The 2022 World Cup has been full of surprises – especially with underdog teams like Saudi Arabia shocking the fans when they convincingly defeated Argentina in their opening match. Considering how the results have played out over the past week, here we look at the outsiders that could possibly shock us even more if they can qualify for the round of 16.
Ecuador will be looking to seal qualification for the knockout stages of the World Cup on Tuesday, when they take on Senegal in what will likely be a winner-takes-all clash at the Khalifa International Stadium. La Tri have been majorly impressive in Group A, with a win over Qatar on the opening day and a stalemate against the Netherlands on matchday two, while Senegal recorded a victory over Qatar in their second match of proceedings following a loss to the Netherlands in their first fixture. Ecuador have enjoyed an excellent start to World Cup Group A so far and lead the table with four points from their two matches played, which has put them within touching distance of the last 16.
After keeping their World Cup hopes alive by defeating Wales dramatically on Friday, Iran face an impressive USA side at the Al Thumama Stadium on Tuesday, with three points enough to take either team through to the knockout stages. Team Melli looked like a different team against Rob Page’s men to the one that was thrashed by England in their opening game, whereas the Stars and Stripes will be rueing missed chances that forced them to share the points with the Three Lions last time out. Now sitting second in Group B with three points from two matches, Iran know a win against USA secures passage to the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history – although even a draw on Tuesday would be enough if Wales fail to beat England.
Herve Renard, Saudi Arabia’s mastermind
Heads are now turned to Saudi Arabia’s French coach, Herve Renard, especially after the Greens’ historic victory over Argentina in the World Cup tournament in Qatar. Watch Renard’s career here.
In their five previous participations, Saudi Arabia have qualified for the round of 16 only once, on their debut at the tournament in 1994. If Saudi Arabia want to progress they will have to beat Mexico, regardless of the outcome of the match between Poland and Argentina. Saudi Arabia stunned the football world when they defeated Argentina 2-1 in their opening group game, only to lose 2-0 to Poland in their second match. As in the first two matches, the Saudis will be supported by thousands of fans due to the ease of travel from Saudi Arabia to Qatar. Herve Renard indicated his team will play the next match in Lusail against Mexico with the same energy and desire. Things will not be easy for Saudi Arabia, however, given that Mexico also have a chance of reaching the last 16, and for the eighth time in a row in their case.
The results from the second round of fixtures leave Denmark and Tunisia’s hopes of making the last 16 hanging by a thread. After the terribly poor performance against Tunisia in their first game, which they drew 0-0, they were this time beaten by a superior French team. Yet, they kept fighting after conceding the first goal, striving to keep alive hopes of reaching the next round. The defeat against France was tough to take because of how late the Danes conceded, but the players showed that there is still life in this team. They can still qualify for the round of 16, but they will need the help of the French against Tunisia, and they will have to do their bit and beat Australia as well. After what they showed in the last 30 minutes against France, they can still have hope of reaching the knockout stage.