The Irish dream is over but here’s five minnows you can get behind at Russia 2018

But that’s water under the bridge now. So in true Irish spirit it’s time to get behind an outsider.

To help here’s a list of five countries you might be surprised to see at the World Cup and who we can get behind when they meet the big guns.

Iceland

England fans would write Iceland off at their peril after being on the receiving end of an embarrassing ousting from Euro 2016.

But as much as they deserve credit for delivering the tiny island nation with a population of less than 350,000 to the finals, Iceland cannot expect to topple all the big boys.

Saudi Arabia

Finishing second to Japan, Saudi Arabia pipped Australia to automatic qualification on goal difference, despite losing three games in the pool. With no representative players in a major world league, the Saudis can reasonably only dream of winning a first World Cup game since 1994.

Panama

The United States are one of the shock absentees from the finals and, aside from the Americans’ own failings, Panama are to blame. A controversial ’ghost goal’ against Costa Rica secured a 2-1 win that knocked the US out, sending the Central Americans to their debut World Cup.

Last night the Panamanians drew 1-1 with Wales in a friendly ...

Tunisia

There were surprises aplenty in African qualifying, with well-fancied nations Ghana, Ivory Coast and Cameroon all missing out.

Among those taking advantage were Tunisia, whose class act is midfielder Wahbi Khazri, currently in exile from troubled Sunderland at middling French club Rennes.

Iran

After some wrangling Iran kept hold of head coach Carlos Queiroz following their last World Cup appearance in 2014 and he has duly steered them to their fifth finals.

There is little to suggest from their domination of a group featuring China, Uzbekistan and Qatar that they can step up a gear.


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