Last week at my child’s soccer game I was talking to coach Melissa Volitich about the upcoming World Cup in Russia, the greatest sporting event in the world. As usual we began by talking about the big hitters but then we started thinking about who were the outside favorites that could advance far, perhaps not win the tournament, but be the surprise packages. In 2014 I was in Brazil to watch the incredible campaign which Costa Rica had, and there will no doubt be another team who do the same thing or similar this year. Here is what I told Melissa about my ideas for outside favorites, have a read and let me know what you think.
Iceland had a great Euro 2016 tournament and even managed to knock out England along the way, no easy feat. What I like about this Iceland team is that they all play for each other, and they are all working hard for the team. Iceland have a solid defense, a great shape and of course they have the wonderful Gylfi Sigurdsson playing in attacking midfield, who is deadly from freekicks and has the ability to change a game in a heartbeat.
Mexico have a great record of getting out of the groups but generally get knocked out in the last 16, this year I think that could change. The problem over the years has been the lack of more than 1 or 2 special talents, but this year they have a far better side. The 22 year old Chucky Lozano has been on fire in the Eredivisie and he almost single handedly got his team through the World Cup qualifiers. Add to the mix the likes of Carlos Vela, Giovanni dos Santos and Javier Hernandez, and this is team with a lot of firepower. Mexico’s biggest challenge will be to get out of a group with Germany, Sweden and South Korea, and victory over the latter two will be crucial.
Egypt will most definitely not have ever been considered a World Cup side, given the fact that they have qualified for so few, and I think this could be the year that they shock the world. Egypt play a really nice brand of football which is slick and quick. The nation’s talisman Mohammed Salah is having the season of his career at Liverpool, and seems to score at will against even the best defenders in the world. What will be key for Egypt is the fitness of Arsenal’s defensive midfielder Elneny, who picked up a knock last week. If Elneny, Salah and solid defender Elmohamady can stay fit, they could form the spine of a team ready to really make waves. If Salah can getting his shooting boots working in the World Cup, he could very well take them as far as the quarter finals and beyond.