Not for nothing, is football the most followed sport in the world. While the rules of the game are elementary enough for everyone to comprehend, the nature of the sport has made football a blockbuster for the ages. As is the norm in every game, football also has its gala event.
Hosted every four years and played amongst 32 teams is the crème de la crème tournament of the game; the FIFA World Cup. The World Cup has been held for almost a century now and the finest gems of the game have always turned up on the biggest stage of world football. While some players have etched their names into history by “single-handedly” taking their team to the top like the Argentine magician Diego Maradona, others have played and won with world-class teams like Pele and Brazil.
Regardless of the generation, the World Cup has always brought with it a bundle of surprises, a pack of fresh talents and a golden generation of players who have lifted the trophy. With the 2018 edition of the tournament just around the corner, rumours and reports have started rumbling about the possible winners of the tournament.
While the big guns like Germany, Brazil, France and Spain remain the best bets to land the coveted trophy, the World Cup is bound to throw in a couple of surprises. Be it Holland’s run to the final in the 2010 edition or Costa Rica’s journey to the quarters in the 2014 version, dark horses remain a strong tradition of the tournament.
Let us take a look at three possible “dark horses” who can actually go all the way in Russia and take home the 18 karat gold trophy.
Throw together the names like Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, Mousa Dembele, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen, Thibaut Courtois and Toby Alderweireld and one could be mistaken for thinking this group to be one of the Premier League all-star teams. However, this is the roster of the Belgium national team and the quality does not end just here with players like Radja Nainngolan and Youri Tielemans spread out in different teams across Europe.
These boys form a formidable team. However, they have been unable to string together a side that can be considered to be a winning team. Reasons ranging from lack of team chemistry, a manager with not enough experience to handle superstars to rival stars being unable to play together have hampered the national set-up. This group of players is yet to showcase their strength as a unit and the World Cup may just prove to be the perfect set-up.
While De Bruyne is in the form of his life, Hazard is an omnipresent threat. A defence marshalled by Kompany and Alderweireld with Courtois in goal certainly know how to keep a clean sheet. Not many are placing their money on Roberto Martinez’s men but given their sheer talent and thirst to prove themselves in the national set-up, Belgium would ideally suit the throne of the first “dark horse” in the tournament.
Cristiano Ronaldo is the second dark horse. We beg your pardon; Portugal is the second dark horse. The team from the Iberian Peninsula amazed everyone in 2016 by beating France to clinch the Euro Cup. However, most of the concerned group of players are far from the required level to play for top European sides.
The Portuguese men bank all their hopes on one man; a superman who has conquered world football. Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid has won 5 Ballon d’Ors and every major trophy in club football. His recent win in the European championships with Portugal has now left him with just one trophy to bag; the World Cup.
The former Manchester United winger is at the dusk of his career and it would not be the worst option to consider Portugal for the tournament given Ronaldo’s nature of winning it all. He would want to bow out of the international level by gifting his fans the final piece of the jigsaw. Let us also not forget to add that should the Portuguese guide his team to victory, it would go a long way to settle the debate of the millennium; Messi vs Ronaldo.
There is something in the game of a South American footballer that has dazzled football fans for years. If there is something these South Americans know, it is how to enjoy the game and make it worth watching. Their quick feet, shoulder feints and a touch for the fancy has seen them equipped with enough ammunition to raise a jam-packed stadium to its feet.
Colombia’s run in the 2014 FIFA World Cup saw them run down many oppositions and more importantly entertain world football with their daring style of play. A team blessed with stars like Radamel Falcao, James Rodriguez, Juan Cuadrado, Davinson Sanchez, Freddy Guarin, Yerry Mina and David Ospina are not to be taken lightly.
On their night, Colombia possesses the talent to beat any team. While the fact that they are yet to win a major tournament rules them out of the favourites tag, Colombia can certainly fit the “dark horse” bill, owing to the credibility of the stars in the current generation and their ability to play as a team under dire circumstances.
The World Cup is just a few months away and let us hope that no matter who wins the elite tournament, we football fans get to enjoy the surprises that come along with it. After all, this is the game Sir Alex Ferguson described as “Bloody Hell!”
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