FIFA World Cup

Figure 1 Fans are beginning to get excited about this year’s World Cup

We are almost there. The final playoff games are being played and we will soon know the lineup for the FIFA World Cup taking place in Qatar at the end of the year. There have already been some surprises – such as Italy not qualifying for a second successive World Cup – but most of the big names will be present.

The likes of Brazil, England, and France will be the favorites with all the best sportsbooks online. But there are always a few upsets at major tournaments and there are a number of nations that could surprise a few people in Qatar. Here are five of the less-fancied teams to keep an eye on at this year’s World Cup.

Senegal

The current Africa Cup of Nations champions have only lost one game in almost a year – and that is very impressive given the standard of African soccer and the number of games played. The Lions of Teranga have one of the best coaches in the world in Aliou Cisse and players representing some of the top clubs.

Senegal should also benefit from a kind draw. Being picked out in Group A, it will face host Qatar as the top seed. That makes progress to the knockout rounds more possible, even if Ecuador is eventually replaced for allegedly fielding an ineligible player during qualification.

Wales

Wales was made to wait to discover whether it would make it to its first World Cup finals since 1958. Its playoff final game was delayed because of the war in Ukraine. But Rob Page’s side was able to win 1-0 thanks to a deflected goal and the backing of its famous Red Wall of fans.

Now Wales faces neighbors England, as well as the US and Iran in Qatar. A lot will ride on the first game against the US. But if a positive result is achieved there, Wales will feel as though it can overcome Iran and finish at least second in the group. This is a team that showed its togetherness in recent European Championships, so nothing should be discounted.

Denmark

It is probably a little unfair to continue to count Denmark as a ‘less-fancied’ nation, considering the way it has played in recent years. This is another small nation that possibly overachieves on a global soccer platform – none more so than when it reached the semifinals of Euro 2020.

Results have been largely positive since that tournament last year and Denmark will be confident of progressing from the group, even though it has to face France once again. This is another squad that has no one star and relies on teamwork for success. Although the return of Christian Eriksen is a huge plus.

Figure 2 Players will be training for the start of the new season and the upcoming World Cup

Canada

Canada qualified for its first World Cup for almost 40 years by topping the CONCACAF final group ahead of both the region’s traditional powerhouses, the US and Mexico. That was no fluke though, and now the Canucks will be hoping to continue the success story.

Young players like Alphonso Davies have been instrumental in Canada’s climb to this level – although the Bayern Munich defender was largely absent from qualification because of injury. Fans will now be hoping that off-field issues surrounding player incentives do not distract from the task at hand.

Uruguay

When it comes to South American soccer, it is usually Brazil and Argentina that attract all the headlines. But Uruguay has proved itself in recent World Cups and also counts itself as a former winner of the prestigious trophy. The tournament in Qatar should also be the swansong for some of its best players of recent times.

All eyes will be on Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, hoping to bring one last triumph to their country. But the new generation of goal-getters will also be on show. New Liverpool signing Darwin Nunez will be hoping to add a World Cup winners medal to prove his status to English Premier League fans.

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