2018 be the year? In qualifying, the Poles looked very convincing, and on paper, their squad has the depth required to go toe-to-toe with some top teams in Russia this summer, and it all starts with the group stages. They sit in Group H, with Colombia, Senegal and Japan. Not an easy group by any means, as especially Senegal can cause problems for a knockout stage spot. If they need goals, the Poles will look no further than Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik, as the two will look to link up together to push their country through June.

Key Players: Wojciech Szczesny, Kamil Glik, Piotr Zielinski, Robert Lewandowski

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4. Serbia 

This one is definitely a bold prediction for a dark horse. Having not qualified for the finals since 2010, the European side will definitely want to make this tournament worth their while. Many will read this and say that Serbia just don’t have enough to make a run, but I would counter with what quality Costa Rica had in 2014, when they only were eliminated in the Quarter-Finals on penalties. Unlucky for the Serbians, their group will not be easy in any sort of way, with Brazil, Costa Rica, and a tricky Switzerland team joining them in Group E. They have experience with a splash of youth and creativity in the defence and midfield, which could carry them out of the group and into the knockouts.

Key Players: Nemanja Matic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Aleksandar Mitrovic

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5. Uruguay 

Balance is the biggest strength in this Uruguay side, along with experience combined with true quality in every position. This year’s squad looks familiar to the side that took the field in Brazil 2014, which was knocked out in the Round of 16. Also, coach Tabarez has brought some youth into the mix this time around too, with Sampdoria (most likely moving to Arsenal) midfielder Lucas Torreira joining the mix, and should be starting in the central midfield role as well. You cannot overlook the world class attack the side possesses as well, with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez manning the attack. They’re in Group A, and most betting people would pick Uruguay to top the group with Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.

Key Players: Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani, Diego Godin, Jose Maria Gimenez

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