World Cup 2022 race: Ranking the fastest emerging football nations right now
Football is a global sport, cutting across every facet in every corner of the world. Men and women, boys and girls, young and old, elite and masses - it has no discrimination in its followership, with its global audience running into billions.
While club football might be more attractive, international football holds a spot in the hearts of passionate fans, with almost all other activities taking a backseat when the national team takes to the field.
The national team of any country is one of the biggest ambassadors of the nation, reaching global audiences and creating more favorable impressions than any diplomat or carefully crafted publicity stunt could do, while also uniting people of different cultures.
As such, players see representing their national team as the highest honor, as they carry the dreams, aspirations and prestige of millions of their countrymen on their sleeves.
When international football rolls around, the heartaches of Chelsea or joys of being a Manchester City fan are forgotten (albeit temporarily), and all attention is shifted patriotism, with the joy of victory in international tournaments a joy to behold.
You only need to see the camaraderie exhibited among different tribes in a country whenever the nation plays and the pure exhibition of unadulterated bliss and passion to get a feel of what it means to a nation when their football team emerges victorious.
There have been numerous cases of holidays granted nationwide because the national team performed a heroic feat, or bestowing national awards of the highest order to said players on their return from doing their country proud.
Due to natural selection, or self-structured preparation, some countries have been historically dominant in football - with nations like Germany, Spain, Brazil, Argentina but to name a few triumphing in major tournaments throughout history.
There is a large pool of countries around the world languishing beneath these global juggernauts - not exactly minnows, but not having the same calibre as the footballing superpowers.
Even beneath this large pool lies an even smaller league of nations, countries who have passionate fans, but who due to one factor or the other (mostly being slow to adopt the sport nationally) cannot compete on the same level as the aforementioned powerhouses.
They are largely classified as minnows in football and struggle to qualify for major tournaments.
However, we have witnessed a rise in performances from these previously unheralded nations, as concerted efforts have been made to putting them on the global football map.
Iceland's recent meteoric rise serves as proof that it is possible to move from near anonymity in football to competing on the same pedestal with the best in the world.
While some of the nations on this list have started reaping some form of dividends, others are still in the preparatory stage and are laying the foundations for future success. In this piece, we shall be taking a look at the fastest rising football countries who could take the world by storm in the coming years.
Honourable mentions - Indonesia, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Curacao, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Myanmar, United Arab Emirates, Tanzania, Burundi
Confederation - CONCACAF
Current FIFA ranking - 54th
More famous for its exploits as a country on the track than on football fields, Jamaica is a nation which has provided us with some of the most iconic names in reggae, as well as sprint legends like Usain Bolt, Shelley-Ann Fraser Pryce, Yohan Blake and Asafa Powell, but not much has been achieved in terms of the round leather game.
They qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first and till date only time in 1998, suffering a group stage exit, but after that, the country's football fell back to the doldrums, being mockingly called The Reggae Toys (a parody on their moniker).
There has been a recent resurgence in recent years (evidenced by their rather impressive 54th place ranking in the world).
They successfully reached the final of the CONCACAF Gold Cup in 2015 after surprisingly defeating regional powerhouses USA 2-1 in the semi-final before losing to Mexico in the final.
This was a feat they repeated two years later only for USA to exact their revenge by the same scoreline in the final.
They caused major stirs worldwide in 2013 when they stunned Mexico to a goalless stalemate at the Azteca to end El Tri's 19-match winning run at the mythical Azteca Stadium, and since then there has been no looking back for The Reggae Boys.
Leicester City captain and Premier League winner Wes Morgan is undoubtedly the biggest footballing export in recent years and one of the biggest of all time, and if highly rated youngster Leon Bailey is successfully lobbied to play for the national team of Jamaica, then the Caribbean nation could well be one to watch out for in the nearest future.