SANTA MONICA — It’s been a great year for underdogs thus far. The Eagles came back to dominate the Patriots, and this unknown college in Illinois — Loyala Chicago — made it to the final four of March Madness. Which World Cup team will continue the story for the underdogs?
They’re on everyone’s list this year. They’ve caused a stir in the past and aren’t new to being the underdog’s of the tournament, retaining the title as the smallest country to ever qualify. They were top finishers in the Euro 2016. Iceland has presented a strong team over the last year and could be a threat going into the World Cup, but they are young and inexperienced compared to many of this years team’s. It could be their achilles heel if they aren’t careful.
Panama seems to have already stolen the show as they have become everyone’s top pick for the underdog position. They punched their ticket to the World Cup in a nail biter during the Hex Qualification match against Costa Rica where they put in a last minute goal in the 88th minute. It created such a big celebration in Panama that the president declared the following Wednesday a holiday as Panama qualified for the World Cup for the first time ever. While the events sent the US packing, it has set Panama up for the perfect underdog story. The only question is how far can they go?
You’ve probably never heard of them, and rightly so, as they haven’t been seen in the World Cup since the early 2000’s. However, the last time Senegal did appear in the World Cup they created quite the ruckus, and they did the same to reach this year’s cup. They’ll be led by their star forwards Sadio Mane and Moussa Sow who are credited for reviving the team prior to qualifying.
Photos courtesy of ISI and Stan Szeto’ Instagrams.