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5 dark horses who might surprise us in the Round of 16 and go further ahead in the tournament

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Budweiser - "The World is yours to take"

The group stage of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has drawn to a close. This edition's group stage action has been one for the ages, with the fate of several top teams being decided in the last round of games.

Some of the giants of the world stage have had their World Cup campaigns cut short before the commencement of the knockout phase. Teams like Germany, Belgium, Denmark and Uruguay, among others, will leave Qatar with their tails firmly tucked between their legs.

Meanwhile, several teams that were not given much of a chance at the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup have progressed in their stead. Without further ado, let's take a look at five dark horses who might surprise us in the Round of 16 and go further ahead in the tournament.


#5 Senegal

Ecuador v Senegal: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Ecuador v Senegal: Group A - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

When they lost Sadio Mane to injury right before the World Cup, it was widely viewed as a blow from which Senegal were unlikely to recover. But they have shirked off the bad news and only gone on to book a berth in the Round of 16 in relatively comfortable fashion.

After losing their 2022 FIFA World Cup opener to Netherlands, Senegal bounced back with wins against Qatar and Ecuador. Aliou Cisse's side made quick work of the hosts before turning in an efficient performance against Ecuador.

Players like Ismaila Sarr, Idrissa Gueye, Kalidou Koulibaly and Youssouf Sabaly have all risen to the occasion so far. Senegal will square off against England in the Round of 16 and definitely have the quality to take the game to the Three Lions.


#4 Switzerland

Serbia v Switzerland: Group G - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Serbia v Switzerland: Group G - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Serbia were pegged as one of the darkhorses prior to the start of the tournament. They had pipped Portugal to first place in their 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers group and forced Cristiano Ronaldo and co. to earn their spot in Qatar via the playoffs

But Serbia have been knocked out of the World Cup after failing to win a single game in the group stage. Switzerland finished second behind Brazil in Group G to progress to the quarter-finals. The Swiss men beat Cameroon 1-0 and Serbia 3-2. Those wins bookended a narrow 1-0 loss to Brazil.

Switzerland have plenty of quality in their ranks and have shown a great deal of resilience so far in the tournament.


#3 South Korea

Korea Republic v Portugal: Group H - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Korea Republic v Portugal: Group H - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

South Korea booked their place in the Round of 16 in the most dramatic manner. They needed a win against Portugal and for Ghana to not win in their game against Uruguay. In the end, the Korea Republic made it through to the knockout stages by the skin of its teeth.

South Korea managed to score four goals in the group stages while Uruguay mustered just two. Although both teams had four points each and their goal difference was zero, South Korea advanced as they scored more goals than their South American counterparts across three matches.

Players like Cho Gue-sung, Son Heung-min and Hwang Hee-chan are all capable of producing clutch performances. South Korea will take on Brazil in the Round of 16. The Selecao, widely viewed as the favorites to win the 2022 FIFA World Cup, looked vulnerable in their games against Switzerland and Cameroon.


#2 Morocco

Canada v Morocco: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 nter caption
Canada v Morocco: Group F - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 nter caption

No one could have predicted that Morocco would finish at the top of Group F which had Croatia, Belgium and Canada. But that's exactly what they did. The African side are yet to lose a game at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

They started their World Cup campaign with a goalless stalemate against Croatia. Morocco followed it up with a 2-0 win over Belgium. Walid Regragui’s side outplayed Belgium and showed that they have the quality to take the game to the big sides.

They beat Canada 2-1 in their final match of the group stage to finish at the top of Group F. A welcome return to form for Hakim Ziyech and the likes of Achraf Hakimi, Youssef En-Nesyri and Noussair Mazraoui stepping up to the occasion has greatly boosted Morocco's chances of enjoying a deep run at the tournament.


#1 Japan

Japan v Spain: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022
Japan v Spain: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022

Japan proved their credentials pretty early on at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. A valiant effort in their group stage opener saw them earn a brilliant comeback victory over Germany. Japan had a surprising 1-0 loss to Costa Rica before dispatching Spain 2-1 in their final game of the group stage.

Hajime Moriyasu's side beat two of Europe's strongest sides in the group stage. They finished above both Spain and Germany in Group E. Japan will go up against Croatia in the Round of 16 and the Asian side progressing to the quarter-finals at the cost of last edition's runners-up won't surprise many.

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Edited by Ashwin
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