Who are the surprise packages of the summer?

The World Cup is often seen as being about the hand of God, penalty shoot outs and Russian linesman.

But it is also about the more obscure footballing nations trying to make their mark on the world game, in the past these have included the likes of Jamaica, New Zealand and Wales. Below are five not so well known footballing nations who this summer will be trying to cause shocks equal to that of North Korea’s victory over Italy in 1966 or Senegal’s run to the quarter finals in 2002.

Angola: The fact that this war torn country are making their World Cup debut is a miracle in itself. The lack of infrastructure within the country, resulting from a 27 year civil war, makes development in football very difficult and there are few star players to name of. Up against former colonial masters Portugal and dark horses Mexico, progress to the Second Round seems unlikely but it should be remembered that they qualified at the expense of Nigeria, one of Africa’s most successful football nations.

Costa Rica: This Central American nation will have its chance in the spotlight when they open the tournament against hosts Germany. Making their third appearance at the World Cup, they have acquitted themselves well in their previous two outings.

In 1990 they reached the last 16, embarrassing Scotland on the way. Twelve years later they only went out on goal difference to eventual semi-finalists Turkey in the group stages. Germany and Poland will be tough matches but don’t be surprised if they cause an upset.
Ivory Coast: Perhaps Africa’s strongest representative at this World Cup, Ivory Coast boast Premiership stars such as Kolo Toure and Didier Drogba.

Finishing ahead of more established football nations such as Egypt and Cameroon was a major achievement and with some already well known stars in their team, there is a real possibility of them matching Senegal’s achievements of the last World Cup. However first they must overcome a tough group containing Argentina and Holland.

Togo: Making their World Cup debut this summer, Togo qualified at the expense of Senegal. Reaching the World Cup was a major surprise, Togo are often seen as the whipping boys of Africa and with the exception of Arsenal’s Emmanuel Adebayor, have few stars of note.
Bearing that in mind, victory over France will be a sensation though a point or three is possible against their other two opponents, South Korea and Switzerland.

Trinidad and Tobago: In terms of sporting pedigree Trinidad and Tobago are probably better known for cricket than football. However they have the chance to condemn England to what would surely be their biggest ever sporting embarrassment when the two meet on June 15th.
The chances are unlikely but it must be remembered that they have ex-Manchester United star Dwight Yorke and West Ham keeper Shaka Hislop in their ranks to help try and cause an upset. With Paraguay and Sweden also in their group however, their first appearance at the World Cup may well be brief.

By Simon Lickley