Football: Don't rule out the possibility of a new world champion

Croatian fans, wearing the national caps of their powerhouse water polo team, watching a giant screen in Zagreb's main square when their footballers took on Argentina on June 21.
Croatian fans, wearing the national caps of their powerhouse water polo team, watching a giant screen in Zagreb's main square when their footballers took on Argentina on June 21.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Traditional dominance of bigger nations may finally be challenged by outsiders in Russia

Small is beautiful. So the theory goes, and Lionel Messi's fans are unlikely to disagree. When it comes to World Cup finals, however, small may not be beautiful or ultimately successful.

Since Uruguay, then with a population of 2.2 million, won the 1950 tournament, football's most coveted prize has been the private domain of the South American superpowers, Brazil and Argentina, and western Europe's five most populous nations.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2018, with the headline 'This year's champions could defy the trend'. Print Edition | Subscribe