2018 World Cup: Iceland, Belgium among sleeper teams to watch
2018 World Cup: Iceland, Belgium among sleeper teams to watchCLOSE
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Here are five sleeper teams at the 2018 World Cup that could impress with either a deep run through the knockout phase, or by pulling off a surprise advancement through the group stage.
Group G opponents: England, Panama, Tunisia
First game: June 18 vs. Panama
If you follow the English Premier League closely, there are a lot of familiar faces on this Belgium team. Eleven players on the 23-man roster play in the EPL. Of those 1 1, eight are on teams that qualified for next season's UEFA Champions League campaign. Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne â" one of two players on the team who helped Manchester City dominate the EPL this season â" will be the fulcrum of Belgium's potent attack.
Group H opponents: Japan, Poland, Senegal
First game: June 19 vs. Japan
Behind Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, Colombia made an impressive run to the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Cup. Missing from that run was forward Radamel Falcao, who is Colombia's all-time leading goal-scorer and should create a dangerous combo with Rodriguez on the offensive end. Colombia is in a very manageable group, with the Robert Lewandowski-led Poland as the other headliner.
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Group D opponents: Argentina, Iceland, Nigeria
First game: June 16 vs. Nigeria
If there's a squad that could give 2014 World Cup runner-up Argentina a run for its money in Group D, it's Croatia. This team features Real Madrid's Luka Modric and Barcelona's Ivan Rakitic in the midfield, and Juventus' Mario Mandzukic as the primary goal-scoring threat. This is likely Croatia's strongest team since it finished third at the 1998 World Cup.
Group D opponents: Argentina, Croatia, Nigeria
First game: June 16 vs. Argentina
Sure, Iceland is in a very tough group, but how could this team not be included here? The 2016 European Championship was Iceland's first appearance in a major competition. Iceland performed surprisingly well, and even pulled off a shocking upset of E ngland in the Round of 16. Now, Iceland â" the smallest nation by population in this year's tournament â" is in the World Cup for the first time, and its presence will draw the fandom of casual observers rooting for an underdog.
Group B opponents: Iran, Morocco, Spain
First game: June 15 vs. Spain
Portugal is coming off a surprising win of the 2016 Euros. Clearly, that accomplishment will provide Portugal with the confidence needed to navigate through this year's World Cup. Having Cristiano Ronaldo on your team doesn't hurt either. This World Cup represents the last chance for Ronaldo â" who is 33 years old â" to win the game's grandest prize. Portugal gets its tone-setting game right away against Spain, a team pegged as a World Cup favorite. Can Ronaldo will this team to g lory?Best players to never to win a World Cup Fullscreen
A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal (World Cups: 2006, 2010, 2014) Fullscreen Lionel Messi, Argentina (World Cups: 2006, 2010, 2014) Fullscreen Johan Cruyff, Netherlands (World Cup: 1974) Fullscreen Ferenc Puskas, Hungary (World Cup: 1954) Fullscreen Eusebio (left), Portugal (World Cup: 1966) Fullscreen Karl-Heinz Rummenigge, Germany (World Cups: 1978, 1982, 1986) Fullscreen Michel Platini, France (World Cups: 1978, 1982, 1986) Fullscreen George Best, Northern Ireland (World Cups: None) Fullscreen Oliver Kahn, Germany (World Cups: 1998, 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Zico, Brazil (World Cups: 1978, 1982, 1986) Fullscreen Paolo Maldini, Italy (World Cups: 1990, 1994, 1998, 2002) Fullscreen Roberto Baggio, Italy (World Cups: 1990, 1994, 1998) Fullscreen Marco van Basten, Netherlands (World Cup: 1990) Fullscreen Alfredo Di Stefano, Spain, Argentina and Colombia (World Cups: None) Fullscreen Paul Scholes, England (World Cups: 1998, 2002) Fullscreen David Beckham, England (World Cups: 1998, 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Raul, Spain (World Cups: 1998, 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Hugo Sanchez, Mexico (World Cups: 1978, 1986, 1994) Fullscreen Michael Ballack, Germany (World Cups: 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Luis Figo, Portugal (World Cups: 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden (World Cups: 2002, 2006) Fullscreen Landon Donovan, United States (World Cups: 2002, 2006, 2010) Fullscreen Neymar, Brazil (World Cup: 2014) Fullscreen Lev Yashin, Soviet Union (World Cups: 1958, 1962, 1966, 1970) Fullscreen Stanley Matthews (left), England (World Cups: 1950, 1954) FullscreenReplay
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