Before the World Cup even started, many predictions were made regarding favourites to win and teams which were destined to lose. As is the way in all sporting events, these predictions were quickly dispelled as many favourites suffered early exits, leaving the door open for the underdogs. The 2014 champions, Germany, were among the favourites for the 2018 World Cup, however, they failed to make it through the group, after defeats to South Korea and Mexico. Notably, one pleasant surprise this year was Croatia, at the beginning of the tournament they were 33/1 to lift the World Cup. In the end, they made it to the final, ending up on the end of a 4-2 defeat to France. Here are some of the other teams who will also be happy with their efforts at this year’s World cup.
After failing to qualify for two consecutive World Cups in both 2006 and 2010, Belgium finally earned a spot in 2014 and before a quarter final defeat. This year, the team went a bit further and took 3rd place from England. Belgium stunned fans in the quarter finals, defeating the heavily favoured Brazilian team. Unfortunately, the match against France proved to be too much for the young team who fell 1-0. Belgium has a lot of young talent that seems to have come of age. This includes Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. Prior to the match against England, striker Lukaku had already scored four goals, putting him in the driving seat for the World Cup golden boot award, which was later awarded to England’s Harry Kane.
One of the most surprising teams this year at the World cup was definitely England. A young team, and the experts didn’t expect a lot from them in the 2018 campaign. Previous tournaments suggested they might struggle, with odds of 16/1, they were viewed as an underdog in comparison to some of the more experienced European teams. At the previous World Cup, England failed to make it through the group. This year’s fourth place finish is a huge improvement. They beat Colombia in the round of 16, before defeating Sweden 2-0 in the quarter final. This victory propelled the team into the semi-finals for the third time in their history. However, Croatia had too much for England, scoring in extra-time to book themselves a place in the final. England would play once more for third place against Belgium only to lose again. With such a young team, this could be just the beginning as the team begins its move towards the next World Cup in 2022.
A team that ranked 70th in the world, Russia weren’t even on the radar as a possibility to make it all the way to the quarter finals. The team only qualified for the World Cup because its country was hosting the event. However, the team has shocked the world with some stunning victories including an impressive 5-0 rout of Saudi Arabia. Later, they also won 3-1 over Egypt. In their match against Spain, it was another example of how a team may control possession but not score enough goals to win which was the case as Russia sent the Spaniards packing. Sadly, the Russian’s journey came to an end as a result of penalty kicks in their quarter final match with Croatia who would make it all the way to the final. Despite the exit, the Russian’s run has been nothing but inspiring as the team went much further than anyone expected.
Even though they only made it to the quarter finals, Sweden’s performance is a definite improvement over past years. The last time they were able to accomplish this was in 1994. Sweden were up against it from the get-go, their group contained both Mexico and Germany. Having come through the group, they faced Switzerland in the round of 16. The Swiss actually dominated in terms of possession but we all know its goals that win the game. Even with more shots, the Swiss failed to put any into the new thanks to the tall, formidable Swedish defence. In the 66th minute, Sweden’s Emil Forsberg was able to score a goal as the ball deflected off a Swiss defender. Sweden advanced to a match with England but failed to pull out a victory ending their quest for the World Cup.