Four years ago it was Italy and Uruguay who formed England’s rivals in the World Cup, but it was unfancied Costa Rica who ended up advancing from Group D to the knockout stages as undefeated winners.
At the same tournament in Brazil, Spain and Portugal failed to progress from their groups. So who from the EFL could do the damage in Russia?
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England fans know only too well how Iceland’s football team can be as disruptive to a nation’s hopes in a major tournament as the island’s active volcanoes can be to European air travel.
In the wake of Iceland’s Euro 2016 win to knock out England, Championship clubs made a foray into the transfer market. Current Reading striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson signed for Wolves, Aston Villa signed midfielder Birkir Bjarnason, and defender Hordur Magnusson made the move to Ashton Gate to join Bristol City.
Iceland will once again be led in the ‘Viking clap’ by Cardiff City midfielder Aron Gunnarsson, who will don the armband in matches against Argentina, Nigeria and Croatia, even if some websites were talking about his departure from his current club.
A tough group, but there was more reason to right off Costa Rica four years ago than Iceland this time round.
Denmark may have been seeded in the fourth-seed pot, but they will know that counts for nothing in a group consisting of France, Australia and Peru.
France are far from immune to inner-team quarrels and divisions which have wrecked previous campaigns, allowing for Tractor Boy Jonus Knudsen and Boro forward Martin Braithwaite to strike.
The latter was signed by Middlesbrough from French club Toulouse last summer and showed no signs of trepidation over what could be achieved by a Denmark side spearheaded by Christian Eriksen.
“I want to win the World Cup”, Braithwaite said in an interview last December. “What is realistic in life? The only thing that’s realistic is what you put in your head, so you just have to work to reach it. That’s how I’m looking at it,” he added.
“It’s all up to us and we just have to keep going. We’ve been really good and in football you just never know, that’s the beauty of it. You just have to go there with belief and stay really strong together.”
Below the Championship, the EFL is somewhat lacking in representation but Wigan Athletic talisman Sam Morsy has been equally important to Egypt’s qualification as he has been to the Latics’ promotion push this season in League One.
The 26-year-old was named in all of Egypt’s match-day squads last year as they concluded their qualifying campaign by knocking out Ghana.
Heading to Russia in June, Egypt were drawn against the tournament hosts, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia in Group A, yet Wigan captain Morsy won’t allow himself to dream of a fairytale until he is named in the team.
“The World Cup is not something I think about, just each camp I am called up for I give 100 per cent. I try my best, I try to impress the coach and my teammates, all I think about is going to the next training camp, I won’t think about the World Cup until I am on a plane to Russia.”