The groups are for 2010 are finalized and numerous questions are floating around. Which teams are the favorites? What is the Group Of Death? Will an African team get past the quarters? What teams are set up to surprise the world? For this edition of Mad About Futbol’s Top 5, we look at the lesser known teams that could surprise the football world and make a deep run in The Great Tournament.
#5 – ALGERIA
The Algerians needed a playoff to eliminate the defending African champions, Egypt. Les Fennecs won group C in African qualifying and no one is giving them a shot in 2010 with a group including England, US, and Slovakia. However, the Algerians displayed a lot of grit to beat Egypt and its a squad that is littered with players in Europe’s top leagues. No stars but The Desert Foxes are a consummate team and should not be dismissed.
#4 – DENMARK
The Danes finished first in Group 1 of UEFA qualifying, a group that featured European powers of Portugal & Sweden. Morten Olsen is the longest tenured national team coach in the World Cup. Olsen arguably knows his team better than any other coach knows their own. The Danes are devoid of well-known stars but play well as a team and have a history of springing surprise tournament runs as evidenced by their Euro 1992 championship.
#3 – AUSTRALIA
The Socceroos blitzed though Asian qualifying by winning Group 1 in undefeated fashion. Don’t forget that Australia made it to the knockout stage of Germany 2006 and suffered a controversial 1-0 defeat to Italy. The Australians have gotten stronger since moving to the Asian Confederation. Clutch goal scorer Tim Cahill is still a major factor and they will need him in a group with Germany, Serbia, and Ghana.
#2 – SWITZERLAND
The Schweizer Nati won Group 2 of UEFA qualifying. Defensively they are as tough as any team in the tournament. In 2006, they were the only team in WC history to be eliminated from the tournament without giving up a goal. They are led by Bayern Munich’s greatest coach ever, Ottmar Hitzfeld. The German quietly led the Swiss to a smooth qualification and like the other teams on this list their strength lies in their organization and team unity. That combo along with Hitzfeld’s mind could mean a deeper run for Switzerland than their ’06 Round of 16 exit.
#1 – CHILE
La Roja stunned South America by finishing 2nd in CONMEBOL qualifying. Former Argentina coach Marcelo Bielsa has done a magnificent job in managing Chile’s young attacking talent. Humberto Suazo, Alexis Sanchez, Mark González and Matías Fernández give Bielsa depth never seen in Chilean football. Chile’s best finish was 3rd in 1962 when they hosted the tournament and have the coaching and talent to make a deep WC run.