You know the favorites, but who could make some unexpected noise at the World Cup this summer? Here are seven nations primed for a surprise showing.

By 90Min
February 28, 2018

With the 2018 World Cup edging closer and closer, thought is already turning to which countries will be making the biggest impacts in Russia.

But beyond the nations everyone expects to do well, what about those who are flying under the radar and could surprise the world this summer?

Here are seven who could make more noise than you think come June and July.


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Christian Eriksen was the youngest player at the 2010 World Cup at the age of just 18. Now, the midfield maestro is back on this stage for the first time and is entering his prime.

The Tottenham man scored a hat trick against Republic of Ireland in the UEFA playoffs, with only Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski scoring more during European qualification.

He is supported by an able squad, which will also include Kasper Schmeichel, Andreas Christensen, Pione Sisto, Nicolai Jorgensen and Kasper Dolberg. Then there is Denmark's past record in summer tournaments to consider. Euro '92, anyone?


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Could the days when Poland finished third at World Cups in 1974 and 1982 be about to return?

While the Poles have been to each of the last three European Championships, their most recent World Cup was in 2002 and they haven't been beyond the group stage since 1986.

Led by superstar striker Lewandowski, this is something of a golden Polish generation and they should have enough quality to progress beyond the group stage. From there, winning just a single knockout game is all it takes to build momentum.



Senegal are returning to the World Cup for the first time since 2002 and are no strangers to surprising people. They beat holders France that year in their opening game and matched the best ever performance by an African nation by making to the quarterfinals.

Their qualification was actually in doubt until a game against South Africa was later replayed following the banning of the referee in charge that day, and they will feel confident of progressing from a group they are sharing with the aforementioned Poland.

In Kalidou Koulibaly, Idrissa Gueye, Cheikhou Kouyate, Keita Balde and Sadio Mane, Senegal have plenty of strength, power and quality throughout the team.


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Another exciting African team is Nigeria, who haven't played at a major tournament since the 2014 World Cup after failing to qualify for either of the last two Africa Cup of Nations.

People might be expecting Iceland, who reached the quarterfinals at Euro 2016 and qualified well for this tournament, and Croatia to be battling it out for second place behind Argentina in Group D, but the Super Eagles have more than enough talent to make a case of their own.

What's more, finishing second would likely pair them with a French team not known for their spine or resilient tactics in the first knockout round.


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Sweden are not the team they once were after Golden Generation of the early 1990s or even the more recent eras of peak Henrik Larsson and Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but they claimed a big scalp in the shape of Italy just to get to the World Cup and are better than people realize.

The Swedes finished second in their qualifying group ahead of the Netherlands, outscoring group winners France in the process. Their resolute defensive performance over the two-legged playoff with Italy showed another strength.

They no doubt have a tough group with Germany, Mexico and South Korea, but a place in the knockout rounds is definitely there for the taking if they can get a result against Mexico.


Despite continental dominance at the Africa Cup of Nations, winning three consecutive titles between 2006 and 2010, Egypt haven't been to the World Cup since 1990 and are something of an unknown quantity on this stage.

In Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah, they have one of the best players in the world this season and the emerging superstar is supported by a cast of experienced individuals, many of whom have been playing together for their country for several years. They will fancy their chances in a favorable group with Russia, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia.


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After crashing out of the 2014 World Cup bottom of their group without a win, followed by shock elimination at the hands of Iceland at Euro 2016, expectations for England couldn't be lower.

The Three Lions qualified top of their group to make it to Russia, but their record wasn't convincing compared to the likes of Spain and Germany in other groups.

The only way, it seems, is up. And England have actually been presented with a favorable group in which they would be expected to beat Tunisia and Panama to progress. Beyond the Last 16, a first World Cup quarterfinal since 2006 could even be on the cards.

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