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Top 5 Underdog teams that could make a Cinderella run


The darlings of the European Championships in 2016, the Vikings did themselves one better and earned automatic qualification to the World Cup. All eyes will be on this tiny nation of 330,000 people (and their viking clapping fans) and whether or not they can replicate their performance from the Euros. Outside of Gylfi Sigurdsson of Everton, the names on the back of the shirts, while very similar sounding, won’t ring any bells. What makes Iceland a threat is their team unity, heart, staunch defending, and opportunistic scoring. It was on display 2 years ago, and now the tiniest nation to ever qualify for the World Cup will hope for more of the same.-JN


One of Africa’s most successful team returns after a 28 year absence. So much has happened in Egypt in those 28 years, both on the field (Port Said stadium massacre) and off the field (Arab Spring) that you can’t help but feel good that the Pharaohs have returned to soccer’s biggest stage. They will go as far as their talismanic striker Mohamed Salah will take them.- GL


Historically, Mexico is like a college basketball team that you can surely pencil in for the Sweet 16 come tournament time, but they just don’t have what it takes to make it to the Final Four. This year’s Mexico team dominated North American qualifying and has a real chance to make some noise in this years “Group of Death.” Plus, given the absence of the United States, many fans will throw their support behind our neighbor to the south and El Tri’s passionate fans.-GL


Hard to believe that the current champions of Europe are considered a Cinderella team… especially with a generational talent in Cristiano Ronaldo. But with not much star power surrounding the captain, Portugal will need a lot of that magic from 2 years ago in order to make a serious run. Ronaldo’s situation reminds me of LeBron James and the Cavaliers. Portugal will progress as long as CR7 can produce at the elite level we expect. Fingers crossed he can stay healthy the entire tournament, as this is World Cup number four. -JN


Similar to Portugal, but without the current trophy, England has a massive talent load, so a deep tournament run shouldn’t be surprising. But there is the whole storied history of major tournament disappointment thing. They bring to the table names like Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, and Dele Alli. As an avid EPL watcher and supporter, I always have a soft spot for the Three Lions come major tournament time. If Kane, Jamie Vardy, and others can score goals, they’ll have a chance to make a decent run. That back line will be tested, but manager Gareth Southgate should have no issues, at the very least, leading his team into the knockout stages. -JN

Top 5 Real Contenders for the Cup


Die Mannschaft has successfully rebuilt and reloaded from the 2014 squad that won the World Cup. This team is deep, so much so that the best young player in the Premier League (Leroy Sane) did not make the squad. Well-coached and disciplined, Germany will not meet the same fate as the past two World Cup winners who did not make it past the group stages. Look for the Germans to make another deep run in Russia in 2018.-GL


The bookies’ favorites to win the World Cup, there is arguably no more talented starting 11 than Brazil. That said, no team has greater pressure on them than Brazil. Expectations are so high for this team, yet the question remains—have they mentally recovered from the humiliating 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany on home soil during the 2014 World Cup? -GL


The bridesmaids of the past 4 years, Argentina finished runner-up at the 2014 World Cup and back-to-back Copa Americas. At one point, their legendary midfielder Lionel Messi briefly retired from international soccer, too fed up with both the losing and the backlash he was receiving from the Argentinian fans and media. Messi returned and dragged Argentina through South American qualifying. Stay tuned for something magical in Messi’s final shot to emulate Diego Maradona and achieve international glory.-GL


Les Bleus haven’t been to a World Cup Final since 2006—when Zinedine Zidane famously headbutted Marco Materazzi. But in present-day, Antoine Griezmann will lead the front line with young phenom Kylian Mbappe of PSG and Oliver Giroud of Chelsea. France’s midfield will be critical to their success. If Paul Pogba can perform at his peak, France has as good a chance as any to win the World Cup. There is far too much talent to not for France not to make a deep run.-JN



Many analysts are picking Belgium as their sleeper pick to win the World Cup. There’s no question about the offensive firepower of the team (Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, etc.), but questions remain about the manager and whether or not the collection of individual talent can come together and perform as a cohesive unit. Many of the aforementioned players on the team have experienced success in popular European leagues, but not at the international level…yet. -JN



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