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The World Cup underdogs who could be worth a bet

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We assign the favourites for most World Cups to teams like Brazil, Italy, Spain and Germany because they have all won the tournament, in some cases more than once.

But we rarely think of the underdog teams, the dark horses who nobody expects to do well and yet have pushed these footballing giants all the way.

Think of Costa Rica in the 2014 finals in Brazil. Against all odds, they finished top of a group that included Italy, England and Uruguay.

They won their round of 16 games against Greece after a perfect penalty shoot-out but lost to the Netherlands on penalties in the quarter-final, ending an extraordinary run which was fully against the odds.

In the 2018 World Cup, Croatia was nowhere near the bookie’s favourites pre-tournament but made it to the final, eventually losing to France.

Heading into the 2022 tournament, Didier Deschamps’ men are the second favourites to make it back-to-back World Cup victories in the latest football odds at a strong 11/2, only outdone by Brazil who is 4/1 to win. But if you are looking for longer betting odds ahead of the tournament, then you have to think about some of the overlooked sides.

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This is not a list of teams who can win the tournament outright but nations who can exceed expectations, and could even slay some of the giants.


After famously winning the 1992 Euro final, Denmark could be touted as one of the greatest underdog teams of all time. They only entered the tournament thanks to the last-minute ejection, and if that doesn’t warrant the title of the greatest underdog, then nothing will.

The Danes will be hoping to replicate the success of that special team from over thirty years ago. However, this squad are in much better shape than that one. They have a core group of well-established players who feature for some of the biggest teams in the world. Christian Eriksen, Kasper Schmeichel and Andreas Christensen are just some of the names on their roster. 


Croatia still has the core group of players who performed so well at the last World Cup. Luka Modric, who won the Golden Boot at that tournament, will be playing at the World Cup for the final time before retiring from the international stage. But despite being 37 years old, he is still performing at the highest level week after week for one of the biggest and best club sides in the world, Real Madrid.

Experience can be found throughout their team in players like Dejan Lovren, Ivan Perisic and Mateo Kovacic. They know each other well enough to band together and put in one great performance before this Croatian golden era ends. 


Switzerland doesn’t have a superstar like Modric but they do have a good mix of youth and experience in their lineup. The spine of the team in Yan Sommer, Manuel Akanji, Granit Xhaka, Denis Zakaria and Breel Embolo will give most teams a headache.

The midfield is where they will most likely dominate, especially now that Xhaka has been in exceptional form for his club side Arsenal, and this means they will definitely be one to keep an eye on.

The footballing giants will almost certainly be there or thereabouts again this year but who knows, there could be a few surprises thrown in Qatar.

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