2018 FIFA World Cup : Nations Returning to the Mega Event

With just over 3 months left to set the ball rolling in Russia, the excitement has just started to build up. The world cup is by far the most followed sporting event in the world and 32 teams that have made the cut will have immense expectations from their fans.

Russia 2018 will be different from the past editions as giants like Chile, Italy, Netherlands, USA, Ghana have failed to qualify which has paved the way for many new teams. Today we take a look at those teams at Russia 2018 who were absent at the Brazil 2014 edition.

Poland

This will be their 8th appearance overall at the finals and their first since 2006. Their campaign in 2002 and 2006 ended with just 1 win each in the group stages. They booked their ticket to Russia after comfortably topping their group. They have been grouped with Colombia, Senegal, and Japan, and can fancy their chances of making it to the knockout stage.

Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowsky, and Lukasz Piszczek with experience playing for top teams will play a major role. Their best performance at the world cup has been third-place finishes in 1974 and 1982, but achieving that in Russia will be a difficult task.

Peru

Peru was one of the 13 teams that participated in the first ever world cup, but then withdrew or failed to qualify until 1970 in Mexico, where they achieved their best ever finish as quarter finalists. Their last appearance was 36 years ago at Spain 1982 where they did not go past the group stage.

The road to Russia was a tricky one for them, especially the first half where they failed to register a single win against the top 4. But they capitalized on their encounters with struggling teams, and draws in the later stages of the campaign against heavyweights were just enough for them to earn a playoff spot.

They have been seeded with France, Australia, and Denmark, and unsurprisingly it will be a tough fight for the second spot.

Serbia

Once a part of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, they were a team who always made their presence felt and regularly made it to the quarterfinals. They made their debut as an independent nation at South Africa 2010 and this will be their 2nd appearance in 3 editions. They topped their tough group in the Qualifiers which consisted the likes of Wales and Austria.

With Nigeria, Iceland, and Argentina in their group, Argentina look to be the strongest on paper, but their recent form overdependence on Messi is something on which all the teams will look to capitalize on. They surely have the firepower to overcome the group and make it to the knockouts.

Morocco

Having made their debut in 1970, this will be their 5th ever appearance at the world stage. 1986 was their most successful campaign where they made it to the knockouts. 1998 was the last time when they qualified, and since then, have made huge strides to get themselves back among the best.

They have players playing in various top leagues across Europe and have a formidable team for the big event. But they have been placed in the group of death with the likes of Portugal Spain and Iran and will find it very difficult to make it through to the knockouts. They finished their qualifying campaign undefeated with three wins and three draws.

Panama

Panama will be one of the two teams to debut at the world cup in Russia. They have qualified for the finals at the 11th time of asking. They may well be the weakest team at that tournament, and their group is not at all easy consisting the likes of Belgium and England.

It will take a miracle from them to make it to the knockouts.

Saudi Arabia

After making 4 consecutive appearances at the world cup Saudi Arabia failed to qualify for the last two editions. They have been knocked out in the group stages in all but one campaign (1994). They are the second lowest placed team after hosts Russia. With Germany Mexico and regional Rivals South Korea in their Group, it will be a difficult fight for the second spot. With a very strong league structure and a few players plying their trade in Spain, they cannot be written off and will surely make their presence felt.

Denmark

This will be there 4th appearances in the last 6 editions, and the 5th overall. With Peru, Australia and France in the group, it will not be easy, assuming France will take one of the 2 places on offer. Qualification was sealed with a thumping 5-1 win over the Republic of Ireland in the second leg at home.

Iceland

Iceland’s rise to the world stage in football has been nothing less than a miracle. Their dream runs to the quarter-final at Euro 2016, and now their Qualification to the world cup was not even imaginable a few years ago. But they topped their group to seal their historic qualification, hence avoiding the risky playoffs. By doing so, they became the first ever nation with a population of less than 1 million to play at the world cup.

They have been seeded with Argentina, Croatia, and Nigeria. Taking into consideration their recent form, it won’t be surprising as they pull off upsets.

Sweden

Sweden Football team FIFA World Cup 2018
Sweden (Image/FIFA)

Sweden has historically been one of the successful nations to have played at the world cup, reaching 4 semifinals, which includes a final in 1958. They have been at 11 of the 18 World Cups until 2006 but failed to qualify for the next 2 editions. They marked their return to the world cup after pulling off one of the biggest upsets in recent times by beating the mighty Italy 1-0 on aggregate.

In the group stages, they finished above the Netherlands which was a big shock. They have been placed in one of the toughest groups, with Germany, Mexico and Asian giants South Korea. Qualification past the group stage looks bleak.

Tunisia

This will be the 5th appearances for Tunisia at the world cup, who are making a comeback after 12 years. They had appeared in 3 consecutive world cups from 1998 to 2006, but never managed to go past the first round. They have players playing in the French and Belgian top division, as well as strong Asian Leagues.

They will have to overcome the likes of Belgium and England if they are to fancy their chances, and will need to pull off an upset.

Egypt

This is Egypt’s only the 3rd appearance at the FIFA world cup, with the last one being in 1990. All eyes will be on Mohammad Salah, who is currently one of the best players in England, and surely among the best in the world. His last-minute penalty was the historic moment which sealed Qualification after a generation gap.

Egypt was, in fact, the first ever African nation to qualify for the FIFA World Cup but did not maintain the momentum although they have been dominant in the Africa Cup of Nations. With Uruguay, Russia, and Saudi Arabia to play at the world cup, Egypt can surely be optimistic of a good run in Russia. With quite a few players playing in England, this is one of the finest batches of players in Egypt’s history and will have a lot of expectations from their fans.

Senegal

After Qualifying for their first ever world cup in 2002, Senegal had a dream run to the quarterfinals, which included a win against mighty France in the group stages. Since then, they have gone quiet, and failed to qualify, but are back for the 2018 edition. Similar to the 2002 squad, the current team to has almost all the players playing in Ligue 1 or the English Premier League. With Japan, Colombia and Poland in their group, it is surely one of the most interesting groups and any team can go through.

Image/AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty

News Reporter

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