It seems like yesterday when Germany defeated Argentina 1-0 in overtime against 75,000 fans at the Estadio do Maracana in Rio de Janeiro and a television audience of millions to win the 2014 FIFA World Cup, the most prestigious international soccer tournament on the planet. Now, four years later, football fans around the world are happily preparing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which will be held in Russia from June 14 to July 15 of this year.
The trillion dollar question, of course, is which teams will enter the tournament as favorites and which ones will go as "longshots" or "dark horses". The favorites are easy to determine, led by the defending champions of Germany, who will be looking for their fifth FIFA World Cup title to draw with the second and current record favorites, Brazil. The third favorite is France, followed by Spain and the fifth favorite of Argentina.
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Much harder to predict is how well the dark horse teams will perform in Russia this year, that is, which of them has the most realistic chances of excelling in the group and knockout stages. Of the 32 teams entered in the tournament, we have identified the 4 FIFA WC teams that we consider the most promising dark horses of this Summer World Cup in Russia. The main one is Australia, a team that few expect to qualify.
Despite being considered more of an Australian football, rugby (union + league) and cricket, Australia has seen its national soccer squad improve by leaps and bounds over the past decade. In fact, their national team or 'Socceroos', as they are known, have managed to qualify for all the FIFA World Cups since 2006. Before that, they only managed to qualify in 1974.
At the 2014 World Cup, the Socceroos found themselves in Group B, where they faced stiff competition in the form of the Netherlands, Chile and Spain. Although the team could not win a single game that monopolizes their World Cup aspirations, many fans believe that the Socceroos are much more likely to move to the group stage this year when they face France, Peru and Denmark.
While France is a formidable team, Australia should equalize against Peru and Denmark. In fact, according to Socceroos Predictor, an algorithm that has analyzed the international past and the games of the World Cup squad to calculate its offensive and defensive strength, the Socceroos have a 42% chance of passing the Group Stage, so they are a fan favorite.
Although Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest hopes of winning the FIFA World Cup in Russia this year, the Greenhawks have more supporters than those who believe they can beat the group stage and beyond. When the national football squad of the sovereign Arab state qualified for the 2018 World Cup in September of last year, Saudi football fans could not believe it.
This year's competition will be the fifth in which Saudi Arabia will compete, having previously qualified in 1994, 1998, 2002 and 2006. Although the 2010 and 2014 FIFA World Cup campaigns eluded the Green Hawks, they did enough in 2017 to secure his place as one of the 32 teams that will face Russia this summer. As part of Group A, Saudi Arabia will face Russia, Egypt and Uruguay.
Statistically the easiest group in the tournament, if the Greenhawks can contain the hosts of the tournament as well as their African and South American rivals, they have a good chance of surprising their detractors. In preparation for the 2018 World Cup, several Saudi players have acquired invaluable experience as they are loaned out to play in several clubs in the Spanish First Division League, La Liga.
On Thursday, June 14 at 18:00 local time, millions of Russians expect their national football squad, Sbornaya, to win a solid victory against Saudi Arabia in the inaugural match of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Prefers to beat to the rivals of Group A, the Green Falcons, Sbornaya are considered as one of the anomalies of the competition that either will rise to the height of the occasion or will crash and burn.
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A big question that surrounds Sbornaya is whether it will be driven by the advantage of his home team to move to the group stage. Another is if there will be something in your tanks if you have it. While few fans or bookies expect Russia to stand out at this year's FIFA exit, a handful of elaborate more consistent goals from team captain and star goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev could change all that.
Despite reaching the 2018 competition as the lowest team of the 32 teams, which has never passed the group stage in its previous outings in 1994, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2010 or 2014, Sbornaya will occupy a prominent place in the list of dark horses. The losing streaks exist to be broken and what a blow it would be if the Russian national soccer squad played with their fortunes in June.
At the 2014 FIFA World Cup, Nigeria's national soccer team reached the knockout stage before being unceremoniously dispatched by France 1-0 in the round of 16. This means that the Super Eagles have had four years to Plan your revenge and be better and stronger than ever. before. Fans of this African team were delighted when they secured a coveted place at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
As part of Group D, the Super Eagles will face Argentina, Iceland and Croatia, and although the South American team will be hard to beat, their European rivals should be less important. That said, it should be noted that when in November of last year Nigeria played against Argentina in a friendly held in Krasnodar, Russia, the Super Eagles overcame a 0-2 deficit to beat La Celeste and White 4-2.
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Whether the West Africans can repeat the feat later this year remains to be seen, but there is no doubt that hopes will be high in the Nigerian camp. This will be Nigeria's sixth outing in the World Cup and the team will seek to progress for the first time from the round of 16 to the quarterfinals. Along with Senegal, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia, the hopes of the African World Cup fall on the Super Eagles.