The World Cup is about to kick-off and teams are getting their arms ready and playing friendlies to help them get into a rhythm for the tournament to be played in winter. Many results have been surprising, but sometimes they do not reflect the reality of the teams.
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Let’s take a look at the World Cup title contenders and the dark horses that will try to give the world a scare and surprise the world.
Dark horses: Denmark
The Danish team is a little machine. They reached the semi-finals of the European Championship playing very well and in the play-offs, they showed that they are ready to surpass what they achieved in 1992, year in which they were European champions.
The team coached by Kasper Hjulmand has only two defeats in their last 10 games and one of the games they won was at the Parc des Princes against France, the world champions. Denmark fears no one and is sure to be a tough nut to crack at the World Cup.
The furthest they have gone is the quarter-finals in France 98, and they were knocked out by Brazil in a great game. Perhaps Qatar is the moment the Nordic country has been waiting for to enter the top four in the world.
The Africans are the current champions of their continent and play spectacular football. They have an in-form Sadio Mané in their ranks, and they have world-class players in all their lines.
Only two defeats in their last 25 matches. The numbers speak of a well-balanced team with significant attacking power and no fear of success.
In 2002, they reached the quarter-finals, and they want to become the first African country to reach the semi-finals and, why not, play in the final. They have arguments, but they have to overcome a difficult group and beat more experienced opponents. Can Mané manage to take Senegal to the top?
The Aztecs are a regular guest in the Round of 16, having made it past the group stage since 1994 and narrowly missed out on the quarter-finals. Last World Cup they beat the champions and every time they face a world power they give the game of their lives.
At the moment, Gerardo Martino’s side is not going through a good footballing moment, but Mexico’s history is always contradictory. Every World Cup they come in looking like a disgrace and end up playing spectacularly and getting impossible results.
If Mexico can get over the hurdle of the round of 16, they become a very dangerous team because they have nothing to lose, and when they play without pressure, they become one of the best in the world.
In goal, they have Guillermo Ochoa, who every World Cup becomes a real wall. Is this the World Cup where “El Tri” plays the famous fifth game?
Another CONCACAF team, this Canadian generation, has perhaps the best players in its history. Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich is the flagship and the one who carries the team.
They qualified first in the qualifiers and got good results in places where they have never taken points before, such as the Azteca in Mexico. There is a lot of confidence in this team because of their youth and desire to succeed.
Physically, they are ready to compete with any team, but that youth may take its toll in a tournament where there is no time for anything. You lose one and the pressure multiplies. Their group is not easy, but not impossible.
They haven’t been to a World Cup since 1986 and on that occasion, they didn’t score a single goal and obviously didn’t win a single match, so they are out to make history, and what better way to do it than by being the dark horse of the competition.
The Asians were already semi-finalists in the World Cup they hosted in 2002, but now they want to prove that on that occasion it was no coincidence and shut the mouths that said that it was refereeing help that put them in that knockout stage.
Led by Heung Son Min, one of the best players in the Premier League, the Korean team is fast, dynamic, and powerful offensively. Defensively, they are strong and very organised.
17 matches and two defeats speak for the power of the team. They are in the group of death and if they can get out of it, confidence will be high and anyone who faces them knows that it will not be easy to beat the Asian Tigers.
The Candidates: France
Let’s review the candidates, and obviously, the natural one is France, the defending champions. Benzema, Pogba, Griezmann, Mbappé, Kanté, well line for line the team is spectacular. They have no weak spots and beating them is very complicated.
Denmark has defeated them twice and maybe that is one of their most important tests because they have them in the group, but they are showing that they are not going to abdicate the crown so easily.
The curse of the champion is something that can happen, since 2006 the defending winner stays in the group stage. Is France the exception to the rule?
La Furia Roja wants to embroider the second star on their shield and frankly, they have important elements that can help them achieve it. Luis Enrique has assembled a team based on daring youngsters like Gavi and Pedri alongside veterans like Busquets, Thiago, and Koke.
That balance is perfect because you have calm and explosiveness when you need it most. At the European Championships, they reached the semi-finals, but gave the impression that they still haven’t reached the peak of their game. Will the World Cup be your chance to show their best?
The Mannschaft will always be a natural candidate, and this generation is almost perfect. Young and tidy. Germany didn’t let the failure of 2018 permeate so much and went to work with this. They got a powerful team in all their lines.
Their first strong test was at the Euro where they were knocked out in the Round of 16, but you can never give the Germans up and at the World Cup they will become this impossible-to-beat machine.
In the group, they will face Spain in a very difficult match. Maybe this match will be the indicator of what these young Teutons are capable of.
Time for the red devils, this generation should have achieved success in 2018, but something happened to them that they couldn’t overcome their fears. This is the last chance for De Bruyne, Hazard, Lukaku, and company to prove they deserve to be in football’s elite.
Those 1986 semi-finals are a long way off, and the quarter-finals seem their current limit. First obligation: Get out of the quarter-finals, and win anything, because it looks complicated that later they will be able to put together a team with so much talent.
Finally, Argentina. Messi’s last chance to step out of Maradona’s shadow, claim the title of the best player in history and erase the stain of 2014 when he missed out on the trophy at the Maracanã.
Argentina is unbeatable at the moment. They haven’t lost in their last 33 games and beat Italy in the Finalissima, also they beat Estonia with Messi in divine form.
At last, they have a team that doesn’t depend on what Lionel does because anyone takes responsibility and delivers results. Lautaro, Di Maria, De Paul, Guido Rodriguez, in every line, there is someone who can make a difference at any moment.
They also have a Messi with desire and when “La Pulga” is on, there is no one to stop him. Will they finally win their third world championship? Who will take the world cup home?