On paper, the most highly-regarded footballing nations are usually expected by many to bring home the coveted Jules Rimet trophy at the World Cup every four years. However, as the biggest showcase in world football has taught us time and time again, games are never played on paper. In fact, there is plenty of room for teams to come out of nowhere and shock the footballing world: we’ve seen countries like Croatia, Senegal and Turkey do exactly that in recent tournaments.
With this year’s tournament in Brazil coming in just a few months, who has the potential to shock football fans this time? In this list, we’ll be profiling the 10 national teams who aren’t necessarily favourites for the trophy, but could very well overstay their welcome if the stars align correctly for them this summer.
Some are teams that come from African nations that have yet to truly show us what they’re capable of on the world stage, while others are teams that failed to qualify for South Africa four years ago and are eager to show the world what they can accomplish in a major tournament with their newfound group of top-class players. One team on this list is a perennial underachiever despite their array of talent, but their tough group drawing will challenge them to compete at the top of their game from the start.
Regardless of each team’s situation here, they have the potential to prove this summer that there is no such thing as a predictable World Cup, and it will certainly be intriguing to see how far each of these 10 teams can go and how much of a smile they can put on their people’s faces. Here are the top 10 dark horse nations hoping to give it a good run at this year’s World Cup.
5 Cote d’Ivoire
One of the deepest teams in the tournament by far, Belgium is arguably the only side on this list to seriously challenge for the final. Although they’re a young team, they’ve got quality players in just about every position: Eden Hazard, Vincent Kompany, Thibaut Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne, Christian Benteke, Romelu Lukaku, Jan Vertonghen – the list goes on. Drawn in a relatively easy Group H with Russia, South Korea and Algeria, the Diables Rouges are only going to get even better with time, and this year’s World Cup in Brazil is a perfect opportunity for Belgium to state their case as a new football powerhouse.
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